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July 2021

When a club is accused or found guilty of criminal offences, does it matter?

By Tony Attwood

My question, as you might have guessed, relates to Barcelona particularly, although recent developments in the UK suggest that it might also relate to some English and Scottish clubs too.

But we know that Barcelona has been found guilty of child trafficking, and now we find that Neymar is indeed to stand trial for alleged fraud and corruption over his move to Barcelona.  At the same time the Barcelona company is also to stand trial along with the Brazilian club Santos and Neymar’s dad.

We also know that after various other allegations in the past we have been told that “one day the truth will be revealed” as to why Barcelona was not guilty of anything, so maybe this little list will be added to the affair for later “revelations” one day.

But as it stands not only Neymar and his parents will be in the dock accused of fraud and corruption so will the illustrious president of Barcelona Josep Maria Bartomeu, and his illustrious predecessor Sandro Rosell and so will the clubs.   They all deny that they did anything amiss.

In Spain the prosecution is able to nominate a particular punishment if the defendant is found guilty and here we find Neymar being recommended to have two years in clink, along with a fine of €10m. But as we have noted before, in Spain a sentence of two years or less for a first-time offender is suspended, so he would not have to serve time.  Although quite separately the court could decide that he ought to be banned from playing.  Now that would be a first.

But there is no sign that anyone engaged with Barcelona feels that they have done anything wrong, nor is there any sign of contrition or apology, any more than there were in earlier cases of financial and accounting “errors” nor indeed over the case of child trafficking which went through two appeal systems.

The problem here is that when Neymar was sold to Barcelona, DIS who owned 40% of his sporting rights was told that he was sold for €17m  and so they got 40% of that.  Now they claim that all parties involved defrauded them because the real fee was €25m.  However Barcelona then published the transfer figure as €57.1m, with €40m of that given to the player’s family and the rest to Santos, which suggests a further attempt to defraud.

DIS has asked for five-year sentences to be imposed on Neymar and his parents, who acted as the player’s representatives, eight years for Rosell and Bartomeu plus a €195m fine for Barcelona.  One would hope such fines might teach Barcelona that the rule of law is rather important, but I suspect not.

But does any of this affect Barcelona or the player?  I suspect not here as well, as the massive media machine under the influence of Barcelona seems to be able to convince some people that this is simply people who are jealous of Barcelona’s success who cook up these fanciful tales of corruption.   However Barcelona did themselves no favours when they paid a €5.5m fine in a deal with prosecutors in June 2016 to settle a separate case and ensure the club avoided trial on tax-evasion charges over transfer fees then.

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It is likely that this case will open up again.

Meanwhile Lionel Messi and his father also got suspended jail sentences in July last year for tax fraud relating to image rights. This is particularly interesting because the recent enquiries in England relating to tax evasion by clubs and players once again puts the focus on image rights.

Does it matter?  I suspect to many supporters it doesn’t.   But from my point of view it should.  I pay my taxes and if others are avoiding tax, in the end that means I have to pay more.   Yes there is a moral issue, but ultimately I don’t want to have to pay more income tax or corporation tax on the companies of which I am a director, because Newcastle United or any other clubs have failed to pay the tax that they owe.

I would rather like football be pay its bills.  After all, it earns enough.

11 comments to When a club is accused or found guilty of criminal offences, does it matter?

  • Gord

    OT: Goodbye Privacy in the UK

    They are not doing this to find out who the aaa are, or to get proof that the PGMO are crooked. They are not doing this to get proof of tax avoidance by teams, players and agents. They are not doing this to get proof of which adults are abusing children through football.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Aren’t you glad that our club is well run and don’t get into fine messes like these ? And that we don’t really associate ourselves with shady characters ?
    Am sure that in the better ‘interest’ of football , Barca and the rest will probably receive another gentle slap on the wrist with a stern lecture never to do it again .
    And the dirt swept under the carpet becomes mountainous !

  • Brickfields Gunners


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    ” Nonsense,” the doctor said. “Even though you and your wife both have black hair, one of your ancestors may have contributed red hair to the gene pool.”

    ” It isn’t possible,” the man insisted. ” This can’t be, our families on both sides had jet-black hair for generations.”

    ” Well,” said the doctor, ” let me ask you this. How often do you have sex?”

    The man seemed a bit ashamed. ” I’ve been working very hard for the past year. We only made love once or twice every few months.”

    ” Well, there you have it!” The doctor said confidently.

    ” It’s rust. “

  • WalterBroeckx

    LOL Brickfields…. 🙂

    On topic. If Arsenal would be named in such scandals I would feel very bad about it.
    The silence in the media about it is amazing….but then again with the media we have not really….

  • Leon

    Where do you think these stories originated?
    Most were sourced in the Guardian & Telegraph over the past twelve months and some go back even further.
    Tax scandals? Cash in hand payments? Child abuse? Open your eyes & ears. It’s all there in headlines if you could be arsed to look for it.

  • WalterBroeckx

    I only read headlines from newspapers and they have never caught my eyes.
    And I think it should be a major headline when the “best club in the world” is accused of such things.

  • Leon

    These things rarely make the front pages, but recent scandals at FIFA & UEFA and the sex abuse by coaches have been major plus headline news at BBC, Guardian, Telegraph & even the hated Mail.
    The journalists are often self employed & contracted to agencies, so have no club bias.

  • Leon

    I expect the Barca tax stuff was pretty big in Spain though, but has little interest elsewhere TBH.

  • Goonermikey

    @ Leon

    “The journalists are often self employed & contracted to agencies, so have no club bias”.

    Really, so if you’re self-employed and want to sell a story to a newspaper that loves Man U and hates Arsenal, you’d be confident about doing a pro-Arsenal and anti- Man U story and still being able to pay the bills?!!!

  • Menace

    The simple fact is that the media in UK are not willing to accept that their blue eyed boys can have been caught with their fingers in the cookie jar. The whole lot hide the truth & bend anything to get their version of racism or bias through to the public.

    This bunch of corrupt people are part of the anti Wenger brigade because of his outing of the Marseille
    cheats. There are many who cannot stomach the high moral ground that Wenger treads.

  • Leon

    I have no doubt that that is true and applies to all football clubs.
    The journalist who write anti team stories tend to be employed full time by national newspapers and can write more or less anything with impunity.
    But my issue here today is how journalists (like Andrew Jennings) investigate and report corruption. Walter appears to think the media ignore it and it only gets revealed on Untold Arsenal.