Barely have I turned on the PC and Newsnight are back on the case. Here’s the latest from Meirion Jones and the subsequent response from myself.
From Meirion Jones:
“Egg on face? Ask David Dein. We stand by our allegations that Arsenal effectively took control of the trade in Ivorian players by paying £1 million to secretly take control of Beveren. Arsenal’s response was to finally cough to the million after fve years of Arsenal, Wenger and Guillou denying Arsenal put money in and even saying it would have been illegal for them to do so. The rest of the statement was full of what are known as non-denial denials. For instance it said that Arsenal did not have shares in Beveren. Arsenal know as well as we do that Bevern does not have shares – it is the equivalent of a friendly society. That is why we didn’t accuse them of having shares in Beveren. What we said – based on the evidence of the investigating magistrates, Beveren directors, chairman and documents including David Dein’s contract was this. Arsenal put in a million pounds to take control of Beveren. Their “straw man” de Waele was given 50% control and Arsene’s friend another 30% in return for the million. De Waele’s operation would take 40% percent of the profit from Ivorian transfers. The Belgian police investigation only cleared Beveren of laundering money for the mafia. At least one Beveren Director is worried in case the whole deal was illegal under Belgian and British law and and that everyone concerned could be heading for jail. Whether they’ve broken FIFA’s flimsy multi-club ownership rules could be the least of Arsenal’s concerns if there is a proper investigation. If they are found to have made or received illegal payments the football authorities will react strongly – remember Swindon. The newspapers all covered the story and all printed Arsenal’s response as well. They didn’t have all the documentary evidence we do and they didn’t sit down as I did with the investigating magistrate and the director. Arsenal have not contacted us to challenge a single fact in our film.”
“Egg on face – absolutely. To have a presenter hysterically claiming Arsenal could be relegated, Arsenal could play Beveren in a meaningful competition, Arsenal could be expelled from the Champions League and Arsenal have breached rules is absolute proof of sensationalist journalism. Firstly, Arsenal have breached no Premiership rules. Therefore, they cannot be relegated. Secondly, UEFA state the club have not breached any rules so cannot be expelled from the Champions League. Thirdly, the FA have had to ask FIFA what rules have been broken – even you can surely see then that your journalist got it absolutely wrong, there is no charge for the club to answer to. Look at ENIC who own interests in at least four clubs, Tottenham amongst them, with 99% control of Venezia and interests in Greece and other European countries. Where was this in your report? It was not mentioned as it did not meet your criteria for sensationalism. For goodness sakes, Kirsty Young made David Mellor seem knowledgeable and well-informed!
David Dein? I doubt he cares two figs for your story, even less believes it to be a reason for his downfall. Most people think he has made more enemies through the media’s perception of his role in the cock-up over appointing Sven Goran Eriksson’s successor than anything you have broadcast.
Trade in Ivorian players? Where are the victims? Ivorians playing for Arsenal very possibly earn more in one week than they were in their homeland in year, definitely more than they did on a weekly basis at home. The only person with a grudge in this case is Roger Ouegnin who thinks he is out of pocket. And that is through his own inability to value his players properly. If Arsenal do owe him money for Toure then firstly, you should have checked that this is true and outside of the transfer documentation and then he needs to go to FIFA, not bleat about it. His distress comes more from not getting a bigger slice of the action.
Marc Gillou has nothing whatsoever to do with Arsenal so therefore cannot be drawn into the same category as Wenger or the club. What has he done wrong? He owns an Academy that had a business arrangement with a club he was a Director of? Tell me the breach of UEFA / FIFA Rules? There is none.
You state Arsenal took control of Beveren. If as you say, it is a friendly society nobody can take control. If there are no shares, no-one has controlling interest. If there are shares, then it is not a Friendly Society. You therefore defeat yourself with your own arguments. Even if one euro equals one share in the society, you have not proved that Arsenal controlled them. Where is your evidence that Gillou or de Waele reported directly to Arsenal or any of their employees and needed their authority to run the club. Produce that and you may get some acceptance of the subject matter. As of yet, all you have done is produced hearsay, opinion and innuedo. You sat with the magistrate. Where is his knowledge of FIFA Rules derived from? Indeed, why would a Magistrate investigating Money Laundering be reviewing FIFA rules which form no basis in the laws of Belgium or the UK?
I do remember Swindon. I was one of the poor sods, supporting my local team and I still do when I am in the town visiting family, who travelled to Wembley believing that winning meant promotion, despite the Football League knowing the misdemeanour before the match kicked off. It was completely different circumstances. One director from Swindon made under the table payments as salary inducements for players to sign for them, thereby gaining an advantage over their competitors. It did not relate to controlling another club. Given Arsenal signed Kolo Toure DIRECTLY from his club in the Ivory Coast, tell me where this relates to your story. You chose to highlight him as a fully fledged international who signed for Arsenal, thus drawing him into the same category as Eboue who signed from Beveren. I wonder if they induced either player? I doubt it. Think of their choices; play in the Premiership or either the Ivorian top division or the second flight of the Jupiler League. Given the wage differentials, there would be no need to induce players through illegal payments. Are you claiming Arsenal did this? If so, produce your evidence to the FA and Arsenal quite rightly would be relegated. If you cannot produce such evidence, then do not mention Swindon until you understand why they were relegated.
Sorry Meirion, your story was rubbish. It was based on hearsay – directors who fear jail? If so, why have they taken no legal advice from a lawyer who understands their concerns and why have the Belgian authorities not laid charges against the Directors, as long as four years ago before they closed the case. Your assertion of the Belgian Director is a complete red-herring. It is tosh – if he feared that, he would have taken legal advice not the advice of an ill-informed journalist and her production team.
It is little surprise that Arsenal have not contacted you because the BBC are the only ones who believe it is a story. Your answer shows why the story was broadcast. You have not taken the time to review the FIFA rules and are now trying to blame misconceptions on others. You claim that FIFA rules are flimsy. So what? They are the only rules that matter in this story. You cannot suddenly claim that those regulations which you claim have been broken are flimsy because the fallout of your story has not been as you believed it would. Your print colleagues do not carry the same conviction as you about guilt. Most of them understand or have read the FIFA rules, luxury of time I guess, and cannot find the rule breaking.”