I wrote two days ago that I had reached the conclusion that football in England was corrupt.
In response to my article the majority of commentators agreed, but three arguments were put forward to reject the claim. They are important points, and I think they need debating.
1: As soon as Arsenal lose a match I start whinging and blaming corruption.
This is an easy argument to set aside.
My book, Making the Arsenal (reference to which I know will bore you stupid, but it is relevant here) contains a whole section on corruption. It is, of course, a novel, so the corruption issue is not true – although it is based on a real case of corruption by a Middlesboro director who was seeking to become an MP. Politics and football merged as he started fixing matches.
I’ve done a bit of studying of football corruption in England over the years and have written up a quick summary of some of the cases, and my main point (which I have never seen written up anywhere else) that since around 1892 there has been a conspiracy to deal with corruption and rule breaking by punishing individuals rather than clubs.
So, on this first point, no I have not just started talking about corruption. It has been mentioned off and on, on this site, over the years it has been going. We have followed the stories of arrests at Birmingham City and Portsmouth, of rule breaking by Leeds, Birmingham and Notts County, and so forth, all the way through. And I have often written about the match fixing by Manchester United and Liverpool which led to Arsenal’s promotion in 1919 (again see the article above). Not to mention the huge level of corruption in FIFA and UEFA.
2: If English football is corrupt, then Arsenal is corrupt, and did not win its trophies fairly.
This doesn’t follow at all. If English football is corrupt, it does not mean every club and every player is corrupt and more than every team in Italy was corrupt. Likewise just because Liverpool fans were very violent 25 years ago, it doesn’t mean all fans were.
The fact is that the finger of suspicion points at certain clubs because of the huge wealth they can call upon, or because of the history of their chairman or senior figures, or because of the way in which the rules of the League or the FA have been broken, or because of close connection with organisations such as FIFA that have been proven in court, or through their own admission to be corrupt.
I see no evidence of corruption at Arsenal. I see it in various other clubs and organisations.
3: This is just a conspiracy theory and (by implication) all conspiracy theories are invented by loonies for loonies.
When I studied history as a student I was taught that there were three theories of history
1. The Marxist theory – that the direction of history is inevitable
2. The Conspiracy theory – which says that men can work together to make great plans and change the world through making these plans happen. If you like the plans you call their instigators “visionaries”. If you dislike the plans you call the whole thing a conspiracy.
3. The cock-up theory, in which we try and make things change, but the plans always come unstuck.
I have always believed that most history can be explained by option 3, but I acknowledge that conspiracies do occur. Indeed the law of England acknowledges conspiracy in three ways: Conspiracy to defraud, Conspiracy to corrupt public morals, and Statutory conspiracy. The Criminal Law Act 1977 says that “if a person agrees with any other person or persons that a course of conduct shall be pursued which, if the agreement is carried out in accordance with their intention will necessarily amount to or involve the commission of any offence or offences by one or more of the parties to the agreement he is guilty of conspiracy to commit the offence or offences in question.”
So conspiracies do exist, and just because some people believe that there is a conspiracy to hide the fact that the moon landings never took place or that Elvis is alive and living in Stockport, that does not mean that no conspiracies exist.
If a group of people representing one or two wealthy clubs arrange to help referees with getting better mortgage deals and the like, and in return are likely to see their teams get more favourable decisions then that is a conspiracy because it influences the result of a football match – and that will result in financial advantage to one team, and not another, either through prize money or gambling. It does not mean that the club says to the ref “There’s £5000 in it for you if we win”. It can be much more subtle than that.
So I think all three objections to the notion that English football is corrupt fall at the first hurdle.
That does not mean English football is corrupt, but rather that it could well be, and the possibility should be looked at seriously.
Which then raises the question, why is it not being investigated?
Could it be that it would be ludicrous to investigate corruption in football, because there is no evidence? Clearly not. In my earlier article I noted a couple of books which detail huge amounts of corruption. We have had numerous arrests by the City of London police of people involved in football. All of that suggests there might be something to look at.
So why is no one looking?
I think that has a lot to do with the cosy nature of the relationship between the TV companies and the football authorities (see the last article on the way TV companies bribed FIFA to get the right contracts) and between newspaper journalists and football clubs (the papers being reliant on press conferences and the like in order to get stories).
Occasionally a newspaper does go poking around a bit – and the club can kick the paper out. The Guardian for example is currently banned from Leeds United’s ground because of its enquiries into ownership and what it said about their liquidation. In “Making the Arsenal” you’ll know (if you have read my book) that Jacko Jones of the Chronicle gets banned from all matches involving Fulham and Arsenal. That’s just a story – but it is based on real evidence, and the sort of thing that happened the time.
None of this proves that English football is corrupt. All it says is that
a) There is a case to answer and
b) It is a bit odd that no one much is doing much digging.
I’ll return in a later article as to the key reasons in detail why I feel that a lot of English football is bent – but I think this little piece shows that everyone with an open mind has to say, “it is a possibility”.
Postscript: Tomorrow is the 100th anniversary of the first match between Arsenal and Tottenham. There is the first of two articles on the subject on www.blog.woolwicharsenal.co.uk
This is in fact the start of a series of anniversaries that run from now until next summer – including a number of vital 100th anniversaries. Events which had they not taken place would have meant we would not be here now talking about Arsenal. This is, in fact, the start of the story told in MAKING THE ARSENAL – the diary of an imaginary Fleet Street journalist covering the events. There’s more about the book on www.emiratesstadium.info
(c) Tony Attwood 2009
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