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The bung culture that will tarnish football legend Clough for ever.

BRIAN CLOUGH is alleged to have presided over a regime riddled with corruption during his colourful reign as Nottingham Forest manager.

The Mirror today reveals the full extent of the bung culture which the Premier League and the Football Association claim thrived at Forest under Clough.

They amount to a staggering catalogue of accusations that will rock the game, could ruin Clough's reputation, and have devastating consequences for Forest.

These allegations, detailed in a hand-delivered letter from the FA to the club yesterday, will form the basis of the case against Forest at a disciplinary hearing.

Forest, who have been charged with making payments outside the rules during Clough's spell as manager, could be fined, lose points or even face relegation.

Clough, who steered Forest to two European Cups and a League championship, is alleged to have made cash payments in brown envelopes to players as inducements to win matches.

He is accused of authorising secret cash bonus payments to members of staff.

He is alleged to have received bungs in player transfers and is said to have broken the rules by using his No 2 Ronnie Fenton to sign contracts between clubs during transfers.

He is also accused of receiving transfer back-handers from two deals involving non-League club Leicester United.

All these payments were made outside the players' contracts and therefore in breach of FA rules.

The current Forest regime were staggered by the crime sheet handed to them yesterday by the FA.

They have 14 days to respond before the FA announce a disciplinary hearing. Forest plan a vigorous defence.

A police investigation has already cleared Forest of fraud. But sources within the FA insist they have issued these charges against Forest because they believe they will stick.

In which case, Forest would be in the same boat as Tottenham, Swindon and Peterborough, who were heavily punished for similar irregularities.

Should that happen, Forest would take the case to court just as Alan Sugar did successfully with Spurs.

Forest were taken over a year ago and claim that they should not be made the scapegoats for Clough's alleged misdemeanours.

While Forest face the full weight of the FA charges, Clough has escaped with just one charge of receiving backhanders for the transfer of two players from Leicester United.

Fenton has also been charged with accepting a backhander after the Premier League's four-year probe.

Clough has always vigorously denied any involvement in illegal payments.

As a manager with Derby County and Forest, Clough became a legendary figure within the game before his retirement after Forest were relegated in 1993.

But rumours about his conduct spread through the game during his years in charge at Forest. They were brought into the open in 1993 during the High Court battle between Tottenham chairman Sugar and Terry Venables.

Sugar told the court that Spurs had paid Forest pounds 50,000 to ensure the transfer of striker Teddy Sheringham to White Hart Lane for pounds 2.1million because Clough "liked a bung".

Sugar created the term 'bung' and the Mirror's extensive investigations over four years produced allegations that Venables might be involved.

But the FA deemed there was insufficient evidence to charge the former England coach. Instead, Clough, Fenton and Arsenal coach Steve Burtenhsaw join George Graham as being tainted with bung allegations.

The Premier League examined more than 30 transfers in the late 1980s and early 1990s, mostly linked to infamous Norwegian soccer agent Rune Hauge.

But the purpose of setting up the Premier League inquiry more than four years ago was to sort out the Sheringham deal and the original bung. This has still not been done.

The Premier League three-man investigation team of Robert Reid QC, Steve Coppell and Rick Parry, found that five transfers, including Sheringham's, were suspect.

Clough continued to deny vehemently that he had received any money, challenging Sugar - "He's just a spiv and a barrow boy" - to make his comments outside a courtroom.

The findings of the inquiry in September failed to go as far as saying that Clough received a bung in the Sheringham deal.

The Premier League inquiry did, however, find that control of transfer dealings at Forest were "wholly inadequate" with no supervision of either Clough or Fenton.

FA public affairs director David Davies said yesterday: "It must be in the interests of the national sport that serious allegations of wrong- doing in the past are properly considered by a disciplinary commission.

"Our conclusion under football rules is to charge three individuals - Brian Clough, Ronnie Fenton and Steve Burtenshaw - with misconduct for accepting unauthorised payments.

"They have been informed of the details of the charges today. We have also charged Nottingham Forest with making payments outside FA rules and with misconduct for failing to properly supervise their employees. All have 14 days in which to respond."

Since he retired, Clough has become a pale shadow of his former ebullient self. Frail, old, and washed up.

That is the man the FA are now charging. A man now out of the game who has no intention of ever returning.

If the allegations are proved a life ban will satisfy the FA's determination to show they are doing something about corruption.

But is he the only guilty man?
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Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Harris, Harry
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 23, 1998
Previous Article:ONCE A HERO, NOW A RECLUSE.
Next Article:FOUR YEARS OF SCANDAL; How our man led the fight for truth.

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