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Proving that both the English league and Champs league are corrupt

I will admit at once that there are two problems in proving corruption exists within English football.

First, the only people who stand a chance of proving corruption are

a) the police

b) the football authorities

c) an insider in a club, or a journalist with exquisite sources.

As I will outline below, part of my argument is that the football authorities themselves are corrupt, many journalists (especially those on TV) have been bought off by these authorities, and by and large the police have other things to get on with.   As for those within the game, as I will point out later, there is a good reason why they are afraid of revealing anything.

Second, we can’t disprove corruption.  We can say, there have not been any cases of proven corruption in the English game for a number of years, but that doesn’t say very much if the corruption is endemic.   It could be that there is a very effective cover-up going on.  It could be, as in my first point, that those who might investigate, don’t want to.

Thus I think we need to look at the arguments more carefully – avoiding the simplistic allegations that one is only suggesting there is corruption because we lost, or that this is just another conspiracy theory (the arguments I dealt with in an earlier piece) and instead asking this question

What reasons are there for thinking that there is corruption?

Having done this we can think: are these reasons good enough and strong enough to make us feel that corruption in the English game is probably rife?

Of course in doing this, we know that someone is likely to come along and say, “You Arsenal supporters make me laugh…” and ignore all the logical argument and instead just get into an emotional rant.  But let’s try and ignore that just for a moment by listing out some factors that point towards English football being bent.

1.  FIFA. We know FIFA is bent, because they have been caught out in terms of their dealings with Master Card in the American court, (the judge’s famous comment, “FIFA lied and lied and lied,”) and the dealings of their marketing agency in taking bribes.

FIFA controls English football, in the sense that it oversees the rules and the FA is bowing down to its power in terms of World Cup issues.

2. Jack Warner of FIFA. Worthy of a separate listing from FIFA simply because if you go onto Google and type in “Jack Warner corruption” you get42,900 hits.   Here’s a snippet taken from the Guardian (not generally a paper to make wild accusations that could lead to a court case)…

The Warner family travel company made £500,000 from reselling 2006 World Cup tickets for three times their face value;

Warner’s Trinidad FA under-declared their income from the 2006 World Cup by £17m.  Multi-millionaire Jack said players still taking legal action to recover their share of the missing money are “mercenary”: “These players hold us to ransom – just because of greed.”

“Bribes and kickbacks” to Fifa executives and contacts by Fifa’s collapsed marketing agency up to 2001 – totalling £66m.   Jack said: “I am deputy chairman of Fifa’s finance committee – and I have never seen one iota of corruption!”

My point is that a game in which a man like Warner holds so much power is more rather than less likely to be corrupt.  Listening to Beckham say what a good and great man Warner is, only emphasises the fact that English football is probably in bed with people like Warner.  Indeed Beckham’s eulogy about Warner being a fine and upstanding man shows just how far the FA have sunk.  Not only do their have as the team coach a man who has been in severe trouble with the Italian financial police (as covered in an earlier story here) they now talk up Jack Warner.

3.  Television. TV could be a strong party to exposing corruption in football, and Panorama has tried for the BBC.  But the trouble is TV is beholden to football in England, because it wants part of the action.  The fact is the FIFA bribes case was mostly amount TV companies bribing FIFA to get TV contracts.   If football in England delivers your audience you tend not to knock it, and so any corruption gets swept under the carpet by the very people who ought to be exposing it.   Every season promises to be the best.  Every end of season is “the most exciting in years”.   So it goes…

4. The press. The press are also beholden to football – although not so much as TV.  But still there is an unhealthy relationship, which leads to the press attacking individual managers and clubs, but not investigating the whole game, for fear of being banned from the grounds (which clubs are totally entitled to do).   Currently, for example, Leeds have banned the Guardian, because of its exposure of their ownership issues and court cases in Jersey.  So I would argue that the papers are (with some exceptions) just staying off the subject of football corruption.

5.  Breaking the rules. If you see an organisation breaking its own rules over and over again, you know that something is seriously wrong.   The Fit and Proper rules are hardly monuments to good housekeeping, but even these can’t be kept to by the authorities.   Leeds United – ownership unknown.  Notts County – ownership unknown.  Birmingham City – ownership unknown.   And that’s before I even get to the Conference openly breaking its own rules over Chester City.

