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October 2016
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Corruption requires ineptness and incompetence and in football it is there for all to see.

By Tony Attwood

Last night at the Arsenal Stadium (as we have to call it on Euro nights) before the match I bought a bottle of water.   The young man selling it to me removed the cap before handing it over, presumably on the grounds that I would otherwise throw the tiny plastic cap from the upper tier and hit someone in club level.  I guess there must have been complaints.

I did ask for the water bottle cap back but he refused to give it.  He was very pleasant, but he had his orders.

Meanwhile in the away enclosure, four flares went off as the teams came out.  The stewards stood and looked and did nothing.

The contrast is simple: my plastic water bottle top can’t hurt anyone, while flares can maim, blind and even kill.  One is dealt with via an absolute rule, the other is just watched by lots of stewards.

Of course neither the flares nor the lack of a water bottle top spoiled the match for me in the upper east; it just reminded me how silly the club I support can be in its administration, sometimes.  The football was good, Theo was astounding, and my thoughts over the summer (about the benefit of having two strikers rather than just one high profile top goalscorer) have been proven right, so I felt rather self-satisfied.  Alexis was good last night, but the ball just wouldn’t run for him.   So Theo scored.

But the contrast between the water bottle top and the flares is symbolic of football’s organisation.  Deal with the trivial nonsense in a firm and forthright manner while the organisations that are running football are as the Guardian rightly said, “self-perpetuating cliques sustained in various tax havens by other self-perpetuating cliques in member states.”

Mind you I don’t agree with the Guardian when it says, “Fifa was rumbled last year only when the media gathered enough evidence for Swiss police”.  No, what happened was that the Swiss political structure had had enough and changed the law, allowing its police to act against members of international bodies – people who had previously existed in Switzerland with immunity.  Untold picked up on that law change – the Guardian didn’t.  1-0 to us.

Corruption is endemic in football.  Lord Triesman, as chair of the FA, knew all about Fifa corruption but still led the FA into bidding for the World Cup,  and all the media supported this.  None of the media outlets and pundits complaining about corruption today stood up and said, “we should not deal with Fifa until it is clean.”   Everyone has known about what goes on for a long time but still we have instances of the FA trying to stop the BBC reporting on what is going on, and still the FA talk openly of co-operation with Fifa.   The only thing to have changed is that today for the first time ever as far as I know the Guardian has commented that there might be something wrong with paying money to organisations that you know to be corrupt.  Not much of a step forwards, but a step forwards.

Meanwhile the Telegraph continues its revelations about corruption in the English game – ranging from people I’ve never heard of such as the assistant manager of Barnsley through to the owner of Leeds Massimo Cellino, who discussed a way that his club could get around Football Association rules on third-party ownership of players; a man who seems to have been banned so often and been involved in so many ludicrous situations that his name alone starts people yawning.

But what I really want to know is who turned the Telegraph down.   Who did they try and interview and offer bribes and backhanders to, who said “no?”   Who then said to the FA and the League “I have just been offered money to do various corrupt things by these guys and I think you ought to investigate them?”

So we have to ask not only, what of the authorities, what are they doing?  But also – is everyone in football so bent that no one given the chance of £20 notes in the pocket actually turns the Telegraph’s actors into the police?

The FA, the Premier League and EFL put out a joint statement but before you read it I suggest you stop eating or drinking, and sit down.  Here we go…

“English football takes the governance of the game extremely seriously with integrity being of paramount importance. Any substantive allegations will be investigated with the full force of the rules at our disposal, which are wide-ranging and well-developed. In addition, should we find any evidence of criminality we would inform and seek the support of the appropriate statutory authorities.”

If English football took governance of the game seriously, the FA would have been wound up years ago.

Gary Lineker said corruption was “rife” in the game and demanded action.  Well, yes, he does that.  He’s good at posturing.  If he really wanted anything done he could use his media dominance to get an independent production company to make a full programme on the issue instead of presenting programmes about the Fifa world cup which pretend there is no corruption involved.  He’s one man who could do something, but no, there is the big fat fee to host another world cup series of programmes, and he takes it.  Where is the difference between the man who breaks the rules, and the man who takes money to make fawning programmes about an organisation that breaks every rule?

Greg Clarke chair of the FA, in the Telegraph said he was “powerless to properly probe suspected wrongdoing”.  Simultaneously he said he would overhaul its disciplinary processes which left me wondering what the point of that was, if he is powerless.

 The former FA chairman David Bernstein has been interviewed a lot and has repeatedly said, “nothing is proven”.   So that makes it all right then does it?

