Joint statement on corruption

Following the revelations relating to the apparent wide-spread corruption in the UK football player transfer market, The Football Association, the Premier League and the Football League have issued a joint statement vowing that, should they find any evidence of criminality they will inform and seek the support of the appropriate statutory authorities. The allegations reported in the media are that current and former Premier League managers have received bribes from agents in exchange for securing the transfer of players away from the club at which the manager was employed. The League Managers’ Association has said it is extremely concerned, and is working with the Football Association to establish the facts. The Association of Football Agents said the transfer system was “open to abuse”.

UK Bribert Act 2010

There are various criminal offences that could be committed by those involved in paying or receiving the illicit payments referred to above. The penalties applicable to the offences under are potentially severe, being a maximum of 10 years imprisonment and unlimited fines.

  • The UK Bribery Act defines the “act of bribery” as that of offering or providing an advantage to another person, where the advantage is intended to induce a person to perform a function or activity improperly or reward them for that improper performance, whether within or outside the UK. As such an agent paying a bribe to a UK manager is liable under the Bribery Act.
  • The UK Bribery Act also makes it an offence to request or accept an advantage with the intention that a function or activity will be performed improperly as a consequence, or to accept the advantage as a reward for improper performance. Note that, impropriety is judged on the basis of the reasonable person’s expectations and not that of the manager’s. Therefore, it is irrelevant if the manager believes that the way he performed his functions was appropriate or consistent with the way the transfer market operates.
  • A commercial organisation, carrying on all or part of its business in the UK, can also be found liable where it fails to prevent bribery in situations where a person associated with it provides bribes (in this example the manager or the agent). It would be for the commercial organisation to demonstrate that it had in place adequate procedures designed to prevent staff from providing or accepting bribes.

Combating corruption

Bribery and criminal activities should have nothing to do with football. Regulators, Associations, Leagues, football clubs and participants should be doing everything within their power to safeguard the integrity of the sport. Whilst many clubs may already have some form of anti-bribery procedures in place, it would be sensible to review and revise them now, especially in light of the recent bribery allegations concerning football managers. key principles to be considered when establishing adequate procedures are: proportionality, top level commitment, risk assessment, due diligence, communication & training and monitoring & review. Should clubs have suspicions of impropriety having taken place, they should seek advice and undertake internal investigations bearing in mind legal privilege and employment law issues.