by Tony Attwood and the Untold team
According to Fifa, “In August 2021 the United States Department of Justice gave $201 million to the FIFA Foundation as compensation for the losses suffered by FIFA, Concacaf and CONMEBOL (the South American confederation) as victims of decades of football corruption schemes.”
The funds are going into the “World Football Remission Fund,” controlled by Fifa (!) to finance football-related projects with positive community impact. So Fifa has the money, administers the money, and makes sure that it has done the job properly! The Fund, overseen by a board of Fifa, Concacaf and Conmebol representatives, is obliged to invest the money in the women’s and girls’ game.
In July 2022 Fifa received another $92 million in compensation for losses the money coming from funds seized from convicted officials and associated companies. Meanwhile, over 40 Fifa officials and marketing partners have been indicted for crimes of fraud, bribery, racketeering and money laundering.
So is Fifa all sorted, and football is now in good order and above board?
Perhaps not, as Alex Phillips, (until recently the administrator of the World Football Remission Fund, which hands over money to Fifa which was stolen through various corrupt broadcasting rights deals), suggests.
For when asked recently about the scandal that erupted over the Real Madrid vs PSG Champions League match in March this year he said something rather revealing.
After the game, it was widely noted that the PSG sporting director Leonardo and the PSG president (al-Khelaifi) forced their way into the referee’s dressing room and vigorously accused the referee of corruption.
Now that is a very serious offence in footballing terms, especially as it was committed by a man who sits on the top board of Uefa, and the chairman of beIN Media and is the President of PSG, (al-Khelaifi). Aside from the accusations of violence and intimidation, accusations of conflict of interest abound
An enquiry was announced and after multiple delays, it was decided that Leonardo would be banned for one game. So a one-game ban for breaking into the referee’s dressing room and attempting to assault the referee and nothing for the chairman/president! Mr Wenger got a 12-game ban (admittedly overthrown on appeal) for allegedly pushing a referee in the tunnel.
It has been reported that the alleged behaviour of the president of beIN Media was even more aggressive – but for him there was not even an enquiry, so we don’t know what really happened. No one in Uefa or PSG has been available for comment. The New York Times reported the opinion of Alex Phillips, who was a Uefa Executive for almost 20 years until 2019, that this was a deliberate Uefa ploy, involving waiting until the compliant world media has forgotten the story, and then dealing with the matter in a way that suits the powerful.
Although Untold can’t prove it, we’ve certainly been aware for some time of allegations that any journalist questioning what Uefa gets up to, is likely to lose his/her right to press accreditation for any games.
But Alex Phillips spoke out to the NY Times saying, “The so-called independent judicial bodies are in reality far from independent.” It is exactly what has been suggested over the “independent” enquiry into the European Cup Final this year.
Meanwhile as we have regularly reported, the final court decision on whether Uefa is entitled to hold a monopoly over the way football is organised, is due later this year. For, as we know La Liga has complained to Uefa alleging Manchester City and PSG are breaking FFP rules.
At the same time when al-Khelaifi’s PSG was investigated for breaching FFP rules Uefa decided to reject its own investigator’s report and accept totally PSG’s rejection of the argument! There was no explanation why.
Although the UK media have refrained from giving it much, if any coverage, in Europe it is reported that the key driving force behind the breakaway Super League was the desire of the bigger clubs to escape the Uefa-PSG hegemony, and that al-Khelaifi (who runs beIN media AND PSG and who is right at the heart of Uefa) was a key player in the movement to get Super League stopped since it would remove much of his company’s income. This again makes the continuation of the legal battle against Uefa by Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus (which reaches its conclusion in a few months) all the more interesting.
Unifying clubs and fans who were outside Super League was a prime issue for PSG and Uefa. And indeed they succeeded to a large degree, getting the media to see Super League as an abomination. The fans’ groups duly fell into line and Super League was thus defined, when in fact an equally good if not better case could be made for Uefa, beIN and PSG being the abominations.
The reality is that PSG as a dominant club in Europe, and Uefa as the monopoly supplier of inter-European competition, should not be close together, as clearly PSG can affect the decision-making of Uefa. Whether it does or not is not the issue: it is the fact that PSG can influence Uefa unduly through the position of al-Khelaifi as chairman of beIN Media, president and CEO of PSG, a member of the organizing committee for the World Cup and chair of the European Club Association. He also plays tennis with Aleksander Cererin, president of Uefa, but that of course may just be a coincidence.
But it gets worse. As the New York Times (not a publication known for wild flights of fancy) wrote recently, “Most of the members of the commissions that investigated and ruled on PSG in its financial compliance case have either quit or been replaced.” But of course, we are all sure that is just coincidence and there is nothing suspicious about that.
We might also note that as PSG’s expenditure has brought it closer to, and indeed quite possibly way, way, way beyond the edge of, FFP rules, we now find FFP in Uefa’s rulebook has magically gone away, replaced by “financial stability” regulations. Given that PSG is backed by mega oil reserves, PSG passes that test with ease.
The change in the regulations also, we might note, helps the other club that is financed by a gulf state oil: Manchester City.
Throughout this, the British media and indeed some supporters seem to have been suckered into the tale that Uefa are the good guys, trying to keep football under control. But it was noticeable that as the story developed this past week by the media that Arsenal were being investigated for FFP breaches, no mention was made of PSG, Ceferin or al-Khelaifi, all of whom are key players in all this.
Super League was objected to, because it removed competition in terms of relegation and promotion. But it would be interesting to know how anyone can argue that PSG’s activities have not already done this, and all the Super League clubs have been trying to do is put just a little bit of competition back into the game.
European football is primarily run according to the interests of PSG and by rejecting Super League outright, fans in England have bought into this model.
This doesn’t make Super League a good or bad thing, but there really is a reason to think that football in Europe is under the control of people who we might not think have its best interests at heart.
The ultimate European court will decide if Super League is legal or not, before the end of this year. If it is found to be legal, I do hope at least Arsenal fans will ponder whether they would sooner be in a league run by a group of clubs, or in a set of competitions effectively controlled by Ceferin, al-Khelaifi and beIN Sports.
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