Richard Caborn, a trustee of the Football Foundation, said: “There now ought to be an inquiry into these allegations. You fetch a judge in, you fetch an investigating team in, you do that independently, it reports back to the FA in an honest and transparent way. The inquiry also comes out with a list of recommend powers that are needed to be able to regulate, in a systematic way, the managers and the agents in England.”

And the reply to that is, “you were sports minister, why didn’t you do it then.  All the allegations against Fifa were there then.”

And yet, lurking away in all the talk and print today about the corruption in English football, there are two possibilities.

First, if the FA produced a contract which said that everyone had to do x y and z and not do a, b, and c and that breach of the rules would mean being removed from the right to participate in football in England, that would be a start.  It would lead to appeals and the like, but it would be a start.

Second, the police could act as well, as they did when investigating racist, sexist, homophobic and anti-Semitic text messages that were sent by Malky Mackay and Iain Moody.   But football hates to call the police in, and the old boys network will probably stop such an approach as a contract, because they know most of their number would immediately be in breach of their own contract.

Sports minister Tracey Crouch (always ready with a sound bite, and having used the card that says, “If the FA don’t sort themselves out I will stop giving them tax payers money,”) has now said, “The recent ­allegations regarding English football are very concerning and we will be discussing the matter with the authorities. All the evidence presented to them must be investigated fully and we stand ready to assist in any way we can.”

So that is all right I suppose.

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs could go in, but they have repeatedly lost legal actions over what happens when football clubs go bust, and they struggled in the Rangers tax case too.  They’re good at getting the little people, but faced with organised football, no.

The Telegraph says it has agreed to pass on relevant material to the police.   Greg Clarke, the FA chair said the FA don’t have the means to deal with “financial impropriety.”   The League Managers Association said it was “extremely concerned” by it all.  So it goes.

George Orwell, whom I often quote (you may have noticed) wrote an article for Tribune, following the visit of Moscow Dynamo to the UK in 1945, including the match against Arsenal, called the Sporting Spirit.  It is an article well worth reading if you have ten minutes, but here is the bit that most people quote, without really knowing the full context:

Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence: in other words it is war minus the shooting.

Today perhaps we should amend it to say,

Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with the ceaseless greed of old men and their disregard of all rules so that they can use sport to their financial benefit, while doddering old farts meander around wringing their hands saying, “we don’t have the power to do anything about it.”

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13 comments to Corruption requires ineptness and incompetence and in football it is there for all to see.

  • John L

    Interesting also to see Greg Dyke’s quote about the need to insist on absolute integrity and probity in senior FA roles and his ready criticism of Allardyce.

    Can you remind me. What was the story about the gold watch that he accepted and only gave back later, when the issue came to light?

  • Mandy Dodd

    The great thing about all this, it has shone a worldwide spotlight on English football. The instinct of the FA, and other football bodies, is always to do nothing, but that is now not an option, as there are many in high places abroad jealous of our games money who would take us down a peg or two.
    Events will prove Untold has been right all along….and what a force Wenger now looks set against this climate? a man who has clearly been punished at times for having no part of it.
    I would like to think there are some scared people in English football at the moment, but I would also guess they are living in a fools paradise for now.
    Some articles suggest the Allardyce generation, a bunch of embittered, greedy mid aged ex players jealous of what their modern day equivalents earn, is a dying breed. That the younger managers may be more wealthy, educated, savvy and less inclined to get up to these tricks, pile money into Sandbanks properties, set up canine bank accounts. I hope this is correct, otherwise English football will soon lose its brand and appeal.
    There are clearly many of these managers like Sam, but curiously, going back a few decades, it was an Arsenal manager who took the brunt, it is reported another manager was let off on health grounds, and another…well, apart from a BBC documentary, after that they never tried too hard to get him on anything, as Arsenal know to their cost.
    Ditch any found guilty, hope the Eddie Howes have no part in it, the Peps, Klopps, Poch are too wealthy, too into the game and too busy, above all, keep Wenger at Arsenal, the England FA setup is not fit for him,, make him the new God Father of the league….and although nothing is proven, I am pretty sure he behaves a bit better than the previous God Father and his LMA enforcers/lackeys, of which the likes of Mr Allardyce, and others,not fair to name in the context of this article, have been prominent

