Investigations in Italy into match-fixing have engulfed forty one people, involving nineteen matches including some involving AC Milan and / or Lazio. Whilst this type of scandal is not unusual in Italian football – Milan were themselves relegated twenty or so years ago for “financial shenanigans” – it is seemingly becoming more common across Europe. In the last twelve months we have witnessed betting scandals in Belguim (taking in some matches in France), referees taking bribes in Germany, more financial wrongdoing in Marseilles, even the FA Premier Leagues’ chairman is facing questions about his chairmanship at Sheffield Wednesday. Let us not forget that the Stevens Inquiry has yet to report on their investigations into English Football. And it is only just over a decade since George Graham was caught with his hands in a brown paper bag, still the only high profile case in this country to be successfully prosecuted.
In an era when money is the dominant force in football, it is perhaps unsurprising that these issues are coming to the fore. Whilst the media attention is drawn towards the major clubs, it is worth pondering on the fact that the Belgian problems have focussed not on their leading sides, RSC Anderlecht or Club Brugges, but those at the foot of the top flight and in lower leagues. Already suspensions have been handed down to several players and coaches. The problem has arisen through bribes coming from Asian Betting Syndicates, the same as those who bribed Robert Hoyzer, a German Referee now banned for life from involvement in football. English clubs have been in financial difficulties since the collapse of ITV Digital but there is no evidence so far that any impropriety has taken place. Perhaps those involved receive sufficient salaries or have more integrity than their continental counterparts. It cannot be through lack of opportunity as it seems that you can lay a bet in a shop or on the internet on two flies climbing a wall.
To this blogger though, I find it incredulous that senior officials at clubs can become involved in such schemes. Whilst the “win at all costs” culture has become more prevalent at the highest level since the grotesque revenues available through the Champions League upped the economix ante, surely there has to be a sporting ethic in play. In Juve’s case, suspicions of bending the law to breaking point have been raised through the prosecution of club medical officials for utilising drugs to enhance performance, having a pharmacy at the club that is stocked better than many small hospitals. Looking at their performance in this season Champions League Quarter Final, it is hard to believe that they have been doping their players to improve their physical attributes rather that they had given them tranquilisers so docile were they in chasing a two goal deficit.
Perhaps it is now time for FIFA and UEFA to take an active role in the investigations into the clubs. Should those officials be found guilty of the charge then the club must be punished by relegation, not to the next division down but to the bottom of the professional football structure. This then sends a message to everyone in the game about the potential outcomes for individuals and their employers / colleagues. Unfortunately it is always the innocent parties who get hurt but both the club and supporters will have benefitted from the impropriety so they must suffer the consequences. Should Arsenal suffer such a punishment, I would be up in arms about the injustice of it all but this subsides and the real anger becomes focussed on the individuals involved. It is necessary that the game is clear of such financial infidelities and one high profile case may well be the catalyst. If not transgressors cannot say that there is one rule for the rich and another for the poor.
The FA Cup Final takes place not at Wembley as was expected this time last season but once again in Cardiff. With Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium looking to be completed on time and on budget, it draws more ire towards those involved in the Wembley project. Taking stock of the media coverage, it is obvious that those involved could not organise an allnight drinking binge in a brewery. Yet thus far, no action is taken other than Party A suing Party B. English football deserved better than this debacle but it is also symptomatic of the bungling that besets anything that The FA touch, recent examples aside from Wembley range from hiring a new England Coach to the National Football Centre at Burton. Let us hope that Liverpool and West Ham serve better fare than last years combatants although given Arsenal won, it matters not one jot to this man. In a season that has so far served up one-sided finals, both the Carling and UEFA Cup would have been halted by a Boxing Referee, please let this be a contest to remember. Liverpool are favourites and ought to win, probably 2 – 0 but West Ham have enough going forward to trouble the Liverpool defence.
Todays Tunes are more 60’s soul. First up are Carl Holmes and the Commanders with Crossin’ Over. Having had a young Jimi Hendrix gig with the group might have brought them more retrospective fame but it is a shame that they are best known for being the house band in the toga party scenes in Animal House. This track is their last recorded release under this guise , being apparently rare to get hold and is a slice of upbeat Philly R&B. Next up is Jessie Gee Don’t You Mess With My Money which is todays’ contrived link, and one that this song deserves better of – starting off as a slow blues rap, this then becomes dirtier and more lowdown. Enjoy.