Former Wigan Athletic assistant manager Eric Black is the latest person to be featured in the Daily Telegraph’s investigations into corruption in football.
The Telegraph claim that Black, who is now at Southampton had offered advice on how to bribe officials at other clubs. He was filmed apparently saying there are staff at other clubs who possibly be persuaded to give information about a player to a management company for money. He has denied the allegations.
The Telegraph posted a video of Black, 52, meeting an undercover reporter in a hotel, the journalist purporting to be a representative of a Far East firm looking to invest in English football.
According to the report, the meeting was arranged by Scott McGarvey, the football agent who also teed-up Sam Allardyce’s now ill-fated meeting with undercover reporters which cost him his job as England manager. McGarvey also denies any wrongdoing.
The video appears to show Black and McGarvey discussing managers and coaches in the lower leagues and how they could possibly be persuaded to identify players who could be signed up on management contracts.
FA rules state that intermediaries “must not give, offer or seek to offer, any consideration of any kind” to a club official “in return for any benefit, service, favour or any kind of preferential treatment”.
A spokesman for Black told the Telegraph: “[Mr Black] does not recall Mr McGarvey making suggestions that football officials should be paid during transfer negotiations - this was not the purpose of the meeting so far as our client understood it. Any suggestion that he was complicit in such discussions is false.”
The club’s statement read: “Southampton Football Club has today been made aware by The Daily Telegraph that, as part of their ongoing investigation, the club’s assistant first team manager Eric Black will feature as part of an article in tomorrow’s paper.
“The club immediately requested to be sent, by The Daily Telegraph, the details of this article, but the newspaper declined to share any further information.
“We have today contacted the FA and The Premier League, and intend to work closely with both bodies on this matter when the facts become clear.
“Southampton Football Club is fully committed to investigating any situation that directly or indirectly relates to our club, employees or the wider community.”
Black was assistant to Steve Bruce when he was Latics boss and was then brought back for a second spell by Uwe Rosler.
A spokesman for McGarvey said there would be no immediate comment in addition to a statement released earlier this week.
Then, Graham Small, a partner at Manchester-based JMW Solicitors, representing McGarvey, said: “Mr McGarvey has admitted being eager to impress what he believed to be prospective employers and, in doing so, had perhaps embellished certain comments made during the meetings in question.”
“However, he vehemently denies making remarks which are being attributed to him. Some, including his apparently having done business with certain club managers, are simply not borne out by fact.
“Mr McGarvey had merely helped arrange meetings in good faith to further what he believed to be a legitimate business venture.
“He was so convinced by the job offer made to him that, far from profiting from these exchanges, he even incurred debts trying to support the development of the new project.
“As soon as a series of allegations were put to him, he responded immediately and in full and, furthermore, has made clear his willingness to help those leading the investigation announced by the Football Association establish the truth of what happened.
“Given that he is still involved in the football industry, he is rightly concerned about the possibility of his good name being impugned and he intends to vigorously defend his reputation.”
Earlier in the day, Black’s club chairman, Ralph Krueger, revealed his dismay at the current allegations of corruption in English football and called for tighter regulation of player transfers.
The 57-year-old Canadian told ESPN that this week’s reports had “shocked” and “upset” the Saints board.
But Krueger said the Premier League club’s recent success has been built on “honest and open” values and he now hoped that the rest of football would follow suit.
“We’ve been a club that’s been driving, wanting to get control of the evolving agent world around us and we believe we’re going to have ears now,” said Krueger, a former ice hockey player who went on to coach Switzerland and the National Hockey League’s Edmonton Oilers.
“We’re going to use this, for sure, as a club, to fight for change and to fight for more regulation.
“We are all for regulation, and we are one of the most disciplined clubs in English football in terms of the way we deal with agents and youth academy players.”
Black was appointed to Southampton’s coaching staff during the summer as assistant to Claude Puel.
A former Scotland international, he had a distinguished playing career with Aberdeen and as a coach has worked for the likes of Celtic, Birmingham, Sunderland, Blackburn, Wigan, Rotherham and Aston Villa.