  • kenlock1945

    Excellent article Tony.
    Firstly, EUFA have the power to fine FC Basel over the flare, so it will be interesting to see if they do.
    Your thoughts on the stewarding of the incident does seem a little OTT I feel.
    What would/could they do once the flairs had been ignited? I believe that security has to be tightened outside the ground as it is really farcical at the moment. If it means being delayed by five-ten minutes then plan to leave home earlier for the match. I travel down from Scotland and have to organise myself in order to accomodate such things as rail delays etc.
    If only EUFA / FIFA deducted points from fans of teams that brought in flairs or chanted obscene retoric clubs would act immediately.
    In your summary you use the words “old” as if there were no middle aged or young people involved. It is corruption fed by greed and Arsenal have history via George Graham. Man. Utd were also involved in a tax fiasco back in the 1970 80’s if I remember correctly.
    no matter where one looks their is corruption…peers in the House of Lords able to claim over £300 expenses once they have signed in and out even if the time of visiting eas less than two hours!!!
    it always seems to be the same situation where the rich and powerful keep on getting richer snd more powerful at the expense of the “working class”.
    In the film Cromwell, the man himself says of pairlament “you are like pigs in a trough” and it is still the same 200 years plus on.
    By the way, what a wonderful team performance.

  • nicky

    Tony, I’m not so sure that corruption is the bedfellow of incompetence and ineptness.
    The exposure of FIFA has shown that criminal excellence and professional expertise has,for years, nurtured corruption and prevented the truth from being disclosed. And there is probably a lot more to come.
    I think it is safe to say that both UEFA and the FA are not “whited sepulchres” in this regard.
    Time will tell and we should be prepared to be shocked. 😉

  • Norman14


    That’s a good point about taking English football down a peg or two – I think it needs it TBH.

    The following quote, oft attributed to Friedrich Nietzsche, could be put into context with this story:

    “And those who were seen dancing were thought insane by those who could not hear the music.”

    I repeat again, the FA, EPL, EFL and PGMOL cannot investigate themselves because they are a major part of the problem.

  • Jambug


    “……..set up canine bank accounts”.


  • Andy Mack

    Tony, I’ll continue referring to it as the Wenger Stadium thanks 😀

  • Gord

    My take on some of the news, is that it is a waste of time for LMA to insist evidence be pushed forward to the FA. Evidence should be pushed forward to crown prosecutors. Time in jail will have more effect than the FA pretending to investigate someone.

    Besides, this might catch a few in the FA as well.

    All salut Wenger Stadium.

  • goonersince72

    ‘Arsene Wenger: hasn’t won anything in 12 years, doesn’t do tactics, doesn’t play the manly English way, personally responsible for every Arsenal players’ injury, gets into the CL every year but fourth is not a trophy, they’ll never win with him. Foreigner. Er, um…. Mr. Wenger… could you please run our sorry national team for us?’ F***ing Amazing!

  • finsbury

    Repeat after me:

    “It could nver happen here”

    “Ooo, er, missus”.

  • omgarsenal

    The very nature and essence of corruption requires the following, all present in force with the sweet FA:

    1) A network of collaborating and coerced participants whose role is to shelter the corrupt from the law,

    2) A serious lack of integrity and an even more profound lack of respect for their legitimate role, at the cost of the national game,

    3) A perverse, ubiquitous, deeply ingrained conviction that the proponents of this corruption cannot be caught, revealed or brought to justice because they have plausible deniability (thus the statement of David Bernstein,

    4) The willful ignorance and blinkered, myopic attitude of the press, the law and the government when faced with actually having to do something about what is apparent to all and sundry,

    5) The upper class, posh stuffed suits who benefit the most from this horrible scandal, filling their bellies with prawn sandwiches, champagne and sweets and their pockets with dosh, bribes, bungs and resources desperately needed at grassroots Football,

    6) The sense we all feel of being powerless, incapable and frustrated at this rampant and increasingly distressing corruption, criminality and hypocrisy in modern football.

  • para

    “nothing is proven”. So that makes it all right then does it?

    This IS the actual law, even though we know it does not always work like that as some innocents still get wrongfully punished. The law can make no attempt to track down the law breakers until it has become apparent that they have broken the law.

    Spot on with the “amendment” at the end though.

    We all shouuld realise that everything (especially corruption) in society is well connected and are not individual events.
    We end up fighting wars on many fronts (our forces split) while the perpetrators sit back and watch it all like a movie!
    But maybe this is the only way to fight it and corruption, as it’s so damm huge.

  • nicky

    With respect I think you surely missed the point when reporting on the “water bottle” incident.
    Allowing you to retain the top would mean a full bottle of water (or something noxious) could become a heavy and therefore dangerous airborne weapon in the wrong hands. 😉

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