Corruption In Club Football

man holding football money raining downFootball; also known as ‘The beautiful game’, does, unfortunately, have a dark side. While purists will remember the sport for the great moments, extraordinary pieces of skill or even humble touches of grace, in some circles, murkiness may always rear its ugly head.

The sport has shown, unfortunately, that it does have a side to it that at best, is immoral, at worst criminal and there have been many cases that prove this over the years – even decades.

Some may well have been so big that you can still remember them today; perhaps likely that these will be long-remembered.

In light of the recent reports that Real Madrid are set to support the “continued corruption” charges that have been filed against La Liga rivals Barcelona, we take a look at some of the most notable examples of corruption in football clubs over the years, starting with how possible events in Spain may unfold.

Details Of The Barcelona Corruption Case?

barcelona nou camp stands during match
Ank Kumar, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The corruption charges that have been levelled against the football club, involve an alleged payment scandal that involves a number of individuals related to the Catalan outfit.

These include former club presidents, Sandro Rosell, Josep Maria Bartomeu, ex-club CEO Oscar Grau, ex-club director of professional sports Albert Soler as well as Jose Maria Eriquez Negreira – an-ex prominent refereeing official.

Refereeing corruption and the bribing of officials is nothing new in football, though in this case, it could be argued that it gave the club even more of an advantage that it had in matches, considering the talent that was always at its disposal.

Now that Real Madrid have put their support behind the case, this suggests that they could well be hoping for a points deduction as a punishment that comes into play for next season and gives Los Blancos a big advantage before the campaign has even begun.

In recent years, there has been an argument that the club has flouted FFP (Financial Fair Play) regulations, after appearing to be in considerable trouble following the global pandemic that meant they were unable to renew the contract of Lionel Messi and saw a number of other players leave.

Meanwhile, Jose Maria Fuster Fabra, the Spanish lawyer defending Bartomeu was particularly dismissive, stating: “We are preparing the defence and we don’t think this case will go to trial.”

Calciopoli Scandal

juventusArguably the most infamous case of the last couple of decades; it was the dark mark of Italian football that really cast the country’s World Cup win that summer into the shadows.

It saw numerous clubs involved in arguably the biggest and most multi-veiled football corruption case there has ever been, during a period that spanned years.

As a result, Juventus hit with heavy consequences as the club was stripped of its 2005 and 2006 Serie A titles and relegated to Serie B, where they spent one season.

This was a scandal that rocked Italian football and sent reverberations around the sport in Europe. As well as Juventus, it also saw AC Milan, Fiorentina, Parma, Lazio and Reggina among the clubs that were implicated, with a series of punishments handed out from points deductions to heavy fines.

Furthermore, it saw numerous executives handed bans from the sport, including Luciano Moggi and Antonio Giraudo, having both been found guilty on charges relating to match fixing.

French Football Case

bernard tapie
Bernard Tapie – Michaël Bemelmans, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Dating back to the early nineties saw an investigation into French football, which left somewhat of a stain on one of the country’s most prominent clubs at the time for years to come.

The 1992-93 season saw Marseille in fine fettle; winning the Champions League during that year – still being the only club from France to do so. However, domestically, things didn’t quite go according to plan. In their final league game, they needed to beat Valenciennes to ensure that they won the league title.

However, it was found that club President Bernard Tapie along with the general manager, Jean-Pierre Bernes had bribed two opposition players to play below-par in the match to give them a better chance in the Champions League final.

Tapie told centre-back Jean-Jacques Eydelie to bribe both Christophe Robert and Jorge Burruchaga, with them having a prior professional relationship at previous club Nantes.

Indeed, Eydelie revealed: “(Bernard) Tapie said to us, ‘It is imperative that you get in touch with your former Nantes team-mates at Valenciennes (there were two of them including Burruchaga). We don’t want them acting like idiots and breaking us before the final with Milan.”

However, a third player, Jacques Glassman refused to go along with the plan and reported his teammates to manager Boro Primorac at half-time, which was then relayed to the referee. Following the match, which Marseille won, police interrogated a handful of the club’s players without any conclusive findings. Six days later they won the league and went on to triumph over AC Milan in the Champions League final.

