Last updated : 06 December 2006 By Ed
From today's Grauniad

Lord Stevens' Quest team is expected to say it needs more time to investigate some of the outstanding 39 transfers when it reports to the Premier League's chief executive, Richard Scudamore, on its "bungs" inquiry next week. The clubs, some of which have grown jumpy about Quest's scrutiny, will then decide whether to back the independent inquiry to its conclusion or hand the outstanding questions to the Football Association's compliance unit.

The Premier League has not confirmed which deals are among the 39, but Quest is known to have examined alleged payments to Craig Allardyce, son of the Bolton manager Sam, in three Bolton signings highlighted by the BBC's Panorama programme in September. I understand that Quest is also investigating the role of Sam Allardyce's own agent, Mark Curtis, for whom Craig Allardyce used to work, although Curtis has been the subject of public complaints for transfers he was involved in not at Bolton, but at West Bromwich Albion.

Fifa continues to investigate the transfer of Robert Earnshaw from Cardiff City to West Brom in August 2004, after the striker's agent, Mel Eves, complained that he expected to deal with club officials but instead had to negotiate with Curtis. At the time, Curtis is understood to have been agent to Albion's manager, Gary Megson, and was retained by the club to negotiate transfers. After he signed, Earnshaw wrote to the football authorities asking which agents had been involved in his transfer and what they had been paid.

"I can confirm that a case was opened last February by Fifa regarding the transfer of player Robert Earnshaw from Cardiff City to West Bromwich Albion," a Fifa spokesman told me. "The case is still pending."

Albion subsequently dispensed with Curtis's services, citing "serious concerns" about the deal to sign the defender Martin Albrechtsen from FC Copenhagen in June 2004. The club paid £2.5m but say they later discovered FC Copenhagen were seeking only £2m. Curtis has dismissed that as "nonsense" but Albion made an official complaint and sent a file of evidence to the FA's compliance unit in July this year. "Details of this transfer have also been pro-actively made available to the Quest inquiry," the club said in a statement.

Curtis, who has represented Sam Allardyce for some time, is one of relatively few agents to have been disciplined by football authorities. In November 1999 he was fined £7,500 for improper conduct, which included an illicit payment, when the teenage striker Jermaine Pennant moved from Notts County to Arsenal. Pennant's agent, Sky Andrew, who still represents the player, complained to the FA that the deal was done without his involvement.

Craig Allardyce registered as a Fifa agent after retiring as a player in 2000, aged 25. He featured in only 11 League matches for Peterborough United and Mansfield Town. He worked for Curtis and Sports Player Management until, following media questions about possible conflicts of interest, it was reported in 2003 that he was contractually barred from working on Bolton deals while working for Curtis. Bolton refuse to confirm this or any other details about transfer dealings until the Stevens investigation and the club's own inquiry are concluded.

Panorama, which featured three agents boasting of paying bungs to managers to smooth deals, said Craig Allardyce was paid as an intermediary when Bolton signed the Israeli defender Tal Ben Haim in July 2004, the Japanese midfielder Hidetoshi Nakata on loan in August 2005 and the Oman goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi in January 2006.

In an interview in the Daily Mail, organised by his publicist Max Clifford, Sam Allardyce was asked, sitting with Curtis, if he knew Craig had been paid on those deals. Curtis was quoted saying to Allardyce: "You weren't knowingly aware of it, not aware."

Allardyce said: "He [Craig] is 30 years old, he doesn't tell me everything."

Stevens subsequently said his team was being briefed by the BBC on the evidence gathered by the programme, and it is known to have delved more deeply into those Bolton deals. Peter Harrison, one of the agents filmed on Panorama, told me he worked on the Nakata and Al-Habsi deals, and paid Craig Allardyce fees, but said this was not "untoward" because Allardyce had worked legitimately on both.