6.  Implementing rules erratically. The rule of law demands that rules are applied equally, which is certainly not the case when suddenly Eduardo is singled out over a diving charge, where many others have not been before.  The issue is not whether Eduardo dived against Celtic, but rather, has the rule been applied in the same way to all cases over time?   Since no previous case has been brought, the answer clearly is no.  The same could be argued when Arsenal under George Graham were suddenly deducted two points for what was called a “fracas” at Manchester United.  It was in fact a melee on the pitch of the type we have seen many times before or since.  I don’t condone the behaviour, but note that other clubs, before and after, did not have two points deducted.

7.  Corruption elsewhere. The fact is, as Walter recently pointed out in these columns, the rest of Europe is awash with stories of corruption in football.  In Italy, as we know, the case against four major clubs was proven – but it took years of phone tapping to get the evidence.   There is talk of corruption from east Europe across to Germany.   Everyone questions what is going on… except in England.  Our view is that an Englishman would never do such a thing.  It is just these nasty Johnny Foreigners.  Suddenly Alan Sugar, instead of being a disgraceful joke, is the man who sets out our public attitude.

And this is really the point.  On what basis can it be argued that while the rest of Europe seems to be awash with corruption in football, and the revelation of how it happens, do we argue that football in England is clean?

8.  History. English football has been riddled with corruption since the start.  I won’t go through it all – I did a piece on www.blog.woolwicharsenal.co.uk recently on the subject from a historic point of view.   But basically football and corruption have walked hand in hand since the FA Cup was first played.  So why is it different now?  If we had had a big case that removed all the corruption and exposed all the cheats that would be fine – but we haven’t.  Every case is dealt with as if it were isolated and as if there has never been another case.

9.  Gambling and large amounts of money. Gambling and money tend to be at the heart of corruption – and football is just about the biggest unregulated market on the planet apart from drug dealing.  (OK we have organisations like FIFA to regulate – but since they are corrupt – as witness the revelations against FIFA – this amounts to no regulation).

10.  Corruption can be invisible. This was the frightening part of the Italian corruption case.  It was not a case of money being handed over to refs, but rather of ways being smoothed, life being made nice.  Not for a specific result, but just generally.  Then the pressure was brought on so that certain refs would get certain games, and the results would go a certain way.

Of course we can look back to the days of Liverpool domination of the league and say, “well they had the best team”, or we might look at just how many penalties they got in the last few minutes of games.   Either way we can prove nothing.

But we can stop being simplistic and nationalistic.  We can move from a position of saying “you are only claiming there is corruption because your team is not winning” to one that says, “the ten points outlined above suggest that the English game is more, rather than less likely to be riddled with corruption.

PS: Don’t forget MAKING THE ARSENAL.  Amazon have finally got their stock levels sorted and are despatching it.  Or you can get it from the publishers, and I’ll sign it.   www.emiratesstadium.info

(c) Tony Attwood 2009

27 comments to Proving that both the English league and Champs league are corrupt

  • Feeno

    I really wish someone would look into Scottish Football, it is rotten to the core and set up to solely help the Glasgow teams.

    Referees to the media to the weak governing bodies. All set up to make sure these two poisonous football institutions are kept rolling in Champions League money. Everything thats wrong or corrupt in football can be seen week in week out. Im a Hearts fan I no longer get any joy from watching my team cos I cant take the lies deceipt, spin and revision of facts. Its a horrible feelin watching something you love get destroyed and know that there’s very little you can do about it.

    I feel the same underhand tactics that are used against Hearts also get employed against Arsenal. The establishment see both teams as a threat to the natural order (not so much this season for Hearts tho Im afriad lol) Also the fact that Hearts are foreign owned while Arsenal have comitted a cardinal sin in the knuckle draggers eyes and employed a Frenchman I think you find another wee racist reason why there’s such ill will to both my teams.

    I think what your saying is absolutley correct regards not just single games where corruption is evident but a blanket “good will” to certain players and teams.

