Irony is not just in the kitchen-y!

The glorious news from Zurich when the US Department of Justice and FBI “Elliott Ness” succeeded in ridding football’s world governing body of corruption (i.e. Sepp and Jack) was greeted with orgiastic pontificating that the bowels of hell began freezing those fine old gents who led FIFA along Corinthian ideals before those Johnny Foreigners took hold.

Never would they hold hands with dictators. Never would they look down their noses at those folks from the former colonies. Never would they rig bidding processes.

 

Just before Herr Blatter announced he was stepping down UEFA joined in the melee and with the English FA Cup as a backdrop, a welfare scrounger heading the English FA was extolling the virtues of his own rather dodgy organisation, while his commoners were adding their words to the screeching.

Since Prince William was involved in the corrupt competition where the English FA were caught out for their most visible bribes and who were, from personal experience of the 2018 process, not behind the doors in doling out favours for EXCO members.

As one commentator put it, would the pontification about ethics and FIFA investigation be ongoing had the World Cups landed in England or the USA? Is VVP leader of Russia?

Platini’s UEFA were hilariously ironic in making ripples when calling for a postponement of the FIFA vote amongst other platitudes.

While it is admirable that “Qatari” Platini is the only EXCO member to have made known his votes for 2018/2022, his stock dropped when his son Laurent landed the plum money-moving operation for Qatar (with PSG) while Belgium’s Michel D’Hooghe (also a UEFA rep on the EXCO) saw his son Pieter take up a job in Qatar three months after the Qatar win.

Though such appointments are the norm in the incestuous world of business, we need not look far from our own shores to see how such cronyism and nepotism works.

And of course now it is the man who took Liam Brady’s place in Juventus who is being touted as a media favourite to take over the FIFA top job! Irony upon irony.

And where are the priorities when media will report that “of course” the World Cups of 2018 and 2022 cannot take place in the selected countries due to the dodgy human rights records in both.

Our media breathlessly reported from Switzerland while athletes from other sports fine tune their preparations for the first “European Games” – what? Yes, the oil and gas fueled attempt by the corrupt state that continues to try buy respectability while not standing as a beacon of human rights or workplace safety.

Coincidentally this regional warmonger is in the UEFA family. The same family that oversee their workers having to perform in dangerous temperatures on a regular basis due to sponsor and media commitments.

But this is okay, after all, they are involved with something that is “Much more than sponsorship” with Atletico Madrid! Remember this when watching the Champions League Final and the sponsor of the “Worlds team” – money talks far louder than ethics.

 

Last Sunday it was depressing to read such wonderful headlines from the British tabloids as “Arsenal’s fantasy football helps clear stench of FIFA corruption”. The same Arsenal whose main owners are an American who presides over US sports franchises where worker welfare has been shown to continue to be severely suspect. Worse was the same journalist’s crocodiles tears over the 5million settlement the FAI received over the THierry Henry cheating in 2009. In all the ri-ra over the payment ignored were the basic facts that Henry and his team-mates cheated, the lack of class by the French management and French FA, plus Herr Blatter sneering over the “33rd team”. It seems a chance to make media hay were more important than asking serious questions – of the game itself.

Of course the other Arsenal head honcho, a convicted criminal with links to a murderous Central Asian regime (happily not in the UEFA family) and whose plants in Russia have regularly been among the most dangerous workplaces. Henry Winter et al only see irony in the kitchen-y.

Since news broke of FIFA arrests until even the FAI “bung”, all I could think back to was not the 2018 process, nor the dubious RFS elections, but to 2005 when a UEFA EXCO member’s assistant asked me to procure two prostitutes for his boss.

The rep from England was very insistent that up in Budapest he’d been looked after and in Kiev, Warsaw and Rome. My former company was consulting on the 2012 Euro’s bid and my task was to play nice with inspectors, having helped edit promo material and documents

The Croatia-Hungary bid, for me, was by far the best of all bids and most deserved, not to mention sustainable. Of course Hungary was floating on a sea of property money and Croatia was still far from being a fully modern democracy, though in football and hospitality terms, the only rival was Italy, who we figured we were chasing.

I got the news of the first culling of bids a day late as I was in Russia waiting for my daughter’s birth. We’d done well, coming in just two votes behind leaders Italy, while the unstable pairing of Poland and Ukraine lagged back in third.

I was surprised to hear that Turkey was dropped, along with Greece, but this made our chance even better. All signals from UEFA and their experts were that it was a two-way fight between us and Italy.

