Panama Papers fallout trumps the sports smorgasbord
As a massive weekend of action gets under way, Fifa’s meltdown provides top entertainment
As sporting weekends go, this one is a beast. A sofa-slung laggard in the UK calculated that between 7pm on Friday and 12.30am on Monday, London time, there will be 53 and-a-half hours of live televised sport around the world for those who cannot make it ring, green, pitch or trackside.
Crunch Premier and other European league clashes, the iconic Grand National horse race, Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley in the boxing ring, the Masters golf at Augusta and a Toronto Blue Jays versus the Boston Red Sox baseball showdown are among the offerings.
When one contests ends you can point the TV zapper and channel hop to the Paris-Roubaix cycling and then to the Aussie Rules derby between North Melbourne and Melbourne. And there’s always the Hong Kong Sevens to tune into.
Not listed on this redoubtable feast of tourneys is the glorious pursuit of Fifa executives by the law – a must-watch for any diehard sports fan.
What a pity some enterprising TV network or internet giant like Amazon or Google has not thought to complement the weekend’s smorgasbord of competition and stationed a live camera outside the homes and offices of Fifa and Uefa officials.
Witnessing the blazers wriggle, squirm and cuffed during a law enforcement raid has become as compulsive viewing as that of Leicester City proving the Premier League equation of mega money equals titles is fundamentally flawed.
Justice versus world football governing officials has become as much an institutionalised fixture as Barcelona v Madrid, Manchester United v Arsenal, The Ashes, Ferrari v McLaren, Roger Federer v Novak Djokovic, the New York Mets v The Yankees, or the All Blacks v the Springboks.
The latest edge-of-the-seat bout follows the sensational publication of the Panama Papers. Among the monumental stack of Mossack Fonseca’s grubby paperwork was the signature of new Fifa president Gianni Infantino scrawled across a few of the dodgy documents.
The leaked papers show that in 2006, Uefa sold its Champions League TV rights in South America to Argentinian father and son Hugo and Mariano Jinkis for US$111,000. These were then sold by the pair to an Ecuadorean TV station for US$311,000.
Infantino, the then Uefa director of legal affairs and licensing, signed off the sale to a company owned by the Jinkis, who are currently under house arrest and facing separate Fifa-related corruption charges over £100 million (HK$1.09 billion) worth of fraudulent football activities.
Deliberate underselling amounts to criminal mismanagement under Swiss law and federal officers arrived without warning at Uefa’s headquarters in Nyon to seize documents hours after the Panama revelations.
A statement from the Swiss Attorney General confirmed the raid and another one at the Lucerne offices of Uefa’s marketing agents were an investigation into “criminal mismanagement over the selling of TV rights”.
Infantino has denied any wrongdoing and said he is dismayed at having his “integrity doubted”.
He may well be innocent. But in the space of just six weeks since becoming the new Fifa president to replace the disgraced Sepp Blatter, his vow to clean up football has lost all credibility.
Supporters are left once more asking if our game will ever be cleansed of corruption and scandal. The answer is no – not until all those who served under Blatter and other disgraced senior Fifa officials, as well as those who served under former Uefa president, the equally disgraced Michel Platini (the one-time favourite to replace Blatter), step aside.
Football’s integrity cannot be recast until Fifa is dissolved and fresh elections fielding new candidates are held.
This is what the game desperately needs and it is what supporters as well as the law demand.
We want a world governing body fit for purpose, one that is ethical, democratic, transparent and policed by an independent body, not one revamped and airbrushed by the old guard under Infantino.
Icelanders illuminated the way forward in the wake of the dark Panama Papers. They took to the streets this week to demand justice after the documents showed their prime minister, Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, owned an offshore firm with his wife which he did not declare when he became an MP. The country’s finance minister and interior minister were also named.