Football is big business with hundreds of millions of pounds exchanging hands every year in the Premier League alone.
But it is worth remembering that wherever there is money, scandals are never far away. And one scandal has already reared its head this season.
Just 67 days and one match into the role of England national team manager, Sam Allardyce was forced to resign from the position. Filmed by undercover reporters boasting that he could get around FIFA and FA rules on third-party ownership of players, Allardyce agreed to resign the next day.
This is far from the first business scandal that The Beautiful Game has been embroiled in and it certainly won’t be the last.
Here are some of the most memorable times that football business has gone horribly wrong.
Long accused of corruption in one form of another, FIFA was finally brought to its knees in 2015 when U.S. federal prosecutors brought forward cases of corruption by a vast number of officials and employees of FIFA. This included money laundering, racketeering and wire fraud. It’s scarcely believable that the governing body for the world’s most popular sport could be so corrupt.
After pressure from major sponsors and calls from across the world, long-time President Sepp Blatter was forced to resign. It has also been suggested that the allegations of bribery surrounding the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup could mean that one of both of these events could conceivably be moved elsewhere. It will take FIFA a long time to recover its reputation which has been completely shattered.
In 2009, Notts County was a League Two side with a history of money problems. So when it was taken over by Munto Finance – a multinational investment group with exceptionally rich (but unnamed backers) – things were really looking up. Former England manger Sven-Goran Eriksson signed up as Director of Football and high profile signings including Sol Campbell and Kasper Schmeichel were made.
However, things started to look suspicious very quickly. Campbell left the club after playing one game and then huge debts began mounting up. It turned out that Munto Finance was entirely fictitious and that the people fronting it – Nathan Willett and Russell King – were fraudsters. It wasn’t long before the pair disappeared and the club was left in a challenging place.
George Weah’s ‘cousin’
Ali Dia’s name has gone down in the history of football for all the wrong reasons. In 1996, manager of Southampton Graeme Souness was contacted by a man claiming to be George Weah – the former FIFA World Player of the Year and international superstar. ‘Weah’ told Souness that his cousin Ali Dia a former Paris Saint-Germain player and Senegal international was looking for a club in England.
Souness was convinced and, amazingly, offered Dia a one-month contract. Of course these were the days before the internet where this sort of information was not immediately available. You might think that the story would have ended here – but it didn’t. Despite having very little talent for football at all, Souness placed Dia on the substitute’s bench for a game against Leeds. Presumably hoping that Dia would find his Weah-like talent on the pitch, Souness substituted him on for Matthew Le Tissier after 32 minutes. After losing the ball constantly Dia was himself substituted and his Southampton career came to an end.
After showing fantastic form at Verona and Parma, Romanian winger Adrian Mutu was bought by Chelsea for €22.5 million. After a strong start to his Chelsea career, Mutu, who has failed numerous drug tests, tested positive for cocaine use. He was banned for seven months and fined £20,000 by the FA. Chelsea then decided to seek compensation against him for breaching his contact, seeking a figure similar to that of the amount they paid for him in the first place.
In 2002, Gretna FC was taken over by millionaire Brooks Mileson. He invested heavily in the club and oversaw a swift rise through the divisions. By the 2007/2008 season the club was in the Scottish Premier League (SPL), but this was probably the last piece of good news that the team ever had. Mileson, struggling with his health, withdrew financial support and the team quickly ran up debts of over £4 million. After finishing bottom of the SPL, the club was liquidated and were expelled from the league.
Mike James, an independent content writer and obsessive football fan – working with replica kit specialist Soccerbox.