Is football seriously corrupt? It depends on your starting position

By Tony Attwood

One of the great problems within football is the problem of gaslighting – the refusal by those who talk and write about football to engage with certain issues.   Indeed on this site you’ll find a six part series on gaslighting in football reporting concerning the refusal even to engage in discussion concerning the notion that there might be something wrong with refereeing in the Premier League.

But this is most certainly not the only topic the media will not touch in relation to football.  And through this industry-wide agreement that certain subjects are best left alone, the view that all is well with football is perpetuated.

Of course occasionally people do break cover and take on stories that suggest all is far from well.  But when it happens you’ll often find that the investigators come from outside football and football quickly buries the story.


That was written by Tom Bower, the investigative journalists known for his exposure of Robert Maxwell who stole the Daily Mirror’s pension fund.  Indeed you might have thought that the Mirror would have learned its lesson from that, but in football but seems not.

Bower did himself take a look at football’s governance and wrote a report:  Broken Dreams: Vanity, Greed and the Souring of British Football which took a very good look at the likes of Terry Venables, Ken Bates and Harry Redknapp, to name but a very few.  The Times said of that book it had “laid bare to an unsuspecting public the scale of the venality and profligacy of some managers, the incompetence and lack of financial probity of some chairmen and administrators and the greed of agents”.

The FA’s own enquiry into probity of English football was headed by a former Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir John Smith and included this interesting question:

“Does it matter if the world of football is tarnished by rumours of financial misbehaviour? There is a tendency for people within the game to dismiss this subject with a cursory statement: “that’s football”, as if it were the natural order of things for financial misconduct to be part of the game.”

So it is not true to say that no one looks at what is wrong with football, as indeed The Bleacher Report did have a go with “World Football: 40 Biggest Scandals in Football History.”

But now we are at a stage where, because of the dominance of gaslighting, new revelations of corruption are not even mentioned most of the time.  As for example at the moment where, according to information from a Belgian newspaper, the world-famous agent Pini Zahavi  has been accused of fraud and money laundering in connection with the club Royal Excel Mouscron which he owned for a while. Zahavi looks after Bayern striker Lewandowski, among others.

Two things arise from this.  One is that Zahavi is one of the most influential player agents in football. He was, for example, involved in the move of Neymar in 2017 from FC Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain for 222 million euros.  The other is that even a story this big can be ignored in most of Britain’s media.

Even when the media do cover a story does arise concerning something going wrong in football, it is quickly buried.  You might recall that back in 2019 we were reporting that the FA had been sanctioned for being complicit in the breaching of regulations concerning minors.,

Chelsea were caught out no less than 29 times this time around for breaching article 19 – the regulation concerning under age players and breaching regulations on third party involvement with players.

Liverpool in 2017 were involved in a tapping-up scandal, and they were banned from signing academy players, and the fact that they sued the family of a schoolboy whom they illicitly signed.  Indeed there was a time when all the giant clubs seemed to be involved in illegally transporting children from Africa and Europe around the continent.

We also had the case of Aidy Ward who used to represent Raheem Sterling was engaged in signing up under age players.    The BBC said that at the time Mr Ward was already under investigation by the FA

My point is that there are illegal and unsavoury incidents going on all over football, and it is not that I am trying to say that football reporting should just focus on these, but the day to day reporting of football is written against a background that assumes that all is well in the game, and because of this any suggestion that something might be amiss, is dismissed as an excuse for one’s team doing badly.

This notion of starting from the position that all is well, means that the media can ignore or dismiss any story suggesting the opposite and carry on promoting the “all is well” image, with its “journalists” (I use the word lightly) talking of simplistic tactics, players who should be dropped, and the glorification of a few clubs.

There is no justification for the “all is well” view.  If one starts from the premise that a lot of really dodgy things have been going on, and are still going on, then one begins to reach different conclusions when looking at why the world cup is in Qatar, why refereeing in England is so different from the rest of Europe or any one of a dozen other factors.

It really does all depend on your starting position.

