The Biggest Bribing Scandals in the History of Football
It’s the most popular sport on the planet and one that generates billions for the biggest leagues each and every season, and that’s before we count the undeclared profits of the beautiful game. Yes, we’re talking bribes, bungs, and backhanders. Those fat brown envelopes that are passed from sweaty hand to sweaty hand as agents, managers, and even officials take advantage of their positions in football.
You may think that this kind of nefarious activity is limited to players or officials struggling with their finances, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes even the most successful and well-paid individuals in the game lose all sense of reason when one of those fat envelopes lands on their hotel room table. Here are just a few of those occasions.
The FIFA scandal
It was and still is the biggest corruption case in the history of sport and began when in May of 2015, the Swiss police raided a hotel in Zurich arresting seven FIFA executives. But they weren’t done there. By December 16 more officials were arrested with the joint investigation by the Swiss police and the FBI revealing what we all knew; that corruption had been rife in FIFA for years.
In fact, the ‘boys’ who ran football’s governing body were so confident of their safety that they awarded Qatar the 2022 World Cup under a cloud of controversy. This was a country with no footballing culture or history whatsoever, and a climate that was totally unsuitable for a Summer World Cup. And yet, FIFA president Sepp Blatter felt no fear when making it clear that they were his preferred choice.
The scandal ended the careers of both Blatter and UEFA president Michel Platini who were both found to have breached rules over a €1.5million ‘payment’ which was in all likelihood a bung. But that’s just a drop in the ocean. The FBI reckon bribes and payments involved in the case could be in the hundreds of millions.
The Serie A match-fixing scandal
It’s easy to forget that the match-fixing scandal of 2006 actually involved quite a few clubs such was the attention piled on Juventus. The scandal involved the rigging of matches in exchange for massive sums of money so that clubs could secure their league position and the prize money that went with it.
Fiorentina, Lazio, and champions Juventus were docked points and sent to Serie B. AC Milan were also involved as were other clubs, but it was the stripping of the champion’s titles that really rocked the public. The fallout was massive with directors, and executives falling on their swords left, right, and centre while the entire debacle is a very public stain on the reputation of a country that prides itself on its footballing prowess.
The English match-fixing scandal
As the home of the beautiful game (when will it ever come home?), England is supposedly a paragon in terms of footballing integrity. We all know that to be patently false if agents’ fees and Sam Allardyce are anything to go by, but this scandal did actually shock us.
The premise was simple; a player would accept a bribe to do something innocuous such as get themselves booked or sent off. A betting syndicate in Asia would then wager on this happening, and everyone would make pots of cash.
Unfortunately, for all involved, a joint investigation by two newspapers uncovered the plot with former Portsmouth and Reading player Sam Sodjie the centre of the investigation. The player claimed he could get players to do whatever he wanted during matches in return for cash and admitted that he himself had received €80,000 for punching a player.
A fixer also speaking with the investigators said that he could influence the outcome of matches as he had referees and players in his pocket. To prove this, he predicted the score of a game the following day and even told the investigators when a player would be booked. It was a pretty incredible revelation that showed just how much influence the betting syndicate had.
The scandal resulted in several arrests and one player Michael Boateng imprisoned. Although no top division clubs were involved, it’s believed that the activities uncovered were just the tip of the iceberg.
The Ghanaian referee scandal
Just before the 2018 World Cup, a documentary aired in Ghana which showed around 100 referees and officials taking bribes. One of the officials implicated in the scandal was due to officiate at the World Cup but made himself unavailable for pretty obvious reasons.
The scandal was so big that the Ghana FA dissolved with dozens of officials losing their jobs. And to make matters even worse, it has now been revealed that the Referees Association of Ghana had faked documents so that hand-picked men received their FIFA badges.
The scandal is far from being resolved with an interim FA in place to try to govern the country’s league and the national team. The most shocking aspect of this bribery case though is the fact that Ahmed Hussein-Suale, the journalist who made the documentary was shot dead in January 2019.
There are still plenty of untold stories that we have no doubt will come to light in years to come. And although no top-level English managers have been proven guilty of receiving bungs, we find it hard to believe that some of the transfers in English football had anything to do with the talents of the players involved. We’ll say no names but you probably know the managers and players we’re talking about.