I returned in January 2006 to the project and in May our dossier was first into Nyon. And it was a good one! Our sustainability models were real, verified and we even built in an economic shock of the size that would hit in 2008, thanks to the advice of my mentor Ante Cicin-Sain.

He had been Governor of the Croatian Central Bank and warned against being optimistic. Even with this powerful addition, UEFA told us we were very strong. Our transport infrastructure was already developed (and continuing to be upgraded) and the Hungarians had caught up with us.

 

In September, I was called to come up and assist with some more visits, so I packed my daughter into the car and drove to Zagreb, and afterwards to Split.

It was in Split, without my daughter, that the winds changed. A party was thrown for the UEFA reps and visitors in a luxury hotel and I had to attend along with two colleagues.

At 10pm some ladies arrived to join our guests and they left to their rooms. Lagging behind, the same English rep who’d made such an impact the year before, was well oiled (in an alcoholic sense) and began bragging how the women were better in Ukraine.

One of my colleagues, a Croatian woman, began to argue the point, then realising it was not a more commercial matter, left to “make a call”. My other colleague left to head home so I remained alone with this well-known gent.

Two of his fellow UEFA reps arrived with a bottle of Hennessy and they tried to outdo each other in their braggadocio. All made it very clear that women and gifts of sweets, rocks and scented candles were nice, but that we’d have to get with the programme. The money being paid by our bid was never going to be enough.

When the final vote was postponed in December of that year I told my boss our goose was cooked. Even when I showed him an email from one of the Italian bid team (who I’d liaised with) saying that they were scaling back as they couldn’t pay as much as the Poles and Ukrainians, he believed we still had a chance.

I prepared a file to send to media in order to blow our rival bid out of the water and presented it to my Boss for approval. Shocked, he asked me if I’d wanted for us all to lose and end up in jail. Who’d been looking after “hospitality” for our esteemed guests? Did I even begin to consider if money had been paid? He took the file and dumped it in a cabinet. My contract ran out mid-December and I turned down an extension.

After the Poland-Ukraine bid won, I was contacted by two different English journalists who’d spoken with this former boss in Cardiff. Once I’d cleared it with him that I could communicate further with them, I sent copies of the file.

In the eight years since not a word has hit the street and two of the reps that night are still visible in UEFA while the English rep has moved up a couple of ranks. As I wrote in the last article, power corrupts.

 

The only matters of interest to the British media for Euro 2012 were making sensational and viewer/reader grabbing efforts, such a Panorama’s “Stadiums of Hate”.

And when the cause celebre case of rapacious kleptocrat Yulia Tymoshenko’s hunger strike and imprisonment was pushed onto the front page…how many vowed to boycott the event? The same rhetoric used then is the exact same as now for 2018 and 2022. And as for new votes on the aforementioned World Cups?

As the joke goes here in Russia, “let are-vote happen for 2018, it’s three years away, so the winner could be part of Russia by that time anyway.”

Nothing will change with FIFA or UEFA or the FAI or English FA. Mr. Blatter is going and what comes after him will be as corrupt (if not already then soon after taking office).

Football is business and the bigger the stage, the bigger the money. The mandarins running the game make the rules and we all play along. And we’ll continue to do so as life without football is far worse than the life we currently lead.

And nobody in the media wants it to change either, if it did, they’d be back writing about village fetes or doing pieces to camera about a horse loose on the M50. And that certainly isn’t as interesting for advertisers or their own self-importance.

Clubs will continue to prostitute themselves for money – whether from Uzbek ex-crims, Middle Eastern oil states, Central Asian despots or Far Eastern “businessmen”, or good old-fashioned Irish property developers and British adult industry tycoons. Taking 5 million in an out of court settlement seems a lot more decent and ethical, not to mention proper, than Barcelona taking cash from a crew who back ISIS, or Chelsea from a bloke who defrauded ordinary Russian citizens or Juventus from a North African despot.

Stability, of any type, is comfortable, self-awareness is outdated and irony happens only in the kitchen-y.

Author Details

Alan Moore

A Russia-based Sports Journalist and Consultant, worked with major sports clubs including:- Spartak Moscow, Hajduk Split, Eintracht Frankfurt. Boxed Internationally, played semi-pro football and worked full-time in sports management/consultancy from 2003-13. First published professionally on football in 1990, first Russian league match in 1991, now hosting Capital Sports on Capital FM, Moscow and the Capital Sports Stadium Shows at the RZD Arena and writing the odd article. Director of the Russian State Social University College in Moscow. And to make things more fun, he produces and hosts #ChampTalks for UNESCO, Moscow's Tolerance Centre and Capital FM.

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