An interesting week in European football with cheating being a topical subject.
Earlier this week we had Nemanja Vidic of Manchester United playing mind games ahead of the champions league final against Chelsea by accusing Didier Drogba of being a diver. He even went so far as to say “… I’m sure the ref will know his job”. No pressure on the man in the middle there then! In Scotland too, an astonishing outburst by Dundee United manager Craig Levein, following a defeat at Ibrox, who accused referee Mike McCurry of cheating during the match. A couple of … well four actually… shocking decisions went against United which resulted in Levein rather comically standing at the side of the pitch urging the referee to “Call the game off, Mike – we are wasting our time out there”!!!!
But its cheating at a higher level which is raising concern…and how its dealt with.
This week Portuguese club Boavista – 2003 UEFA cup semifinalists – were relegated after being found guilty of attempting to fix league matches. What is surprising though is that two other clubs were also found guilty but only suffered a deduction in points – Leiria and Porto. Now one can’t help thinking that there are rules for some & rules for others here. Porto’s chairman at the time Joao Loureiro has been banned for 4 years and yet his club – Champions league winners just 4 years ago – get off scot free? Surely if his crime – attempting to bribe a referee no less – is worthy of a ban then his club should also be suitably punished? He was representing his club at the time, don’t forget. Of course the Portuguese Liga doesn’t have the strength in depth that other countries have and having Porto in the 2nd tier would send the country’s coefficient plummeting and we can’t have that now can we? Too much money to lose! French football took years to recover – at club level – after Marseille were relegated following fixing the 1993 Champions League final.
But Portugal are not alone. Remember the English match fixing scandal a couple of years ago – Hans Segers, Bruce Grobbelaar etc and THAT Everton v Wimbledon game? No clubs charged there even though the House of Lords declared that there was “adequate evidence of dishonesty”. Italy too, famously, relegated Juventus yet other clubs, notably Milan, avoided the same fate following the 2005-6 season… a season which saw the Italians crowned champions of the world. How it must pay to have friends in high places!!! Silvio Berlosconi prime minister of Italy at the time and chairman of Milan for eighteen years has often been accused of conflicts of interest. Never more so in this case one thinks! Milan weren’t relegated and at the end of the following season won the Champions League! Could you imagine both Juventus & Milan in Serie B??? Neither could Federcalcio it seems!!!
Isn’t it time that UEFA started to take some control over these instances? Perhaps installing mandatory punishments and indeed carrying out their own investigations into the accusations. They are after all the governing body. Its about time they started to govern and to clean up some of the undercurrent in European football that is gradually taking hold. In a short column then, we have accusations of cheating in Scotland, England, Italy, Portugal & France. As money now runs the game, instances of cheating will surely only increase – financially its now worth the risk.
How long do you think UEFA will keep its head in the sand?