  • walter

    I have read some good articles from your hands Tony, but I really think this is one of the best I have ever read.
    I would dare to make a bold prediction: like in the way you have on numerous occasions told us how bad the financial situation from some clubs are, and how right you have been proven since, that on this one in a few years we will look back and can say: we have read it here first.
    I know how corruption exist (money handed over and so) and I know how the pressure corruption works and you are right in your article. The invisible corruption is maybe the worst of them all and the most difficult to find out.

  • Sensible Opinion

    A couple of weeks ago you patronisingly dismissed Ireland’s highly controversial departure from the World Cup due to blatant cheating by Thierry Henry as something that happens in football. The whole football world knows FIFA is corrupt. That shameful incident by the cheat Henry just highlights this fact yet your silence then on it was deafening. This article therefore lacks any sort of credibility.

  • Sensible Opinion – I must have failed to express myself properly – and that is not uncommon – but just so you know, what I believe is the key issue about Ireland in Europe is that they had a game against Georgia in which they got a penalty that never was, and in the game against France they did not get a free kick that they should have had, and which would have stopped the French goal.

    I feel that one has to look not just at one match but at the broader picture – and that is why I have brought in the issue of the Italian situation. The only way you could ever see that was by looking at the tendency over the course of a season to see how certain teams were favoured. To my mind, one incident in one game does not prove anything because without any specific bias all refs make errors.

    Indeed if I am careful with the word “prove” I can’t say that watching over a season proves anything, but it does give you a better picture.

    But even if I was patronising over the issue of Ireland and France (which I did not mean to be) why does that invalidate all the issues here? That is the argument that has been made since I started discussing corruption on this site, and I still don’t see it.

    My attitude towards Ireland, even if it were biased, patronising and bent, does not affect these arguments at all, and you have put forward no logical argument as to why or how they do.

    The fact is that by changing the rules just before the play-offs UEFA revealed that they were probably acting under FIFA demands to get certain teams into the finals. That was corrupt and that seems fairly clear.

    For what it is worth, beyond that, I think that France and Ireland should have followed the example of Arsenal against (I think) Sheffield United when a dubious goal gave Arsenal victory. Within a few hours Arsenal offered to replay, and Sheffield U accepted – and effectively forced the FA to agree. Ireland and France should have agreed to a replay and done it, and agreed that no matter what FIFA said the winner would go through. That France did not do that is a moral black mark against them in my opinion.

    But I still feel one incident proves nothing. What we are looking for are situations that spread across a season or more. If Ireland has suffered bad decisions throughout their campaign then almost certainly there is official bias, and we can see corruption. I fully admit I only watch some Ireland games, and simply don’t know if that has happened.

  • mark

    Excellent article Tony, although SO’s comment sticks.(How do you respond to that?)

    But you make one very strong point, that there are levels of influence applied by football’s authorities. So while the egregious handling of the Eduardo case stinks, it is all too often the silence of the authorities that is deafening.

    For me, the bias of the media and regulatory bodies was most exposed when Viera and Keane were the kingpins. Viera was deliberately targetted by opposition players, because he wouldn’t take shit from anyone, and had a shortish fuse, and a badboy reputation (which was a shade racial in its delineation) that the media egged up, and the referees played along to. So it became common practice to hack him up early, and get him yellow or red carded. The media would then caricature him as maniac, and he became a stock target for the referees in a self-perpetuating cycle of victimization.
    Keane on the other hand was a tough nut whose peccadillos were smirked at by the media, the gurning pundits and the nodding dog refereees.
    Hence this man was given free rein to commit absolutely diabolical career ending challenges.
    So as you say, there are nuances and shades of corruption, from flagrant cheating, to the perpetual turning of the blind eyes when the favourite sons are involved.

  • walter

    I don’t know if you have been her much, sensible opinion, but I really do think that this matter has been talked about on this site (Henry the thief). Maybe you didn’t like the article but itself, but it was talked about.
    Maybe not in the same way should it have happened to Arsenal,(despite everything this is an Arsenal site and not an Irish site) but it has been pointed out by many that the corruption in the France-Ireland case had everything to do with the way Fifa handled the matter in a corrupt way.
    The thinking of many on this site could be summarized as: by introducing the principle of seeding some teams it put pressure upon the referees to maybe not see some things.
    I would say that this is a case that can be put under nr. 10. The whole world knew that Fifa rather have France in the WC and also a ref knows this when he walks on the field. This is a pressure on the back of a referee whitout anyone has to say a word. The ref knows that Fifa will not be happy if France go out and maybe in case of a doubt he could have a decision influenced. Invisible pressure. In fact, I have talked about it for a few times in my own articles, but then more related to games from Arsenal.

