Gunners re Graham after bungscandal
Arsenal manager also banned from football for a year after receiving “unsolicited gifts”
“I cannot recall a sadder day,” said Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-wood after sacking George Graham, the club’s most successful manager since Herbert Chapman. But it seems Hill-wood had little choice.
A Double-winner with the Gunners as a player, ‘Stroller’ returned to Highbury in 1986 having earned his managerial stripes with Millwall, and proceeded to win six trophies in eight years thanks largely to a miserly defence that Graham himself had drilled.
But in April 1994 a letter was sent to Arsenal’s accountants by the Inland Revenue, saying it had evidence that “coaching staff have received payments or monies… which have emanated from transfer fees paid by your client.” The word ‘bung’ was about to enter the football lexicon.
Graham received over £400,000 from Norwegian agent Rune Hauge relating to transfers that took John Jensen and Pal Lydersen to Arsenal – small change in today’s Premier League, but more than Graham’s annual salary back then.
Believing he would be allowed to leave Arsenal quietly at the end of the 1994-95 season, Graham was in fact told to clear his desk as soon as the allegations came to light in a Danish newspaper, even though he repaid Arsenal the £400,000 plus interest on what he maintained were “unsolicited gifts” and not illegal bungs. An FA disciplinary commission thought otherwise, banning Graham from football for a year, after which he returned to management with Leeds United. His permanent successor at Arsenal, meanwhile, lasted little more than a year, although Bruce Rioch did sign Dennis Bergkamp from Inter.
As for Graham, he rarely talks about the affair and remained as resolute as his famous back four when, in 2000, he did break his silence. “I was wrong to accept the money. I concede that greed got the better of me. I shouldn shouldn’t t have done it,” he told journalist Hunter Davies. “But, really, is it any different from big business? It’s commonplace in the commercial world for such gifts to be given – and received.”
Also in this month
1999 Arsenal agree to replay an FA Cup fifth round tie with Sheffield United after breaking a gentleman’s rule by scoring a controversial winner instead of giving the ball back to their opponents after United had kicked the ball out to allow treatment for an injured player. 2003 A flying boot launched by Alex Ferguson cuts Manchester United midfielder David Beckham above his left eye, causing a media storm. 2010 0 Chelsea defender John Terry is stripped of the England captaincy following allegations regarding his private life.