However, this all unravelled when Robert spoke to a prosecutor some days later, admitting his role and all of the details involved in the incident, while a significant sum of money was found hidden in his aunt’s garden.

Tapie received a two-year prison sentence on charges of match-fixing and fraud, while Barruchaga and Robert were given a six-month suspended sentence. Bernes served one of two years and Eyedelie got a one-year suspended sentence, serving only 17 days.

Although Marseille were stripped of their title, one final twist saw second-placed PSG refuse to accept it in their stead. Meanwhile, in 1995, Glassman went on to receive the FIFA Fair Play Award.

Totonero Scandal

ac milan league performance showing 1980 relegation to serie b
AC Milan league performance showing 1980 relegation to Serie B – Garcia1, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Prior to Calciopoli, 1980 witnessed a major Italian football scandal, centred around match-fixing, with numerous Serie A and Serie B clubs involved.

This began when two shopkeepers; Alvaro Trinca and Massimo Cruciani, made claims that a handful of Italian football players were involved in match-fixing. As a result, Guardia di Finanza, a law enforcement agency in Italy investigated and found that numerous clubs were involved, including Juventus, AC Milan, Lazio and Napoli, among others.

Consequently, a number of players were suspended and AC Milan and Napoli were relegated to Serie B. One of the most prestigious players involved was Paulo Rossi, who received a three year suspension, which was subsequently reduced to two.

However, this did not stop Juventus from purchasing the striker from Vicenza during this time, for a then world record transfer fee of £1.75 million. This turned out to be an astute gamble, with Rossi playing a crucial role in Juventus’ 1982 season, winning the Ballon d’Or, while he also played a key part in helping Italy to win the 1982 World Cup, scoring six goals to win the Golden Boot as well as the Golden Ball for the tournament.

Bundesliga Scandal

suitcase full of cashThere has been a handful of controversies in German football over the decades, however, arguably the most infamous one occurred during the 1970/1971 season, when it was found several games during that season had been tampered with.

This began when it was found that the President of Kickers Offenbach, Horst-Gregorio Canellas revealed an audio recording that featured several players who were willing to be bribed so that the club wouldn’t be relegated.

As such, it was found that as many as 10 Bundesliga matches had been manipulated and consequently, in excess of 50 players in six clubs were handed punishments as well as several club officials.

The clubs that were handed punishments included Schalke, Hertha BSC, Kickers Offenbach, Arminia Bielefeld and Vfb Stuttgart. Arguably the most prominent player involved in the scandal, was striker Klaus Fischer, who is regarded by many to be one of the best players to have come out of the German top-tier.

Consequently, Canellas resigned from his post and was handed a lengthy ban from being involved in any German football club, with this lasting until 1976.

What Can Be Done To Police Corruption In Football?

match fixing on chalk boardIt is perhaps shocking that corruption – especially match-fixing still exists in the sport today, when you consider a number of factors. Most players in the game are already paid handsomely, even at less prestigious clubs, which suggests there is an element of greed involved that compromises their professional integrity.

Nevertheless, policing such a potential scandal is still as difficult as ever and in most cases of match-fixing, it has seen at least one individual involved come forward, with a guilty conscience often getting the better of them.

Therefore, implementing measures that help to prevent this from happening, is potentially one way forward, from the perspective of educating players in the game, in the hope that they would speak out the second that they are approached to take part in any such activity.

It could mean that the football association in every country provides seminars about match-fixing throughout the season and even makes attendance mandatory, with each player being made aware of the serious implications of being involved.

Using ex-professionals, who are role models of the sport to give speeches, could be one way to help get players on side to act as influencers about the dangers of getting involved in match-fixing scandals.

Unfortunately, corruption in football may never totally be eradicated, however it appears that this has reduced in the sport over the last few years, with Italian football being made an example of in 2006.

This makes the Barcelona scandal even more shocking when considering that they would have been aware of the risks involved in taking part in such an activity, mainly just to save face. There has never been any danger of the club being relegated from La Liga even over the last three decades, which makes the recent match-fixing charge even more baffling.

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