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EU to take on Fifa. Now this could be fun

By Tony Attwood

In the past the EU has had quite an impact on football – sometimes positively sometimes not (in my opinion of course).

Its rules gave us the Bosman ruling, which I rather like, and gave us the free movement of players, as with all workers in the EU, which I totally applaud.  It split the Sky franchise for TV in the UK, which I wasn’t happy about, and it looks like it might be sorting out the way in which the EPL sells football on TV to individual states separately (that’s the case following the pub landlady in Portsmouth who shows English matches at 3pm in her pub, from a Greek TV feed).

Now it seems to be interested in those arch-enemies of civilisation and decent behaviour: Fifa.

In short the European Union has said that reforming Fifa is a “key priority” for it.  Given the radical nature of some of its findings in the past, this could lead to a total overthrow of the Dark Empire.  Not least because the Evil Overlords (Fifa) have a rule that says that when the state interferes with football, the country is ejected from Fifa.   So the question is, if the EU (not an organisation known for backing down to petty dictators and fraudulent crooks – what with it being the second largest economic bloc in the world)  takes a stand, what will Fifa do?  Throw everyone in Europe out?  Oh yes, please.

Fifa has said that it will investigate the bribery and corruption that Lord Triesman claims exists in Fifa, but that is a bit like Royal Bank of Scotland and Lehman Brothers investigating malpractice in the world of banking.  Not something you might expect to come up with the truth.
With the  Sunday Times now saying that Fifa crooks accepted bribes of $1.5m  from Qatar for the world cup, the UK’s Conservative sports minister Hugh Robertson has said an international consensus was forming that Fifa should be made to reform.  He cited the reforms to the International Olympic Committee after the Salt Lake City scandal when 10 IOC members were expelled or forced to resign over vote-buying during the bid for the 2002 Winter Olympics.

But, will it happen?  Sepp Blatter will probably win another term in office in June this year, and will continue to promise to investigate and then do bugger all. At least that is what he has done in the past.

Alex Horne, the FA general secretary had written to Fifa offering it full assistance as it investigates… well, itself.  Just as any complaint against the FA is investigated by the FA.  Typical, but hardly helpful.

It is curious this.  It is a bit like the English inspection department Ofsted, which inspects itself and then gives itself a top grade rating, and holds a party to celebrate.  What good does that do?  The truth is none at all, which is why, when I wrote to Revenue and Customs (the UK tax collector) and offered to inspect my own company’s tax records to prove we were paying the right amount of tax, in order to save the state time, they declined my offer.  You simply can’t investigate yourself.  It doesn’t work.  But somehow Fifa, Uefa, the FA and the Premier League haven’t learned that.

Fifa’s general secretary, Jérôme Valcke, has written to the FA and expressed “extreme concern” at the allegations – which could mean the FA and England being thrown out of Fifa (which would be good) but I rather fear it won’t happen.

The English position is weakened enormously by the fact that no one said a word about corruption while they thought we might win the bid for the World Cup.  Indeed as I pointed out in the last piece, the authorities were up in arms over the BBC’s TV programme which pointed out how corrupt Fifa is, saying that it “damaged the bid”.   The credibility of such people would be enhanced if they admitted they were duped, and that they were, as a result utterly unfit, to be part of the English football scene.  Unfortunately they are all still in place.

If the EU do get involved we might see something happen, because the EU is the only body not tainted by involvement with Fifa.  Otherwise, I fear nothing will move on, and the monopolies will investigate themselves and declare themselves clean.

As the old one liner says, “There is only one Monopolies Commission”

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24 comments to EU to take on Fifa. Now this could be fun

  • RedGooner

    Tony, how come FIFA is allowed to determine the outcome and investigate itself ? How come like in any criminal case where large sums of money is been laundered through back handers with I doubt taxes etc been paid on it that its not a police matter ?

  • Gf60

    Could it be that the EU does something really useful for a change. Hell of an improvement on rules for Melton Mowbray and Port!!

  • Phoenix Gunner

    Great write-up.

    But with reference to “The English position is weakened enormously by the fact that no one said a word about corruption while they thought we might win the bid for the World Cup” – didn’t many (redundantly) blame the english media for pointing the finger at FIFA’s corruption to be one of the causes of our downfall?

  • Marcus

    What good would that do Steve? It is replacing one lottery with another.

    I would like to see a remake of Clockwork Orange with the referees as protagonists.

  • Stevie E

    Maybe he’s just trying to get the issue into the spotlight? It seems a reasonably fair way to do it to me, I don’t know how refs are chosen for game at the moment but I can be pretty sure it’s not a lottery.

