KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- The tale of the latest assault by Football Leaks on international football promises to run and run.
World federation FIFA knew it was coming. A lengthy statement late Friday night said: “Four weeks ago, a group of journalists sent several hundred questions to FIFA, based on private and internal e-mails and other information which had been accessed (illegally) by third parties.”
The statement was issued in response to the initial publication of articles in 15 European news organisations. The outlets, according to German news magazine Der Spiegel, “will publish a series of disclosures about the ‘dirty deals’ of the football world. Dozens of articles will dive deep into the business of European football – a billion-euro industry.”
German champions Bayern Munich were the initial, domestic target of Der Spiegel which used the leaked or hacked material to claim that the club’s senior directors “spent months forging its plan for a Super League with the most powerful and the richest football clubs in Europe.”
The clubs all prepared to break away from UEFA in 2021 were supposedly:
Founder members: Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, Juventus, Chelsea, Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City, Liverpool and Milan plus invitees Atletico Madrid , Marseille, Internazionale, Roma and Borussia Dortmund.
Simultaneously Swiss daily Tages Anzeiger focused on FIFA president Gianni Infantino, stating: “Infantino vowed to clean up the world’s most hated sports organization. Confidential documents reveal how hollow his promises were.”
The Tages Anzeiger article questioned Infantino’s role in:
1, the award to the United States, Canada and Mexico of the 2026 World Cup finals;
2, the redrafting of the FIFA ethics regulations;
3, encouraging greater speed in the distribution of development funds at the cost of auditing precision;
4, supporting the contentious appointment of Colombian Maria Claudia Rojas as chief ethics investigator;
5, “teaming up with an investor that had not followed normal public tender procedures” over the controversial proposal to revamp the Club World Cup; and
5, how the massive Middle Eastern investments in Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City compromised UEFA’s financial fair play rules when he was general secretary of the European governing body.
For FIFA and Infantino, the leaked material contained nothing “which would even remotely amount to a violation of any law, statute or regulation.”
The clear suggestion in FIFA’s reactive comment was that the leaks owed much to disaffected individuals from the old regime of banned and disgraced former president Sepp Blatter.
Infantino said: ““It is always a challenge to change things, to move forward, and to bring people together in order to do things better. And, as we are resolutely implementing the reforms at FIFA, it was always clear to me that I would face strong opposition, especially from those who cannot anymore shamelessly profit from the system they were part of.
“But this is why I was elected and for me there will be one focus and one focus only: to improve and develop football, worldwide. And today I am more committed and decided than ever to continue fulfilling this task.”
The FIFA statement:
We have become aware of various articles published today about FIFA.
Four weeks ago, a group of journalists sent several hundred questions to FIFA, based on private and internal e-mails and other information which had been accessed (illegally) by third parties.
Despite the fact that we answered the questions posed to us in a straight-forward and honest manner, certain media decided to ignore most of our answers and to distort both the facts and the truth in a deliberate attempt to discredit FIFA and to mislead their readers. This is evident.
It seems obvious from the “reporting” carried out in some media outlets that there is only one particular aim : an attempt to undermine the new leadership of FIFA and, in particular, the President, Gianni Infantino, and the Secretary General, Fatma Samoura.
Since the new leadership of FIFA took office there have been changes. There had to be and we are very proud of them. As is widely known, FIFA was in a desperate situation in 2015, as it sought to recover from decades of neglect and mismanagement.
It is a fact that many former FIFA officials are currently facing criminal proceedings in Switzerland and abroad. And, of course, many other FIFA officials who were part of, or supported, this discredited regime for many years are also no longer at FIFA. Consequently, it is more than obvious that changes had to be made at all levels, in order to give FIFA a fresh start.
It comes as no surprise that some of those who have been removed, replaced, or who are unhappy, continue to spread false rumors and innuendo about the new leadership. We are aware that there are people who, out of frustration, would like to undermine FIFA, for their own self-interested reasons.
It is, therefore, also a cause for regret that some media outlets occasionally lend support to such false claims, apparently without giving any thought or consideration to the very real and substantive changes that have been made at FIFA, since the old regime was swept away, under a cloud of shame.
FIFA welcomes honest and thoughtful investigative reporting and fully respects objective journalists. We do not always expect that they will share our views or opinions, however, all we ask for is a fair and truthful account of the work which we are doing, and which we will continue to do, for football.
We will happily engage with all media who would like to gain a clearer understanding of our work, of the changes which we have made, and who would like to contribute to the success of the organisation going forward.
Most likely, this will not entail putting a one-side “spin” on things, and attempting to blacken the character of those who are working hard to improve the situation of world football.
For the avoidance of doubt, it also deserves to be pointed out that NONE of the “reports” contains anything which would even remotely amount to a violation of any law, statute or regulation. This is, beyond question, an immeasurable improvement on the past and something which FIFA is fully committed to going forward.
We will not be distracted from our work as FIFA is unarguably in a far better position than it was two years ago. We welcome any constructive debate. And we will continue to move forward, stronger and more committed than ever.