'Football Leaks' releases new revelations
Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Juventus, Chelsea, Arsenal. These are just some of the footballing behemoths that new documents, released to the public by 'Football Leaks', implicate in scandal and deception.
It is not merely the clubs that are involved, but also those at the highest level of the governing bodies of football. As published by 'Der Spiegel', Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, helped Manchester City and PSG flout 'Financial Fair Play' regulations while he ran UEFA. Neither of these clubs were expelled from the Champions League, unlike Malaga and others.
PSG's 'financial doping'
According to the documents, the government of Qatar has injected more than €1.8 bn into PSG in the last seven years. This is absolutely prohibited by 'Financial Fair Play'. However, both Infantino and Michel Platini helped PSG hide the money. They relabeled the injections as 'sponsorship agreements', which allowed the cash to pass under the radar of the financial watchdogs.
In fact, last summer UEFA made great hay of investigating the source of PSG's cash influx. The club should have been subject to both economic and sporting sanctions, which would have ejected them from the Champions League and decimated their revenue stream. However, according to the leak this sanction never came, and PSG were slapped on the wrist.
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy exerted a special influence on the matter. He is alleged to have told Tamim Al-Thani, then Prince of Qatar:
"Buy PSG, and create a sports channel in France. In return, Platini will help you win the bid for the 2022 World Cup."
The leak goes on to speak of Nasser Al-Khelaifi, a Qatari businessman and the current president of PSG, reducing a fine given to PSG by €60m after speaking with Michel Platini.
More of the same from Manchester City
The story is much the same for the Premier League champions. 'Football Leaks' notes a financial injection of more than €2.7 billion from their majority shareholders in Abu Dhabi. The club was lightly sanctioned, avoiding a harsh punishment because of Gianni Infantino looking the other way, according to the cited source. They point out that these revelations come after studying over 70m documents in minute detail.
Infantino crops up a lot in the reports, with 'Football Leaks' reporting secret meetings that took place with PSG and Manchester City so that they could avoid sanctions. "The two clubs are unashamedly owned by the governments of the Persian Gulf" states the report. This information could be very damaging to Infantino, whose success in the FIFA presidental elections came on the back of an anti-corruption agenda.
Top clubs' plans for a Superleague
16 of the biggest clubs in Europe are planning to launch a Super League that would replace the Champions League after 2021. The move would the following 11 teams as the 'founder members', which would guarantee them the right to play every year:
- Real Madrid
- Manchester United
- Bayern Munich
- Manchester City
- AC Milan
Meanwhile the following five clubs are referred to as the 'initial guests' in the competition, suggesting there could be some level of rotation among the group:
- Atletico Madrid
- Borussia Dortmund
- Inter Milan
The documents suggest that the proposed competition would be hugely more lucrative for the clubs involved, guaranteeing annual revenues of "£440m plus" for the founding members.
The founding members would be exempt from relegation from the competition, and their membership would be guaranteed for 20 years.
Special treatment for smaller clubs
UEFA allowed PSG and Manchester City to skirt the laws of Financial Fair Play, and even helped them to do so Meanwhile they pursued smaller and poorer clubs relentlessly and aggressively through the Club Financial Control Body (CFCB), the UEFA department responsible for investigating breaches of the rules, banning them from European competition and in doing so cutting off their financial lifeline.
According to analysis from 'The Black Sea', in almost every instance when a Romanian club was investigated for an FFP breach, the CFCB recommended that they be banned from UEFA competitions.
None of these clubs committed breaches on a remotely similar scale to City or PSG, and yet these clubs were allowed to settle, while the poorer sides faced a far worse punishment.
Infantino's special relationship with Swiss prosecutor
FIFA president Gianni Infantino's "suspicious friendship" with Swiss prosecutor Rinaldo Arnold was brought to light in Football Leaks revelations published on Friday by a consortium of European media, including the French investigative website Mediapart.
According to European Investigative Collaborations (EIC), "invitations" were given to the chief prosecutor of the Haut-Valais region of Switzerland for the match between the Swiss and Costa Rica at this year's World Cup as well as the FIFA Congress in Mexico in May 2016 and the Champions League final in Milan the same month.
"Thanks very much for the tickets for the Champions League final. My youngest son will go with my wife," Arnold wrote to Infantino in an email in May 2016.
Questioned by the EIC, FIFA responded that the organisation's rules allow "the president and general secretary to invite a certain number of guests to tournaments and FIFA events".
The EIC claims that Arnold would provide Infantino with details of ongoing investigations by Swiss prosecutors, including in the wake of the Panama Papers leak in 2016, when UEFA was investigated for signing a television deal with an offshore company.
More to follow