  • walter

    Maybe we could keep this proposal from Wenger for a different article because I think I know why Wenger is saying this and I will try to write an article about it

  • RedGooner

    I think AW is right on the Refs. BUT they would still find away to bend things.
    Lets face it ManUtd might as well stay at home in the Champs league final.
    The Ref is a joke this will be his 31st game in charge in europe of spanish sides and none has ever lost a single game under him.
    Not to mention he was a f-king joke sending of RVP when we played Barcelona.

  • walter

    If Fifa would be serious about it they should hand the complaints over the Suisse police department and let them run the investigation.
    Or maybe Lord Triesman should ask an investigation in the UK against Fifa? I don’t know how this would work but what if he made an offical complaint by the police about it? I do think that any attempt to bribery can be punished when an English organisation is involved in the UK? But I am not a man who knows the laws in England.

    But surely he could make an official complaint about it both in the UK and in Switzerland? So then the police or the anti fraud squad would have to step in and examine things?

  • Woolwich Peripatetic

    As soon as the BBC re-aired FIFA’s dirty laundry, I knew we weren’t going to get the world cup. It’s the unwritten rule of business that if you are dealing with a known corrupt organisation and you’re not offering inducements, they won’t be giving you any business.
    “If we offer you some lucrative friendly football matches, will you forget about the corruption allegations?” “And how about a nice handbag for your wife? One for your mistress too? Deal.”

  • Naren

    Tony,
    The article has a cheek written all over it. Top quality post. Though you may consider yourself elderly now, with that streak still in you, you are young no matter the number.

    Walter,
    The proposal from Arsene will still lead to the same problems if the number of match officials does not increase. You said that familiarity will be a serious issue along with being a supporter of the club. Suppose one official has officiated one match already this season for Arsenal after being picked from the draw. Should his name be in the draw for the next Arsenal match? No, but then when should his name be put back? If each ref is getting eliminated from the draw for having already officiated an Arsenal match, then in the end, there will be only one ref in the draw who would not have officiated an Arsenal match. So it will be obvious without being announced and will defeat the purpose. Increasing the pool of match officials available is vital before any reform is brought about.

  • walter

    Naren, yes you are right and this is one of the nails Dogface and I have been hitting at during this season. And we will be banging on that nail of not enough refs until they get the message and hopefuly other media will join in this debate. But I will be writing an article about it shortly and will take your remark in this article as you have spoken very wise words

  • Marc

    Only problem Tony is that the EU ruling bodies are hardly whiter than white, corruption is rife. I hope that things are put right but the realist in me, or is that cynic means I won’t be holding my breath.

  • Anne

    @Marc:

    I agree. I hope Tony is right that the EU taking on fifa will be “fun,” but I think it’s more likely to be bitterly disappointing for anyone who gets their hopes up over it. Considering the general levels of integrity of all involved, I’m guessing that the EU’s bribery complaint can be more than resolved by fifa sending a few bribes moving in the opposite direction. 🙂 I challenge the EU to prove me wrong. Did you hear that, EU? That’s right, I’m calling you out. Go ahead. Prove me wrong. 🙂

  • Anne

    @Red Gooner:

    Do you really think that Barca will be favored in the CL final? Because I’ve been seriously worried about the opposite. Based on everything else I’ve seen of ManU and refs this season, I’m worried that Barca won’t be allowed to beat them at Wembley.

    And did I misunderstand you, or did you just say that the same ref from the Barca-Arsenal match is going to ref the final? You might see that as a good sign for Barca, but as a Barca fan, it frankly scares the hell out of me.

    I’m sorry this comment is straying off topic, but Red Gooner has raised something that I’ve been seriously concerned about, so I’m going to go ahead and ask him what he thinks. If you’re not interested, please ignore.

    Going back to the RVP sending off, I’ve so far stayed out of that debate here because I’m a Barca fan and I didn’t want to risk making everyone even angrier by defending them. But the circumstances of the sending off have certainly forced me to consider the possibility that the match was fixed to eliminate Arsenal from the CL. But if that’s the case, the question becomes who fixed it, and why?

    I remember that before the CL draw, Arsene Wenger actually came out and said that he already knew that Arsenal was going to draw Barca. For Wenger to come out and say so openly that the draw was rigged took a hell of a lot of nerve, and I don’t think he would have said it, or avoided trouble afterwards, if he hadn’t been able to back the claim up.

    So, that suggests that Wenger thought that Arsenal was getting set up from the outset to be eliminated in that round. And if someone went to so much trouble to rig the draw to acheive that result, it would be far from surprising if they also had the ref on board to assure that things all went to plan.

