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Corruption in football: the issue spreads and spreads

By Tony Attwood

It was way back in July 2009 that Untold ran its first article about money laundering, reporting that the Financial Action Task Force had issued a report saying that football is at risk from criminals buying clubs, often to facilitate money laundering, tax evasion and other fraud and all that sort of thing.

After that we got quite into the swing of the issue ultimately reporting that the Daily Mail on 23 March, 2010, had a major piece concerning money laundering through the EPL transfer market.  We also gave links to

French police raid drug and money-laundering gang linked to English Premier League

EastEnders star’s brother at centre of French police raid on drug gang linked to English Premier League

“Ten British gangsters have been arrested in France after a vast drug and money-laundering operation was smashed.”

“There is…an allegation that some of the cash was linked to agents or other parties involved in the lucrative – and notoriously unregulated – trade in footballers.”

In 2012 we did quite a lot on the subject and only stopped because a) our major researcher on the topic sadly left Untold to move to higher things, and we reckoned everyone who want to know, now knew.

But as a subject it doesn’t lie down and doesn’t go away and now the news is out that Italian police have arrested 22 people including the president and owner of Parma on money laundering and embezzlement charges.

Football is the obvious place for money laundering, as we have said all along.  Vast amounts of money swishing in and out, players bought and sold across countries with less than stringent money controls, gambling on the PL games at a level that dwarfs the economies of half the nations of the world.  Of course it is there.

Poor Parma is all but dead and gone.  The players have not been paid, since Manenti, the latest owner came to power in February paying Manenti paid €1 for the club.    They drive the team bus themselves, they are bottom of the league 12 points adrift.

But we know that corruption in football only happens in Italy.  It says so in the rule book.

Except that it seems it might also happen in Spain.  Not England you understand.  Never that.  Absolutely not.

The former Osasuna director, Txuma Peralta, is remanded in custody, the former president Miguel Archanco has been released on bail.  Players from Real Betis, Rayo Vallecano, Osasuna and Espanyol have been charged with conspiring to fix matches.  Those who have spoken have denied the charges.

The evidence has been gathered by the Spanish League following a confession from a former Osasuna general manager.

The type of corruption we are looking at here is the most simple: Type I and Type II match fixing in which players are offered money to win or lose matches.  These are the easiest match fixing examples to see, quite simply because everything focuses on the one match.

Type III match fixing involves the referee being asked to see his/her way clear to help a team or hinder a team as and when the situation permits across the season.  The teams to be hindered can change as the season develops, making the whole process quite hard to see.  The prime way of overcoming it is to have a large number of referees so that each ref only gets each team a maximum of twice, and for all referee accuracy reports to be made public in detail after each game.

The Premier League has neither of these approaches in place, hence our continuing concern for the integrity of the league.

The sums involved look quite modest when compared to player salaries and transfer fees.  It is suggested Osasuna offered Betis €400,000 to beat Valladolid and €250,000 to lose to Osasuna. Half a million pounds to get results that would secure the club’s future in the top division.  About 5% of the cost of the transfer and salary of a modest player for a year.  It’s the cheapest approach to winning there is.

Meanwhile in  Real Zaragoza’s case, the club and over 40 individuals have been charged.

The problem for the club is that this sort of money coming out of the club is going to be spotted by anyone with GCSE accounting.  The only way to hide it is if the owner pays directly out of his pocket.  But most of them don’t like to spend.

Besides the people involved are in some cases fairly high up the order of things.  People like the captain of Atlético Madrid, Gabi.

The system used for fixing matches (which has been talked about off and on for years) has been sloppy, largely because no one was willing  to do anything about it.  And why should they when Real Madrid can do a land exchange to their own advantage with the council, knowing that the council would tuck the deal away in their bottom drawer and ensure no one saw it.

Or while Barcelona had the world media so much in their pocket that everyone bought into the story that they had a wonderful world class academy system, when all the while they were allowing despicable agents to bring in children, without their parents, and then abandon the 95% of  them who never got a club.   You know the world is upside down when it is Fifa that is sorting out wholesale corruption and the Independent newspaper is still, in March 2015, being an apologist for the Barce approach to child movement.

Thus just as Barcelona’s trafficking and Real Madrid’s deals with the local council were everyday, so it seems was end of season match fixing.  It became part of the plan, part of the system, that’s what happens.

