In football we see the two things that crooks do when running large organisations



By Tony Attwood

Let me say from the start that I don’t have statistics to back this up, it is simply something that comes from observation of dealing with crooks in large organisations: they will do everything possible to stay in position so that a new incumbent does not have a chance to look unhindered at what they have been up to and they will create incredibly complex arrangements of committees and sub-committees, to stop anyone finding out what they are up to.

As a result, rules about how long one can stay in power, which are put in place to stop corruption, are changed and incumbents gain, and hold on to absolute power.  No arrangements are made for successors, and no one is allowed to understand the way the organisation is run.  

Of course, this does not mean that everyone who stays at the top of an organisation for many years is a crook, but it is always interesting to note those people who do seem to want to stay running an organisation, (while many others will happily take retirement), become consultants and continue to enjoy the fruit of their labours.

These thoughts came back to me when I read that Zvonimir Boban had resigned as Chief of Football at Uefa.

Now Boban is not your ordinary footballer turned committee man.  His degree at the University of Zagreb included a thesis on “Christianity in the Roman Empire”, he was a sports reporter and radio commentator in Croatia and for Sky Italia, and a columnist for La Gazzetta dello Sport.

In short, he knows a thing or two and knows how to express himself.  And so when he became Fifa’s Deputy Secretary-General it was not surprising that he was a key man in pushing for VAR in the Moscow World Cup as a way of cutting down on refereeing corruption.

He then left Fifa to become Chief Football Officer at AC Milan but was sacked after a major falling out with Ivan Gazidis.  However, he was then hired by Uefa as its first Head of Football.  Now as we have just noted, Boban has resigned and we have learned this is because Uefa is about to change its statutes specifically to allow Aleksander Ceferin, to stay in his post as the President of Uefa.

Indeed it is worth noting that it was Ceferin himself who introduced the 12 years maximum rule for senior executives in Uefa, as part of his attempt to show that he was reforming the organisation.  That is now the rule he is overthrowing.

Of course, wanting to stay on in a very senior position is not in itself a bad thing.  It is just that organisations put rules in place to stop this, because, without it, it makes it easier for the person at the top of the organisation to do things that really shouldn’t be done.

By way of example, we might take João Havelange who served as Fifa president for over 24 years.  In 1999 De Telegraaf reported that Havelange accepted gifts of diamonds, bicycles, sports articles, porcelain, paintings and art books,

Then there was Sepp Blatter who was found to have known about the bribes, yet argued even then that there was no need for him to repay the money Havelange had obtained through the corruption

In 2015, United States federal prosecutors disclosed cases of corruption by officials and associates connected with the Fifa.   Fourteen people were indicted in connection with an investigation by the FBI and the IRS over fraud, money laundering and racketeering.

Ceferin had overall responsibility for the Champions League final in Paris and was a central part of the attempt to blame Liverpool supporters, yet as the Guardian said, closer scrutiny then “turned on the performance of Uefa itself under its president, the Slovenian lawyer Aleksander Ceferin.”

It then became clear that Uefa’s head of safety and security was appointed by Ceferin without any formal recruitment process.   He was in fact Ceferin’s best friend, Zeljko Pavlica.    Steve Frosdick, Uefa’s safety consultant then resigned from Uefa “complaining, among other criticisms, that the safety department had become corroded by cronyism.”

So this is what crooks do.  They change the rules to stay ever longer in power and appoint their mates to the most senior positions.  And that is how Fifa and Uefa are run.



2 Replies to “In football we see the two things that crooks do when running large organisations”

  1. Dear Tony,

    Your article is spot on, except that you do not go far enough. FIFA and EUFA are the two most corrupt organisations in the World and that is saying something when you look around at what is going on.

    When the clubs announced that they were forming a new super league I believe that they were very naive in the amateur way they made the announcement without thinking through the whole project. While I can see reasons for not supporting it the best aspect for me was that they were getting out and away from FIFA and EUFA which has to be a great thing.

    The amount of money that these organisations handle is beyond belief, billions of dollars. Where does it go, who gets what? Infantino had to run and hide in that other hotspot of honesty and integrity, Qatar, to evade the police in his own country who were after him.

    And, as you constantly quastion, where is the British press in all of this. They won’t say boo to a goose. Why not? To cap it all the Govenment now wants to bring in a law that will prevent any club leaving these two crooked organisations. HELP!

  2. I have noticed over the past few days that there have been what can best be described as “powder puff” articles regarding Alexander Ceferin – especially in the British MSM. When will we get some real investigation into the running of the most popular sport on the planet.

    I must say I enjoyed reading the article above. You are right when you hint that nobody appears to want to take responsibility for the last two UCL Finals and also the Euro 2020 Final. Come to think of it there appears to no one responsible for anything at UEFA, FIFA and the FA.

    My scepticism regarding the running of football at all levels is making me less and less hopeful for the future of the sport, sadly. Like Philip points out does anybody know where the money these tournaments generate is allocated.

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