    However, I don’t see any reason to think that it was Barca that was behind it. Even if I assume for the sake of argument that Barca would be willing to bribe the ref to get a result (which I don’t actually believe), I don’t see why they would want to set it up to draw Arsenal, and THEN bribe the ref. What benefit would they get from that?

    To the contrary, the fact that the Club singled out for elimination was Arsenal suggests to me that the forces behind it are linked to English football. I mean, that’s where you generally see all this unfair treatment of Arsenal originate, isn’t it? And by “English football,” I actually mean ManU. Can you really implicate one without the other?

    So, when I was trying to figure out what the motive for something like that would be, the first idea that seriously occurred to me was that the intent behind the fix could be to set up a Barca-ManU final, where ManU would pull off a surprise victory over Barca. I know the idea is far-fetched, bordering on highly unlikely, so I didn’t take it too seriously at the time.

    But now we do have a Barca-ManU final (which ManU arrived at in a ridiculously easy fashion). And now I find out that the final is going to be officiated by the same ref who could very well have fixed the previous match to eliminate Arsenal? I don’t know…

    I’m seriously worried about this. I don’t like that the final is at Wembley (at least not when ManU is involved), I don’t like the ref, and I don’t like the media build-up either. It seems uncharacteristic of the English media to be writing off ManU so completely, as opposed to fawning over them as usual, and it seems like the coverage might be intended to build up to an upset.

    What do you think, Red Gooner? Have I finally gone ’round the twist with the conspiracy theories, or does it seem like there might be something not quite right about this final?

  • Shard

    @Anne

    I COMPLETELY agree.. Since Barca beat is through a bent referee everyone’s been saying oh it’s certain Barca will win the UCL. It’s fixed. I think the match was fixed, and I do not think Barcelona themselves fixed it. But I do think that they were aware of it. I’m sorry to say this to you, but Barca’s reaction in victory was an attempt to disgrace Arsenal and our play, which I read as trying to deflect attention away from the fact that they needed the refs help to beat us. Probably they were embarrassed at the situation because as top players they would want to think that they can beat anyone fair and square. As you say Wenger knew it, so it’s no stretch that Barca knew it too. Their reaction wasn’t pretty though.

    Anyway, to get back to what yo were saying. I’ve always had this sneaky feeling that Barca were being so blatantly helped only to be hurt at the final stage. I didn’t think along the lines of ManU or whoever really. But it seemed to me that there would be no better way to make money than do everything to make it appear that one team will win, and then make them lose. Considering the final is in England, and England’s favourite team is in the final, surely that is cause enough to have fears and suspicions like you do.

  • Shard

    Tony. Is FIFA a taxpayer or is it exempt from paying tax since it is supposedly a non profit organisation? I ask because it seems to me that if it is a taxpayer, and a big one, then maybe govts won’t be so keen to potentially harm the revenues they get. That is the charitable interpretation. the other would be what Anne said. That EU politicians would simply want a share of the pie.

  • Shard

    @Walter

    About the referees and Wenger’s comment. I feel he was wise in the way he made those comments about referees, and how they should be assigned. In no way can it be called as whining, but at the same time he did make a point, that at the moment, referees are appointed arbitrarily, or rather at someone’s convenience.

    I agree with him that there should be the lottery system, but I do not agree with him that we should not know till the last minute. I say have the referees names in the programming of the fixture computer, and let it put the refs and the games together at random. Release the list with the name of the assigned referee so everyone can see that it really is random. Howard Webb can get 1 game at OT against the other big teams, but 3? Ok, it happened one season through a quirk of the numbers, but cannot realistically happen for two seasons in a row. Doing so will automatically limit the influence referees have on the title, I feel.

  • Anne

    @Red Gooner:

    I just remembered one other thing that I left out of my previous post. What are Jose Mourinho and Alex Ferguson working on together? I know they’ve come out after Madrid’s elimination and said that Alex is getting “advice” from Jose about how to beat Barca, but I remember as early as the first leg of the semis, when Jose was going on about his conspiracy du jour, we had Michael Owen and Rio Ferdinand coming out on their twitter accounts and reiterating Jose’s talking points.

    I took notice of it at the time because I thought it suggested that Jose and Alex have had a little something something going on together behind the scenes for a while now. And now they’ve come out and somewhat confirmed it. I have no idea what on earth it could be, or what that means, exactly, but I’m positive that it’s nothing good. I don’t know. It’s just…odd. I guess I just have an ominous feeling of foreboding 🙂

    To everyone else, I’m sorry for straying so far off topic with these posts. I’ll shut up now.

