By Tony Attwood
Yesterday we reported on the Mail’s story Why the Mail’s “Everything that looked wrong at Arsenal WAS wrong” is arrant nonsense.
Now one argument that could be made for running that piece in the Mail was that there is no real football news around, so the paper has to make something up. But one look at the European press shows this is not true.
And it is not just that there is a story – it is an absolute whopper. So big that the question yet again arises, why is the media in the UK not touching this story which is erupting on an almost daily basis?
But you will have probably guessed what the story is: it is a story of wholesale Fifa corruption, and as we know, the UK media are very reluctant to talk about this. Largely I suspect, at the behest of the FA who want to spend millions of pounds more of taxpayers money on another bid for England to host the world cup. What the FA don’t want, and what they have persuaded the media not to provide, is any reminder that Fifa is corrupt, and that last time the FA bid for the WC it got two votes.
Infantino goes to Suriname
So here is the latest Fifa story: In April 2017, Gianni Infantino went to visit Suriname, the smallest country in South America. He talked to the head of state, shook some hands, went to see the football ground.
Infantino accompanied by his usual entourage including his chief assistant Mattias Grafström, made his standard speech “Suriname needs a new stadium” but then, instead of talking up their first-class seats on the scheduled flights already booked, the party hired a private jet to fly to Switzerland.
On 11 April 2017 assistant Grafström reports to Tomaz Vessel, (who is head of Fifa’s Audit & Compliance Committee), that the KLM airline the party had booked into for the return to Switzerland was canceled “for technical reasons.” He explained, “In order to meet the President’s appointments today in Suriname and tomorrow in Europe, we considered all the alternatives, but there is no alternative but to charter an airplane.”
Compliance man Vesel replied 43 minutes later. “Thank you for the information about flight details and the situation. The situation seems to me difficult and clearly requires immediate action.” So that is the all-clear. But for forms sake he adds, “Be so good as to give me (in the near future) precise information about your already agreed appointments in the region and back tomorrow in Europe.”
Only with good reason
According to the rules of Fifa put in place after the last round of scandals and backhanders, the FIFA President must not, without good reason, engage in additional expenditure (especially of hundreds of thousands or more dollars) at the expense of Fifa (and thus at the expense of the global football community) without this being subject to scrutiny. Vesel is the key man here. He is formally independent. His job to look closely at events and check on anyone who is running up bills of more than a million dollars in expenses within a four-year period.
But Vesel, without seeing the list of appointments, and on the say-so of Infantino, agrees to the private jet. Fifa compliance officer Ed Hanover also gets a copy of the details, sees Vesel has said “ok” and the all-clear is given.
However then it goes quiet. Fifa declines to give any further information or answer any questions, such as the exact cost of the private flight back to Switzerland.
Six days later, on April 18, Grafström reports to Vesel and Hanover with the requested details …. He lists seven scheduled events for the stop in Suriname, even including the “light dinner with the Minister of Sport, Defense and Finance”.
OK, if that has to be, it has to be, but much more to the point, what was the urgent date the following day, on April 12th, that justified this expensive return flight? That event that made it impossible to wait for the postponed KLM flight?
Grafström writes: “The planned meetings on April 12 in Geneva were as follows: 2:00 pm meeting with the Uefa president in Nyon, followed by another meeting in Geneva.”
A meeting with the Uefa president – ok, pretty important. .Vesel was obviously convinced. “The flight took place in accordance with the rules and regulations of FIFA,” says the report. The rules allow special travel arrangements for important business appointments.
The appointment that never was
The only problem is: there was never an appointment for the day with the Uefa president. The alleged meeting did not take place and could not have taken place. The important appointment was an invention. A fantasy. A make-believe. A load of old codswallop (to use the grand old English phrase). A fabrication. One gigantic lie.
Uefa President Aleksander Ceferin was in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, on 12 April, four and a half hours flight from Nyon. This is revealed not by a bunch of undercover operators following a complex paper trail, but by the lavishly illustrated websites of Uefa and the Armenian Association. In Yerevan, Ceferin met with the head of state, laying the foundation stone for the new football academy, meeting the spiritual leader, visiting a brandy distillery (nice work if you can get it) and Echmiadzin Cathedral, one of the oldest in the world. And we all know such state occasions are organised months in advance.
But, If there was no meeting in Nyon – what was the motive behind the fifa boss’ private jet trip? Did he just want to go home quickly? Was Infantino’s mistress getting lonely (we make no allegation on this, it is given just by way of example of unacceptable reasons for private jet hire at football’s expense). Was there anything else that would have been an acceptable reason for approval of a private jet from South America to Switzerland?
FIFA is silent on all these questions. Fifa does not and cannot deny the events took place and now simply insists that the trip was in line with the rules.
So why don’t we get this story in England? Apart from pointing at criminal misuse of Fifa funds which we as taxpayers pay since we fund the FA, it also reveals the complete and utter arrogance of Infantino – a man already under scrutiny for many other alleged offenses. The answer Infantino gave could have been seen to be a lie within minutes of anyone checking the schedule, but he appears that he was so utterly and completely arrogant that he said it anyway.
It is after all exactly the sort of story that you would expect the Sun, Mail, Express and the other tabloids to revel in just because it is scandal. You would expect the Guardian to take it up because it reveals corruption.
And it is a piece of evidence that could lead to another explosion in Fifa. For remember also that the Swiss state prosecutor (involved because of course Fifa is based in Switzerland) is now going on trial because he has had a number of secret meetings with Infantino (something completely against the rules of his office).
Silly little dolts
Plus after the English newspapers made themselves look like silly little dolts for having ignored the news that the Swiss had changed their laws and so were going to allow the US law enforcers into the Fifa meeting to arrest large numbers of Fifa officials (a story that Untold Arsenal ran and they didn’t), you might think that the media in England could have learned its lesson.
But no. No news on Fifa. No news on football corruption until it hits every media outlet in the world – and even then try and hide it under news about a decline in the number of starlings this year.
And why? My guess, as I say above, is because the FA have asked the media not to touch these stories, so as not to harm their throwing another fortune donated by the tax payer in the UK, at a bid to host the world cup.
But there is more of course. For meanwhile the Swiss federal prosecutor – the top legal man in Switzerland – Michael Lauber, stumbled across a series of mysterious secret meetings to which he was lured by Infantino. On Wednesday, the parliamentary judicial commission in Bern decided to impeach the federal prosecutor; A criminal complaint has also been filed against the FIFA boss, which is currently being examined by the Bern judiciary. And now add to this, the Suriname lie.
And none of this is being reported in England.
Funny ol’ game.
And just for old times sake, our story from 22 January 2015 that the UK media ignored.
- How a 14th monk described Arsenal’s failure to buy Moisés Caicedo and Mykhailo Mudryk
- The January transfer window moved few players around: but did any club benefit?
- Are Newcastle United really in financial difficulty? And what about Arsenal?
- Did Arsenal want Mudryk and Caicedo, and was it just luck that they didn’t sign them?
- Is the Premier League getting more exciting or simply ever more predictable?