by Tony Attwood
Of late the Belgian league has been troubled by match-fixing allegations dating back to the 2013-2014 season. According to various news sources in Belgium, Roland Duchâtelet, former president of Standard Liege, as well as two players of the club, have filed a complaint against Anderlecht and RC Genk.
Duchâtelet alleges that two players of Anderlecht and Genk are guilty of having offered luxury watches to opponents to influence two decisive matches which decided which team won the league. While Standard finished first in the opening phase of the competition, Anderlecht won the title via the play-offs. “Everything points to the fact that the title won by Anderlecht is the direct result of a serious breach of the rules of the competition,” Roland Duchâtelet told RTBF.
Now you might well think that maybe that doesn’t amount to too much – after all Belgium is a small country, and its league’s results are not widely noticed around Europe. And anyway what has that got to do with Arsenal?
Well, Belgium’s national team is ranked at the top of the Fifa rankings, and it has been at the centre of a series of corruption, money laundering and match-fixing cases over the past few weeks and months. In mid-January, the Belgian justice system announced that 56 senior players in the ProLeague were being prosecuted.
Federation officials, top managers of the country’s biggest clubs, referees and players’ agents are being prosecuted in this context, in particular following revelations by a players’ agent, the Serbian Dejan Veljkovic.
But of course, this doesn’t affect England, and there are no allegations being made about football in England being corrupt, so it is not covered in the English press.
Except, how would we know if there were such issues being raised in England? As we have often pointed out, the news that we get about football is often tailored to suit an agenda in which English football is the most perfect league in the world. And if we think back to the fiasco of the final of the Euros at Wembley, that was an appalling catastrophe and yet the entity responsible for it (the FA) is now (with cheers from the media) bidding to host the World Cup finals.
Moving on, you may remember, for example, the horrific tales of the sexual abuse of young players in English football that have emerged over the years. Of course, the trials of those subsequently convicted were reported, but what was never fully considered by the media was how the abusers were able to get away with their appalling crimes for so long.
According to the reports which emerged when finally a small number of abusers were brought to trial, several clubs knew all about what was going on, but did nothing to deal with the issue. So what makes us think that everything is fine today?
We certainly know that Liverpool was involved in various underhand activities recently, and so were banned from signing any more youth players for a year. But that still leaves a huge problem, which is this…
Who investigates football?
The problem is that football is a closed shop in which any claim of wrong-doing is investigated by those within football. So if we have a situation in which, for example, youngsters are trained in a manner that is quite likely to leave them with injuries that will affect the rest of their lives, the people who investigate the issue are those already within football. And if they find something dodgy, they will as likely as not cover it up, since the findings could have an implication for their own club.
Now the argument there is made that such injuries are best understood by those within football, but if we have a case in which all clubs are taking unwarranted risks with young players long term fitness, then no one is going to report that.
In short, we have no one who is independent of football who can investigate injuries to young players or indeed any other on going crimes.
And just at this moment when we really don’t have any independent over-arching body that could investigate the FA, individual clubs, The Premier League, Fifa, Uefa or any other body, we have countries with no democratic rights or traditions such as Saudi Arabia openly seeking to attract golfers away from golf’s main tours such as the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour, with offers of big money.
Certainly, if there could be something worse than there being no recourse to an independent body to oversee what is going on in football, it would be major events being run from Saudi Arabia or Qatar.
And come to think of it, hasn’t the head of Fifa just moved himself and his family to Qatar, just at the time when the Swiss courts were closing in on him?
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