  • tim

    Football is the sport that most aptly reflects life. what you’ve outlined above, tony, can be said for practically anything in this world.

    football is corrupt; life is corrupt. there it is. the cause, of course, is money, which makes it so easy to buy into the chelsea/man city model (excuse the pun). but isn’t that too cynical and depressing?

    arsene, however, does things the right way, despite the history and resources he has at his disposal, and despite the morally-deprived world around him. he’s a dreamer in a corrupt world that likes to sh*t on dreamers. god bless the man. he’ll always have my support.

  • mark

    I don’t think doing things honestly is being a dreamer Tim.
    It is actually a very realistic course of action, because
    in the long run trickery is usually exposed.
    And the hard reality of 15 years in jail, with all that entails,
    is something every realist needs to take into account.

    The media may paint Arsene as a dreamer, but don’t swallow the bait.

    Besides, for ‘a dreamer’, he has done some surprisingly succesful sleep-walking…..

  • LRV

    Though many partsan supporters of teams that have largely been the beneficiaries of the invisible corruption, as well as maybe others who may still be inclined to sit on the fence, will argue that your articulated reasoning above may be the rantings of a disgruntled fan who thinks his club is being undermined, quite a few lovers of football in general, like me, have long come to the same conclusion as you.

    We may kid ourselves as long as we want or wish, but the truth will catch up to everybody one day, just as the dire financial situation of certain clubs gradually filters through more and more today after many had outrightly denied it.

    Very well articulated reasoning, Tony. You’ve gone up quite a few notches in my estimation, even more so than after your book, Tony. Cheers!!!

  • Joe

    We watch football to remind us of the joy and innocence we experienced as children when playing football in the street. We watch to re-live that pass, that goal, that thing of beauty. Nowhere is this vision, these ideals and values alleviated to an artform than at Arsenal under Wenger.

    Sure, he’s not perfect. There are times when he has to protect his own players – incidents he “doesn’t see”; or vein attempts to hide the inadequacies of his troops from time to time. There is even the occasional slight of hand shake when he feels personally insulted.

    But by in large – he’s a very fair man. And he gets most calls right. His immediate offer to replay the match against Sheffield was very sporting as was his immediate call for a replay of the France v Ireland game. He is an example to all.

    Soccer has been utterly destroyed by money. When you have money – you have vested interests – which by nature contaminates everything sport should represent. And from the highest echelons in FIFA to the spindoctors in the media – its rotten to the core. The game needs leaders and lights like Wenger. It’s the only hope it has for any sort of redemption.

  • Abhishek

    I started watching football around 7 years back. Before then football meant world cup to me and the only footballer i knew was Pele, Maradona and Ronaldo.

    The only game I watched was cricket(of course I am from India). We follow it like religion and one day our dream was broken with the allegations of mach fixing. We came to know that the best players throw away matches to make bookies happy.

    Slowly I got bored of cricket and started playing football. I fell in love with football and Arsenal and I must say its wonderful. But I was too naive to understand how football can be fixed using referees (after the Italy incident). I saw it as a totally open game where no player can make a deliberate mistake. But slowly I saw the roles of referees (thanks to Walter and Tony) and I just think I am about to see some more harsh truths of life.

    But I would just want Arsenal to be on the right side of law when it is discovered. Who wants trophies when your game is so beautiful. I mean I want trophies but not the Chelsea way. And that’s why I love Arsenal. The trophies that they win can be due to luck or corruption but the joy to watch Arsenal is for real.

  • Simon Bailey

    S O, when i did the ‘henri the thief’ piece, the underlying message was that fifa are corrupt, and the result suited them perfectly.

    tonys article has covered this and more, in a very much better researched kind of a way, as opposed to my mere opinion piece.

    i wasnt condoning henri, neither was i blaming him. the refs decision is final, we all know that. one point i made was that three men running up and down a pitch are never going to see all that cameras and technology are.

    but the main point was about how surprised i was that everyone was so surprised that this had occurred.

    i think you should read back through a few posts on here and you might realise that this is one of the only blogs that will discuss issues like this openly and honestly.

