Detectives investigating some of the most high-profile figures in football have sent the results of their inquiries into fraud allegations involving player transfers and agents' fees to prosecutors.
Police delivered their dossier of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service last Thursday after a two-year investigation. Seven well-known figures are mentioned, including Portsmouth's FA Cup-winning manager, Harry Redknapp, and the most powerful woman in English football, Birmingham City director Karren Brady. The development threatens further to tarnish football's reputation amid criticism over player wages and agents' fees.
Last week detectives from the City of London economic crime unit, the country's top fraud squad, formally requested 'advice' from the CPS on whether there was sufficient proof to charge any of the individuals following an exhaustive inquiry.
Prosecution sources last night confirmed that they had been instructed to offer a 'charging decision' after receiving the completed file from the police inquiry, known as Operation Apprentice. A CPS statement said: 'We have received a file in relation to criminal allegations involving the transfer of football players and agent fees.'
Others named in the file include Leicester City chairman Milan Mandaric, Portsmouth chief executive Peter Storrie, Rangers and former Portsmouth midfielder Amdy Faye, Birmingham City co-owner David Sullivan, and agent Willie McKay. All seven strongly deny any wrongdoing.
Prosecutors will now ask counsel to decide whether police have sufficient evidence to charge any of those investigated.
When Redknapp won a judgment against City of London police last May, claiming that officers unlawfully raided his home as part of their investigation, the court heard that the inquiry was launched to probe 'suspected conspiracy to defraud, false accounting and money-laundering offences', although its focus may have shifted as the investigation evolved.
Corruption claims concerning football have been rife since former Luton Town manager Mike Newell denounced a 'bung' culture in football. His comments prompted the Premier League to launch an investigation headed by former top policeman Lord Stevens into all transfers between January 2002 and January 2004. Instead of naming names, however, the former Scotland Yard chief strongly criticised accounting procedures at several unnamed clubs.Forensic accountancy firm Quest reported in June 2007, having failed to uncover any evidence of bungs, but passed to the FA 17 cases in which, it said, more evidence was required.