You might also be interested in “Football is teetering on the brink”

6 Replies to “Is football seriously corrupt? It depends on your starting position”

  1. Tony

    It’s all about vested interests.

    Quite simply football, as it is currently, is the gravy train on which the media rides.

    I’ve recently been watching ‘The Big Match Revisited’ On ITV on Saturday mornings.

    Brian more does the commentary, the program presentation and the interviews. Up until this current series he did the ‘Football News’ segment as well. This slot has now seen the introduction of a young looking Jim Rosenthal.

    Basically ONE person doing all that, now plus one for a 1 minute slot.

    How many people would it take now?

    As I say, football is a media gravy train and they are hardly likely to crash the train on which they all so happily ride are they ?

    Doesn’t make it any less shameful though does it, and in fact it makes it all the more crucial that you keep ‘Banging On’, as some doormats put it, for as long as it takes to get someone to finally sort out the stinking mess that is professional football.

  2. Just for fun…another time the Guardiang goes ‘Lawrencing’ the readers.

    Here is out of their 10 talking points :

    “But while Ben White held firm for the visitors, the abiding memory was of a marvellously dynamic performance from Graham Potter’s side that deserved more even though clear chances were rare.”

    Were rare ? 19 shots off target, 2 on target….. !

    Arsenal would have gotten a few paragraphs about how they were wasteful, incapable or how the defense up against them was good… No here : were rare. Talk about gaslighting.

    Not that my opinion is that Arsenal had a great game or were robbed of anything, just to be clear. But say what you wanted, the team defended and resisted.

  3. And as for sorting out the PGMOL and referees, not a hope. The media have them exactly where they want them, behaving in exactly the way they want them to.

    As I keep ‘Banging on’ about myself, the media run the referees.

    Take this weekend and just a couple of incidents I mentioned in the previous article.

    The media love Liverpool and are sympathetic regarding everything the club does. The referees know this and in turn referee them in a similarly sympathetic manner.

    This doesn’t mean they NEVER have a decision go against them, but it does mean that overall they are treated with a sympathetic eye, hence for example Milner commits a stone wall second yellow card and gets away with it.

    What’s the media reaction ?

    Yes they mention he was ‘a little fortunate’ but no outrage. No ‘terrible refereeing’. Mistakes happen. Move on.

    In other words. Don’t worry ref, nothing to see here.

    Measure this against the indignation and outrage at the referee if we get away with one. The referee is left in no doubt he cocked up and be assured this should not happen again.

    Look at the brawl in the Man Utd v Everton match. Nothing from the ref. Nothing from VAR. The commentators found it funny.

    The ref was actually praised for doing NOTHING as it was just an understandable melee for which a stern word was enough.

    Measure that against how we are treated if we get involved in anything like that ?

    Yep, they have the referees just where they want them, refereeing just the way they want them to, which quite frankly has very little to do with the Laws Of The Game.

  4. Ben

    To be fair it has made mainstream news.

    In fact if you are interest the BBC current affairs program Panorama are doing a program on this very subject tonight at 7:30 on BBC 1.

    But it will blow over.

    Most of these acts are within the law, if not the spirit of the law.

    In other words, Tax evasion not Tax avoidance kind of things. It’s what the rich do. They simply look after each other.

    Again, mutual interests.

    The point is will anything come of any of these exposes? Will anyone be held to account for anything? Even if authorities try they have expensive lawyers to get them out of it, or at the very least limit the damage to what in reality will be a slap on the wrist.

    It’s how it works. Money rules the World just as it does football.

    At least I can feel comforted listening to the Tory conference because apparently all they care about is ensuring a better deal for the less well off and higher wages for the working man.

    I cant wait !

  5. I wonder if any search was done for the PGMOL select in this offshore money movement?

    Their incompetence or perhaps their selective blindness was apparent in the Liverpool v Man City game where Milner was not red carded (Pep was yellow carded for his honesty having been reported by Mike Dean)for a second yellow foul. This permitted a second goal scored by Salah.

    The corruption goes on unabated while the pundits and media are sat in the corner with dunce caps.

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