  • Jonny

    S.O.

    – having made your dubious and accusatory points you have slunk away into the shadows. I think Tony’s gracious and elucidating reply deserves a response and you should either explain yourself better or ‘man-up’ and give an apology.

    Are you S.O. or just an S.O.B??

  • Cape Gooner

    Great article Tony. As a couple of posters have mentioned, money tends to corrupt the whole system. In the same way that financial journalists are bullish about the market, football journalists are bullish about football – they want good, not bad.

    To my mind, the biggest sign of corruption is the refusal to assist referees, either with technology or with extra linesmen. The Henry handball would have been spotted by an official behind the goal.

    However, that may not be true. What excuse can we offer for the linesman who didn’t see Given move a metre forward before Lampard kicked the ball. What does the linesman do while a penalty is being taken?

    The current situation where any decision can be justified by “all refs make mistakes” allows for the ruling body to apply the pressure that Walter describes – do as I want or you will not get matches for a while.

  • walter

    Abishek, I know the feeling. When I was a young boy I was thinking the world was full of honest people. Now, at my middle age, I realise that you would have to take a rather long walk in the city to search for honest man.

  • walter

    Cape Gooner said: “do as I want or you will not get matches for a while.”

    In these lines is the truth about referees on the highest level. All international refs have one goal this season: go to the Cape at the end of the season for the WC.
    So as a ref you can only walk between the lines and try to make happen what the big boys on the top want. The ref who doesn’t do this, he can sit like the rest of us in his chair to watch the games on TV.
    Keep this in mind when you see strange decisions in the next months.

    And this is the same on every level in professional football.

  • Pete The First

    Corruption in English footy? Never!

    Remember Wimbledon in the 90s?
    John Fashanu handballing twice in his own area, the first given as a pen and the second being overlooked by the ref because the sun was in his eyes (when it was behind him) Hmmmm

    Hans Segers with some dubious keeping. The most memorable being against Everton when they were on the way down on the last day of the season, sensationally Everton coming back from 2-0 down to win 3-2. Hmmmm

    Oh and while we talk keepers, what about Bruce Grobelaar? He was only playing when he accepted that £10k? Hmmmm

    Bent Bent Bent, and you haven’t even mentioned the arch criminal running Chelsea!

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Another nice post Tony ,and I’ve got to agree with the guys that Football like life in general sucks.One of the exceptions to the rule is Arsenal and AW .He is a gentleman to the core and should be admired for his stance and steadfastness.I too would love Arsenal to win all before them but in a manner which will take my breath away .The 2004 team did just that as did the 2007-2008 team whose play was better than Brazil 1970 and the Dutch teams of the early ’70s.
    Greed is not good by any yardstick ; decency,dedication,temperance and patience will in the end reward those who stand tall.Its never easy but its the right way -the only way.
    May Arsenal and Arsene Wenger ever rule and make us all proud for beliveing
    and keeping the faith.Cheers guys!

  • tim

    Mark– Fair enough, but I meant “dreamer” ONLY in the positive sense of the word. perhaps i wasn’t clear enough, and perhaps I should have chosen a better word like “visionary.” if you re-read my post and pay attention to the context, you’ll see what i mean. i hold wenger only in the highest esteem.

    what i was criticizing were the cynics who equate spending boatloads of cash, who try to stir up nationalistic fervor that borders on racism, and who resort to anti-football, all because they feel that they have to in order to win. they don’t care how morally corrupt these actions might be because it’s “simply the way things work.” it’s very depressing to me, and it’s against everything Arsene stands for.

  • tim

    “who spend boatloads of cash,” i mean. christ, i’m always a bit too quick w/ the “Submit Comment” button.

  • All hail Sir Tony Attwood.

    After Wenger, Romario, Johan Cruyff, Sir Bobby Robson & Gunnersaurus, you’re the person I admire the most in football.

    I absolutely admire your focus on financial sanity and corruption in football.

    It’s one man holding up a dam.

    The fooball media and blogosphere is many many billions of pounds, and many millions of people pounding away at keyboards, but nobody comes close to having this sort of fundamental decency, and sense of justified outrage about what’s truly rotten about our beautiful game.

