By Tony Attwood
This is a story of stories. Several stories in fact. Stories covering tax fraud, the lavish giving away of public money and the misleading of the public. All in the name of money, or fraud, or maybe just carelessness. Sometimes it is impossible to say.
Indeed I suspect, if you were to come to this article not knowing about football, you might be shocked that these totally separate stories all exist at the same time. But this is football. This is how it is.
And it is, because no one ever really puts all this together and says, hang on, if all this is happening in relation to one sport, isn’t there some fundamentally wrong? But no, we don’t want to ask that question, so we keep everything separate in neat little bundles, under separate headlines.
The journey takes us from England to Spain, and back again, and there is no connection between the bits other than they are all to do with football. And that is the worry really. No one is connecting up the bits. I really think they should.
The first story asks the question: how much should a football stadium cost, and who should pay? The Emirates Stadium cost £400m, which is pretty much the estimated cost of Tottenham’s re-vamped ground. On a larger scale there is the new West Ham Stadum which when handed over to the club in a year’s time will have cost more than £700m as revealed now the London Legacy Development Corporation has revealed that the cost of transformation into a stadium suitable for West Ham will be £272m.
The original plan was to convert the stadium into a 25,000-seat athletics facility after the Olympics. But that was forgotten somewhere along the line so the deal now is that WHU will make a £15m contribution to the cost of the stadium plus £2.5m a year for a 99-year lease. A good deal for WHU.
Given the major subsidy for the club, and the chance of crowds of 50,000 plus, they certainly ought to be able to develop a team that will challenge for honours. Although if you look at Newcastle with its size, they too should be able to challenge.
But moving away from east London, Spain has long been talked up by the British media in terms of being a wonderful footballing country. Which is interesting since crowd levels are dropping – rather quickly. Stadia, the latest figures have shown, are only 64% full in the top division, compared with over 90% in the Premier League. Barcelona’s average attendance of home matches is just 72% of capacity. Real Mad is 84% full on average.
I also wrote a while back about the feeling that many of the end of season matches are fixed, and that feeling has rumbled on this season.
The Spanish league is looking at this season’s final-day match between Real Betis and Sporting Gijón together with another in the second division that day, involving Girona and Lugo.
Part of the problem in Spain is that they have still failed to abide by the 2013 Court for Arbitration in Sport ruling that bonuses given to teams to win by third parties are illegal. It happens and is defended by the Spanish Footballers Assn whose president Luis Rubiales among others.
Meanwhile away from “bonsues” the court case again Messi for non tax payment rumbles on. Messi, as befits a very rich man, has appealed and appealed against having a hearing in the Spanish high court but his appeals have run out.
His argument was that he didn’t know what was happening with his money. The court has said that is not an argument and so now Messi and his father are standing trial on defrauding the state of more than €4m which relates to Messi’s image rights in contracts with Adidas, Pepsi-Cola, Procter and Gamble, the Kuwait Food Company and others.
Messi and his father voluntarily paid a sum for back tax in August 2013 but the court argued that just paying back tax and interest once the hounds are on your trail can’t be acceptable, as otherwise no one will ever pay any tax until the court forms arrive.