Has British Football Finally Reached Peak Corruption?


Will the sacrificial sacking of a few football managers address the problems faced by both the FA and the Premier League? What exactly are those problems? Is it perhaps nothing more than a few sheepskin coated individuals with brown envelopes poking from their pockets or is it something far more serious? Have we finally reached the stage where the authorities act to clean up our national sport?

To claim that a problem doesn’t exist would appear naive in the extreme, yet, the extent and true scale of the problem is far from fully understood. Can those currently tasked with policing their own industry really be trusted to thoroughly and honestly investigate itself?

Following the revelations by Panorama, a decade ago, you would have had to have spent the last thirty years in solitary confinement to be surprised at the news that Sam Allardyce had compromised his position as England manager.

After all, they’re all at it, aren’t they? Harry Redknapp, with his dog’s bank account in Monaco, Karren Brady with her dodgy stadium deal, big clubs tapping up players, circumnavigating third party ownership. Who can forget George Graham being banned for accepting over £400k in 1992 from an agent?

Yes, everyone is ‘at it’ and not just in football. Aren’t all police corrupt? Doesn’t every pub manager have their own bottles on their optics? Doesn’t every Polish plumber work for cash in hand?

And therein lies one of the problems; the myths and conspiracy theories intertwine with reality and many football experts, insiders and journalists will pontificate that this is just how it is.

Except it isn’t.

Those who do actually play by the rules, those who refuse inducements, those who pay their taxes, all need to be protected from those who flout the rules because inevitably it is always the many who pay for the few.

In football this means that the fans at the turnstile, in the club stores, on the club websites and through their TV subscriptions end up paying more and perhaps become perplexed as their club becomes an impotent force?

Whilst the Telegraph concentrates on sensationally drip feeding the public with individual revelations, those who can see the bigger picture, such as Damian Collins MP, understand that nothing less than a far reaching inquiry to uncover the extent of corruption in football needs to be undertaken prior to establishing an independent body to police it. After all, as the saying goes, you don’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.

As with any industry in which vast amounts of cash is being deposited society’s undesirables are attracted like moths to a flame. People who are not simply opportunistically there to turn a profit, they are there to take advantage of poor governance and institutional corruption for illegal activities such as tax evasion and money laundering.

By way of explanation, the Premier League insist that they look into the sources of the money financing the game and state that they’re happy with it. Does this go beyond simply obtaining a declaration from a lawyer? Is this sufficient due diligence? After all, wasn’t it lawyers who were exposed through the Mossack Fonseca revelations? Lawyers who were guilty of deception on an industrial scale.

There appears little appetite at the pinnacle of the governing bodies to prevent club’s being potentially financed through money of highly dubious origins.

For example, what checks and balances are in place to prevent a tax evader, a drug cartel, those involved in people trafficking or child prostitution depositing their illegal money in an offshore account which is then invested in a fund that lends to Premier League clubs which gets repaid with interest? That’s classic money laundering. Couldn’t happen? No, couldn’t happen, couldn’t happen in the same way club’s can’t get around outlawed third party ownership rules.

There’s plenty of anecdotal and objective evidence indicating that all isn’t what it appears to be. Dubious declarations and well documented illustrations, such as minor South American clubs, with just 208 fans, making tens of millions of dollars through player transfers.

It is going to take a monumental effort to ensure that football is as clean as it claims to be and fans can play their part.

Unlike greed, which is all about ‘me’, fan activism is all about ‘we’ as can be seen through the Twenty’s Plenty campaign and the Supporting Foodbanks initiative.

So next time you buy your ticket, purchase a piece of merchandise or pay your TV subscription make sure you’re fully aware of what you’re actually funding.

It could be something illegal, or maybe you’re simply funding the lifestyle of a fat bloke bobbing around the world in his super-yacht who, unlike the rest of us, believes he doesn’t have to contribute to hospitals, to education, to  infrastructure and society.

On past performance alone the FA can’t be trusted to investigate themselves. Allowing them another bite of the cherry would be tantamount to having Sir Philip Green investigate offshore tax avoidance.

The scope of any inquiry would need to go far beyond the apparently accepted practices of a handful of greedy managers and agents.

The opportunity to finally tackle the deep seated, institutional corruption of the so-called beautiful game, one that goes right to the top and beyond, has arrived. It should not be allowed to be dismissed as a few ‘b list’ football people involved in backhanders, bungs and brown envelopes.

We have all witnessed what the very public demonstrations of the select committees in Parliament have achieved. And with football’s huge status in modern society nothing less than a full, rigorous and independent inquiry led by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport should be undertaken.

It is high-time for those who believe they are untouchable to finally be held to account.


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