  • I forgot to add that you’re slowly starting a movement with this blog. It’s not just a talkshop, the things you write about capture something about what supporting Arsenal should be, and what we should be completely angry about in football.

  • mark

    I agree totally Tim – visionary is a very good word for Arsene Wenger.
    What attracted me to football was the style in which Arsenal started playing under Wenger.
    Maybe in the dim and distant mists of time, the days of Danny Blanchflower, Stanley Matthews and Jimmy Greaves, this was how football was played, but in my lifetime I had not witnessed it.

    Personally I think he has modernized the English game.
    If you look at the way Man United play now and how they played in the 90’s you can see this.

    Visionaries invariably get a lot of stick, and often have to drag the world kicking and screaming into the future. lol.
    I am quietly flabberghasted at how much resentment, reaction and opprobrium AW gets, often from his so-called supporters.
    But that is the nature of the beast, when you have a guy with one foot in the present and one in the future.

    As Tony frequently points out, many other clubs have bubbles that could burst any time.

  • The Law

    Sensible Opinion must be an oxymoron, because the owner of that handle has never posted any sensible comment on this site, and I stand to be corrected on that assertion.

    It is a known fact that FIFA is corrupt. During qualification for the 2002 World Cup, Nigeria (a huge draw team for FIFA) needed to defeat Ghana by 3 goals to qualify ahead of George Weah’s Liberia. The Ghanaian team arrived Nigeria, duly got rolled 3-0 and Liberia protested furiously. Demanding an investigation, Liberia alleged that Ghana (who actually had nothing to play for) had been bribed. FIFA investigated, and declared that while some “packages” had been given to the Ghanaian players, these were no more than gifts which were “customarily” exchanged in Africa!

    What we witness in the EPL is that there is a clear bias against Arsenal in relation to the other members of the Top Four. Only Arsenal doesn’t have a superstar English player, and only Arsenal fields teams made up of 100% foreign players. Sure, Arsenal do occasionally get some dubious calls in our favour, but can anyone here imagine a ref giving Carlton Cole that penalty if it were Man U, Chelsea, or Liverpool leading 2-1 that day?

  • christianjimmy

    Theres a fine line between paranoia and genuinely recognising corruption or bias where it lurks! As a welsh supporter I can answer SO’s post with the answer that Wales never got a fair crack of the international tournament whip after that scottish handball at ninian park that was incorrectly given as a penalty to scotland in the final qualifier, or the play-off against russia where they fielded an ineligible player and won yet the result was allowed to stand by FIFA.
    Any team in the world can argue for bias against it and pinpoint events that support their argument. germany, russian linesmen, 1966 etc But its only when there is a consistent, long term pattern that you can really present evidence for corruption. So tonys opinion on le Gods “accidental” handball (ie a one off event) has no real bearing on his claims of longer term corruption.
    Im not sure there really is bias against arsenal because if our foreigners. I’m as blinkered as the next arsenal fan and as non-english couldnt give a rats about the number of englishmen at the club – the reason we aren’t gettig the positive press at the mometn is that simply it isnt our turn – the press used to go into raptures about our flowing football, and it was almost embarressing at their lack of objectivity (circa 2004-5) but now they’ve swung the other way. and its not that they hate arsenal, but thats simply the swing. it’ll come back the other way at some point.
    the press is not objective. But they arent in the grips of some terrible conspiracy against us (arsenal). As for FIFA being corrupt I thought the courts had already decided that they were…

  • Finsbury

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/europe/8402843.stm

    It could be possible to argue that doping as well as financial doping is just a part of modern sport. But how do you explain that to the children of people driven crazy on steroids or athletes who started to grow strange, new, anatomical parts? (I accept that whatever the unknown substances are that more then a few athletes are currently taking, they are not as harmful. But I still wouldn’t recommend it)

  • The Law

    @Christianjimmy: The reason the press goes into “raptures” over our football is that they really don’t have much choice in the matter. And anyone who’s seen us at our flowing, imperious, soul-destroying best will agree. You don’t see Man U, Chelsea, or Liverpool getting the same kind of stick from the press when results aren’t coming, do you?