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Moving on from the issues of corruption and scandal that we have looked at in parts one and two of this series, elsewhere we’ve also raised the issue about where the money from the Community Shield goes each year, following the ruling by the Charity Commission that the FA could not call its season-opening competition “the Charity Shield”, as it had failed to keep the records that the law required. The FA was duly fined. No one really seemed that bothered about what happened next.
We’ve also had little debate as to whether English football should be protesting about the deaths of migrant workers in building new stadia for Qatar world cup, or the amount of taxpayers’ money spent by the FA on its bid to get the world cup, for it only to get two votes. Those involved in the bid were quoted as being astonished to find that the bidding was rigged: if only they’d read our columns about Fifa corruption, they might have been able to work that out before they lost all that taxpayers’ money.
And so my general view is that there are enough football corruption scandals in modern times to warrant the asking of questions about any issues in the game that look odd. To move back to our recent raised issue, there is no absolute proof that something is wrong with refereeing in the PL, but some data is suggestive that there are unexplained oddities – and what I don’t understand is why there would be any resistance to an opening up of the debate in the light of everything else that happens in football.
But resistance to investigation there seems to be, much of it couched in the form of ridicule – and given the extent of the sexual abuse scandals that have been revealed in professional football over the years I’d have thought that even the tiniest hint of something looking slightly amiss in any aspect of football would be enough to have most reasonable people seeking more information. But no, it seems not.
There is, in particular, no real debate about whether the way PGMO runs things is a suitable way to organise refereeing – given that there are alternatives. Likewise there is not much debate about the alternative ways of running VAR, nor is there any debate about why the rest of Europe is getting so concerned about match fixing and England is not. It may well be that the bulk of match fixing takes place in the east of the continent but that does not automatically mean that some of the organisations involved are not moving into the west.
But I suppose in the end what keeps bringing me back to the issue of hidden and ignored stories in football was our own success in pointing out that the law in Switzerland had been changed so that FBI officers could arrest suspects on Swiss soil.
The little piece that we ran on 22 January 2015 highlighted a change to the law in Switzerland brought Fifa into line with the legislation already in place that allowed the Swiss to take a peek at the doings of dictators, despots, criminals, tax cheats, oligarchs and perhaps most relevantly money launderers.
As we reported at the time “Roland Büchel who was influential in seeing through the new law, said that the law applied to executive committee members and employees of all the sports federations that have sought refuge from prosecution for corruption by being based in Switzerland…
“Indeed, Fifa’s own anti-corruption adviser Mark Pieth made the point that Switzerland had become “pirate’s harbour” and urged the country to clean up its act in order for Fifa and the IOC to clean up theirs. In an urgent attempt to whitewash itself the IOC said that it “fully supports and welcomes this important move by Swiss lawmakers – it is in line with what the IOC already does.”
We even told Fifa how to avoid getting caught out by the legal change, but not surprisingly, given their supreme arrogance, they chose to ignore my words of advice.
But then on 27 May 2015, just four months after my little article, all hell broke loose, as in walked the FBI and started to arrest people in Switzerland. We gave Fifa four months warning, and they didn’t take a blind bit of notice!
Of course I can’t go through all the corruption stories we’ve taken on, but just in case you are interested in going back over some of our past ruminations, there was the moment when a Fourth man was arrested in the Tottenham stadium bid affair, and I was rather pleased when we could report that legal action against Fifa over maltreatment of workers in Qatar had begun. Too little too late of course, but still, something was better than nothing.
Of course we didn’t make the raid on Fifa happen, all we did was report the change in the law when it was of no interest to anyone else in the British media. And that’s all we can do. Just keep on plugging away at the stories the media doesn’t fancy covering – and ask, “why is the media in the UK not covering this?”
And occasionally do little summaries of what we have done in the past, like this…
Of course there will continue to be those who sneer at what we try and do, who will say we lack evidence, and who will say what we are talking about doesn’t matter. Many will say, despite the above that if there were corruption, we’d know about it.
And that brings us back to the key point with PGMO. The argument is not that the refereeing of football in England is corrupt, but rather that it might be, and therefore it makes sense to have in place procedures that make the chances of corruption less likely to happen. The sort of procedures that are in place in some other countries, starting with having an open PGMO rather than a highly secretive PGMO. And enough referees so that no single ref controls a match involving a PL club more than twice in one season. And a serious consideration of why the PGMO has to be so secretive, and why the media is not interested. And a fulsome analysis of why some gets so many more yellow cards than others, despite committing the same number of fouls. That sort of thing.
But it seems this is too much to ask for. At least for now. Mind you, if Fifa had taken note of Untold Arsenal, they might have avoided quite a bit of difficulty. You’d think other organisations might have noticed.
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