Friday, May 08, 2009
I'm now officially suspicious about UEFA.
Normally, when people refer to corruption in football, they mean attempts to fix matches by dodgy Far Eastern gangs. The discussions focus on whether players 'threw' games, whether they might have taken a 'bung', whether the betting patterns reveal a coup.
But I'm beginning to wonder about UEFA's role in a couple of very odd incidents.
The first relates to whether they have been rigging the draw for the Champions' League in order to manipulate the big box-office matches that they want. Last year, the quarter final draw was revealed to a Liverpool fans website two hours before it was made.
Now, that's either a 104-1 lucky guess, or else it is overt corruption. According to UEFA, it was just a lucky guess. They then refused to say anything further on the matter.
However, the original post which revealed the draw suggested that not only was the draw a pre-decided issue, but that the details had come from a disgusted UEFA employee and that bookies had ceased to take bets on the matter, which they indeed had.
But things got even stranger on Wednesday night. My sympathies go out to Chelsea, who were effectively robbed of a second successive Champions' League final appearance by the extremely erratic, if not downright bogus, behaviour of the referee, who is now in hiding after he denied Chelsea at least two legitimate penalties.
Feeling hard done by, one Chelsea player chased the ref about the pitch yelling in his face, while another roared his disgust at the TV cameras, and a third has since come out stating that he believes the ref was 'under orders.'
Sour grapes? Perhaps. Until, that is, you hear that the UEFA website posted the result of the game HOURS before it even kicked off!
The 'test' post was supposedly a dummy run. But it had the correct score and even named the players who were booked!
Chelsea's manager, one of the most respected and experienced names in football, has openly speculated that the referee was under orders not to allow Chelsea to proceed to a second final against Manchester United, because UEFA thought a second all-English final looked bad.
Of course, UEFA have dismissed suggestions of a fix. But they also ordered the match referee to go into hiding and not to talk to the press.
Books such as the excellent 'The Ball is Round' have examined the corporate corruption of UEFA, and its parent body FIFA, and revealed how football administration at the very top is run by some extremely dodgy people.
I'm now wondering just how dodgy they are. Dodgy enough to rig a draw? Dodgy enough to rig a game? Dodgy enough to pick and choose who should play in the world's biggest club football game - the Champions' League final?
Perhaps they are.