4 Football Corruption Controversies in Modern Football

But when a game becomes so globally popular, it leaves itself vulnerable to being utilised for greed, profit, and power.

Football is globally popular for its simplicity. Almost anywhere in the world, transcending social and economic factors, football in some shape or form is accessible to anyone. Whether it’s “jumper for goalposts” in a British park, playing barefoot on the sandy floors of Kenya, or street football in Brazil, anyone with a ball, a few friends, and a small open space can make adaption or interpretation of the beautiful game.


But when a game becomes so globally popular, it leaves itself vulnerable to being utilised for greed, profit, and power. The modern game, at times, drifts away from the simplicity of playing in the park as its integrity has become threatened by the corruption and greed of governing bodies, multi-national companies, nation-states.


Here are the four biggest modern occurrences and accusations of corruption in our globally loved sport.


1.  The FIFA Corruption Scandal (2015)


When it was exposed that many senior members of the historic gatekeepers of football, FIFA, had been involved in a large corruption scandal, shockwaves reverberated across news media across the world.


Officials, including the establishment’s President, Sepp Blatter, were accused of accepting bribes from the Russian and Qatari governments in return for votes for their respective successful 2018 and 2022 World Cup bids.


Furthermore, FIFA were accused of mismanaging their finances; serious concerns raised by Swiss and American authorities resulted in arrests due to several cases of wire fraud, money laundering, racketeering.


This was the corruption that was supposed to prevent wrongdoing across the sport, so when it became apparent that FIFA had been contributing towards the corruption, it fuelled a whole culture of mistrust and suspicions towards the game’s various governing bodies and elite interests.


2.  Manchester City’s 115 Charges (2023)


Manchester City have dominated English football for large parts of the last decade, but their success hasn’t come without its controversies.


While the allegations and charges against Manchester City do not relate to corruption in the traditional sense, such as bribery or match-fixing, the English Champions have been accused of breaking 115 financial rules between 2009 and 2018, including failing to provide the correct information to support the Premier League’s investigation. If found guilty, Manchester City could receive fines, healthy point deductions, or transfer embargos.


However, supporters have questioned why the Premier League have been unable to show any kind of punishment towards Manchester City despite longstanding allegations, when Everton, Nottingham Forrest and Leicester have already received punishment for significantly fewer breaches of financial rules in the same period. It has led some to question the prevalence of corruption within the Premier League governing body, but so far, there is no evidence to suggest this is the case.


3.   “Mes Que Un Club” (2023)


Barcelona, the artists of football with fingerprints of Johan Cruyff and Pep Guardiola all over the club’s philosophy, sanded purists all over the world when they were charged with referee bribery in 2023.


The Catalonian giants were charged with suspected referee bribery payments of over £7m to former vice president of the refereeing committee, José María Enríquez Negreira.


Barcelona denies any wrongdoing among a sea of other ongoing financial concerns.


4.  Juventus (2023)


Juventus, no strangers to accusations of financial irregularities and corruption, were handed a 15-point deduction in January 2023 after being found guilty of inflating transfer fees by Italian authorities.


In a case brought by the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), Juventus were found to have manipulated fees in their financial records for capital gains benefits, with the swap deal of Miralem Pjanic and Arthur Melo involving FC Barcelona as an example.