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Transfers called into question.

Byline: By Nick Whitten

Lord Stevens's long-awaited report into alleged illegal payments clears Newcastle United of paying or receiving bungs.

The findings show none of the five clubs probed ( Newcastle United, Middlesbrough, Chelsea, Bolton Wanderers and Portsmouth, who all co-operated with the inquiry ( have breached transfer regulations.

And none of them were found to have taken illegal payments in the inquiry, carried out by the private investigation firm Quest, owned by former head of Northumbria Police and ex-Metropolitan Police commissioner Lord Stevens.

The findings said there was no evidence to suggest any irregular payments by or to club officials relating to the transfers.

But the inquiry did raise concerns about 15 agents and third parties involved in 17 transfers.

Four of the transfers involved players coming to St James' Park ( Albert Luque, Emre, Amady Faye and Jean Alain Boumsong.

Lord Stevens refused to sign off the four transfers made by Newcastle when Graeme Souness was manager, saying inconsistencies remained in his evidence regarding three of those deals.

The former Liverpool, Rangers and Scotland midfielder responded in a statement issued by his solicitors, which read: "I cannot understand why my name features in this report.

"I volunteered full information to Quest as a witness and I have heard nothing further from them."

Lord Stevens, also expressed concerns over "a conflict of interest" involving Sam Allardyce and his former agent son Craig while at Bolton.

But Craig Allardyce vowed to provide "further documentation" to aid Stevens's inquiry after the report.

A statement released on behalf of the Newcastle United boss's son said: "Craig is pleased that Lord Stevens confirmed that there is no evidence or suggestion of any irregular payments to Bolton Wanderers FC or those involved with the club.

"As stated in the findings, Craig has always co-operated with the inquiry.

"He is currently awaiting and will shortly provide to Quest any further documentation in order to help clarify outstanding issues in relation to the transfers which are 'uncleared'."

Newcastle released a statement saying: "Newcastle United has noted the contents of the final Quest report compiled by Lord Stevens and his team for the Premier League.

"The report makes clear that Newcastle United officials have done nothing wrong and have at all times offered their full co-operation, willingly providing full access to all documentation and information requested by the inquiry team.

"The club firmly supports the inquiry and calls on those agents referred to in the report to assist the inquiry in resolving their outstanding queries as soon as possible."

Lord Stevens said in a statement: "Many lessons have been learned and strict adherence to and enforcement of the recommendations should ensure that the game and the transfer market can proceed in an untainted and transparent manner."

The Premier League will now send the findings to the FA and FIFA.

An FA spokesman said: "Following the final report of the Premier League's Quest inquiry, the FA will give full consideration to its contents and the documentation that is due to be passed on by the Premier League and Quest.

"The FA has provided full co-operation and support to the Premier League and Quest and will now go through their information as part of our governance and regulation process. This will determine what action is required."

While the football bung inquiry findings were made public, billionaire Mike Ashley quietly took control at Newcastle United.

The 42-year-old released a statement to the stock exchange yesterday evening saying he now owned 77.06% of the club.

The billionaire businessman completed his purchase of chairman Freddy Shepherd's 28% stake to take control at St James' Park.

He is now on course to take Newcastle back into private ownership.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jun 16, 2007
Words:613
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