And that’s a reason why some of us get worked up about the standard of refereeing in the Premier League.  We see what appears to be biased refereeing so often, we gather statistics that show that it never evens out in the end, and we find no one but no one wants to investigate or reveal the basic everyday facts about how the referees are doing.  Statistics that would allow us to look at what PGMO thinks is a wrong decision, which we can then compare with what we see on the film.

The English press won’t pick up on this point of course, but it is refreshing to see that the Guardian, in reviewing the Spanish tale has said, “if the talk is always of key games being bought at the bottom, it would surely be naive to assume that there are not games bought at the top too or to imagine that the men running Spanish football clubs would not do such a thing. The list of those club presidents that have been charged or convicted of crimes is over twenty names long.”

And they quote Alfredo Relaño, the editor of the “spotted at the airport” AS saying this week: “Summer’s hot, autumn rains, winter’s cold and in spring games are bought… there are always fixed games”.

AS estimate that 19 games a season are fixed in the top division.  That is quite a few.

Real Madrid have been involved in a land deal that looks extremely suspicious, and are being investigated by the European Commission.  Barcelona have been found guilty by Fifa and the CAS of being engaged in child trafficking, and banned from signing anyone for a year.  Atlético Madrid’s owner was found guilty of match fixing, but the tribunal result came too late for action, and he’s still there.

Here’s the top of the Spanish League.

#
Team
Pld
W
D
L
F
A
GD
Pts
1
Barcelona
27
21
2
4
78
16
62
65
2
Real Madrid
27
21
1
5
77
24
53
64
3
Valencia
27
17
6
4
48
22
26
57
4
Atlético Madrid
27
17
5
5
51
23
28
56

We always do well at this time of year…

  • 20 March 1999: Arsenal 2 Coventry 0 made it three wins in three during March, as part of an unbeaten run stretching from, 20 December to 5 May.
  • 20 March 2004: Arsenal 2 Bolton 1.  The 29th league game of the unbeaten season
  • 20 March 2010: Arsenal beat WHU 2-0 away to go top of the league; it was their 6th straight win.

11 comments to Corruption in football: the issue spreads and spreads

  • Ray from Norfolk, Virginia

    The new triangle trade:
    -Get into shady transfers
    -Buy drugs, make a profit
    -Invest in Dordogne
    Then, a few years later, sell the properties, and the money has been laundered.
    Or something like that…

  • Gord

    Subject to appeal, Nimes (French Football) is to be demoted to the third league at the end of the season for attempting to manipulate games. This was in the local news of the south coast of France when Arsenal was in Monaco.

  • Gord

    OT: There is a historical piece up in some local newspaper, dating back to 1959. Has 1 picture, I have no idea how rare. In the comments, it is obvious some facts are wrong.

    http://www.maldonandburnhamstandard.co.uk/news/north_essex_news/11868373.HISTORY__The_day_Arsenal_came_to_town/

  • Mandy Dodd

    Fair play to the Spanish and others looking into this. A shame we Brits won’t be as investigative until the whole thing gets blown out of the water, that’s just the way things work here.

  • para

    This washing of money is pretty hilarious.

    The crooks that have reached the top tell the other crooks that their stolen money is illegal and can be seized.

    All people who strive to be honest know by the type of laws made, that they are made by thieves. And we know what is said about liars.

    Anyway, looking forward to a surprising and splendid(for us) weekend of football.

  • Gord

    Tural?

    Damien Martinez has gone out on emergency loan to Rotherham United.

    http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/20150320/martinez-joins-rotherham-united-on-loan

  • Gord

    Tural?

    Tural is an Azerbaijani first name. It is also the end of the word agricul-tural.

  • omgarsenal

    Corruption and criminal activity in Football pay very high dividends and are not scrutinized sufficiently by the powers that be because;

    1)Many powers are involved themselves in some nefarious and illegal/semi-legal schemes,
    2)Its only slimy,greasy foreigners (continentals) who engage in such dealings,don’t you know,
    3)It is a very high stakes process that is easy to manipulate and relatively rick free,
    4)Shining a light on one area will inevitably lead to more light being directed to other areas that the powers want kept in the dark,
    5)Politics and chauvinism require that perfidious Albion’s reputation is preserved and remains sacrosanct,
    6)Britain is an island of fortitude and honesty in a sea of slimy foreign coercion and ludicrously transparent corruption,
    7)You cannot stop what you can’t see or hear about so the media play their ubiquitous role in covering everyone with BS and keeping them in the dark, like mushrooms.

  • omgarsenal

    point 3….should be risk free!

  • Th14thesecond

    Another great article. Great read!