  • walter

    Anne,
    as I know from Fifa refs in person that the teams in normal conditions don’t know he name of the ref doing the games in the CL untile about 48hours before the game I think that if there is a fix, the fix has to found not by the clubs but at the organisation. And this is Uefa.
    In fact even the refs don’t know which game they will ref in the CL until a few days before the game themselves.
    They get a message some 14 days before he game from Uefa that they will be involved in a game in the CL and should make themelves available for 3 days. But even then the refs don’t get the names of the teams.
    Around one week before the game they get their plane tickets at their home. And when a ref gets a ticket for Barcelona it is clear that he will do a Barcelona game. But then IN NORMAL CONDITIONS the only ones knowing that they will do Barcelona are the 6 refs involved.

    So with this knowlegde I really think it is very difficult for the clubs to attempt to bribe a ref.

    Unless there is someone who is leaking the names of the refs to a club at Uefa headquarter???? If I remember righ last year there were some rumours about Inter MIlan who seemed to know which ref they would get. A bit a calciopolo thing. But we can discuss about this in a few days in the comment section from an article about refs and Wengers proposition.

  • Anne

    @Shard:

    It’s funny. Reading your comments about Barca’s conduct AFTER the match, I think we’ve found the perfect example of how there are some issues that fans of different clubs just can’t agree on, however respectful their intentions might be. 🙂 Because I actually agree with the essentials of what you’re saying. It’s just that I would say that Barca was “trying to justify the result” (for the sake of themselves and their own fans), rather than “disgrace Arsenal.” But I think that one is probably the same as the other, depending on which side of the fence you fall on.

    On the other hand, I would never claim that the Barca players were on their best behavior DURING that match, because they weren’t. For some reason, everybody got angry at each other during the first half, and I think it set a really nasty tone for the rest of the match, which probably carried over into the post-match comments as well. The RVP sending off was just the icing on the cake of a match that was already highly disappointing, and I’m sorry that Arsenal fans were subjected to such an uncharacteristically ugly display by Barca. That’s pretty much all I can say at this point, so moving on…

    As for the rest of your post, the only part I have anything to add to is your comment that “Barca were being so blatantly helped.” I’ve watched every CL match Barca played in this season (more than once in most cases), and the Arsenal match is the only one where I think that they were unfairly assisted by the referee. Mourinho is full of it, and is just trying to use Arsenal’s legitimate greivance to justify his own B.S.

    I’m not sure what you meant w/ your comment, and if you disagree with me, an off-topic thread probably isn’t the best place to get into the debate. 🙂 I just wanted to clarify that, in my case, I’m only referring to favorable treatment of Barca in the Arsenal match, and not the various other claims that are floating around out there. Cheers.

  • Anne

    @Walter:

    Thank you for the background information about how UEFA refs are selected. That kind of info is really helpful when it comes to having informed opinions about things, and I really appreciate that you dispense it so readily 🙂 I’ll look forward to your post about Wenger’s comments in a few days.

  • Shard

    @Anne

    I don’t disagree with you where you pull me up for the blatantly helped part. What I meant was, that Barca were ‘blatantly’ helped against Arsenal. To me, at least. Real Madrid and Mourinho’s claims may be just nonsense, but the media gave them legitimacy. I don’t think they would have made those claims if the RVP red card hadn’t been an issue actually. In a sense, Arsenal’s misfortune emboldened Madrid to make themselves martyrs. What I meant is, that it’s best to make it appear that Barca are completely on course to win it (help them when they aren’t winning, as happened against Arsenal), before upsetting the applecart at the last stage. In this case against ManU, which makes it all the more likely I feel, especially at Wembley.

    I also don’t disagree about the Barca players’ reactions after the match as far as their motivation was concerned. They were trying to justify themselves in their own eyes and in their fans’, as the representatives of good, technical, but winning football. I get that. But maligning Arsenal and our football was a means they used to that end. Strangely enough, and I don’t know if you’ll agree, I think Barca get more annoyed at Arsenal being tagged Barca-lite than we do. It’s inaccurate, because Wenger’s teams have always played good football, but for some reason I think Barca see it as a challenge to themselves, and want to exhibit themselves to be the ONLY true protagonists of pure football.

  • bob

    @Anne: Choking Arsenal players and not being carded? What do you call that?! I know you don’t like it either, but it’s very tough to take that and have any respect for a side that I’d otherwise grown to respect. They are chronic divers and chokers as well. And, great football aside, they have sown the karmic seeds of their own destruction at the hands of the mega-bettors and their bent-ref who turned a blind eye to the diving and choking in an 11 to 10 match. The whole thing is so rancid that it’s best to take a walk in the park with someone you love.