There was little of the theatre of his previous press conference.

But like the inquiry into the death of Princess Diana, the probe into alleged corruption in English football carried out by Lord Stevens has answered a number of crucial questions but left plenty of gaps for the average conspiracy theorists and rumour-monger to have a field day.

The former head of the Metropolitan Police has outlined 17 transfers of footballers that his Quest inquiry team believes merit further investigation.

But despite looking into 362 deals in the original nine-month, £800,000 inquiry, no individual or club has been singled out in the final report.

Not surprisingly it has sparked rumours of a white-wash and a cover-up to protect some of the leading lights and clubs in the English national game. Yet Lord Stevens’ assertion that no names have been made public simply because the inquiry is on-going and has entered what could be a crucial second phase seems, on the face of it, quite reasonable.

After all, everyone is innocent until proved otherwise – although recent coverage surrounding a large criminal investigation in Suffolk might suggest this is no longer the case in British law.

Lord Stevens has also made 38 recommendations regarding the future handling of all transfers. The fact that top of the list is the creation of an independent body to audit all deals – taking responsibility away from the Football Association – indicates that he has not been afraid to point the finger.

Indeed, he goes so far as saying that the FA has lost all credibility as regards transfer dealing in the eyes of both the football clubs and the general public (,,1976098,00.html).

So if this is merely the first half then it has been a fairly respectable performance so far. Not spectacular, admittedly, but solid and dependable all the same and providing more than a hint of better things to come to come in the second half.

The suggestion that there is more to investigate is not a surprise. As increasing amounts of money have poured into the top tier of English football, so the level of suspicion has risen.

We are talking lottery jackpots for annual salaries – roll-overs too, not your bog standard mid-week millions – and where there’s money there’s countless people attempting to secure their share.

The typical weekly wage of the top Premiership footballer is too much for the average person in the street to really contemplate. The question of whether they are worth such sums is one that won’t go away and doesn’t really have a satisfactory answer.

It is enough to give you number blindness as the £50,000, £100,000, £150,000-a-week deals become more commonplace and it certainly has little relevance to those of us inhabiting the “real world” (whatever that refers to).

But the fact that our top clubs are being targeted by wealthy individuals and private equity firms, keen to capitalise on the commercial opportunities a well-supported, moderately successful, Premiership side offers, shows that the money is likely to keep rolling in.

So the need to eradicate doubt and suspicion and weedle out those bringing the game into disrepute also becomes more pressing.

The English game is continually changing and the money men are moving in with increasing regularity. Regulation needs to be as tight as possible.

The big four – Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal – are being joined by other clubs in attracting the sort of wealth few imagined would ever be so readily available.

Aston Villa and West Ham are possibly not the first clubs you would have identified as targets for the super-rich. But both clubs are capable of solid Premiership standard performances, both have a sizeable and loyal fanbase and huge potentialfor global commercial growth – the Villa is based in Birmingham, the archetypal sleeping giant and a city on the up in terms of economic profile and which is starting make waves on the international stage; while West Ham calls one of the biggest cities in the world home and is as “London” as red buses and Big Ben.

The wealth of opportunity also explains why players are now regarded as commodities and some of the leading players in the game in years to come will effectively be owned by big business. It will be their managers, or owners, who dictate which clubs they move to and why and purely footballing reasons are likely to come a little down the list of priorities.

With such money, however, comes temptation and that is why the rumours of bungs won’t easily go away and suspicion will continue to surround the beautiful game.

Hopefully, some light will be shed on such murky shadows once the full inquiry is completed. Although doubts will continue to remain until firm proof of wrongdoing, rather than speculation and rumour, is forthcoming.

Like all football matches, it ain’t over until the final whistle is blown.


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