Foul play: Parliament hearing looks at role of big money in football 


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The beautiful game is sometimes marred by shady financial dealings. A Parliament committee held a meeting with experts to find out more about money's role in football.

Football Leaks is a whistle-blower website revealing data from the football industry. In 2016 Football Leaks collaborated with Der Spiegel and journalistic project European Investigative Collaborations on a number of stories covering murky schemes and tax avoidance in European football and beyond.

“The amount of money involved in sport, especially in soccer, is huge and there are clearly sophisticated ways for trying to avoid taxes,”said Czech ALDE member Petr Ježek at the hearing. The MEP wrote the committee's final recommendations together with Danish S&D member Jeppe Kofod, which MEPs will vote on in plenary befor ethe end of the year.

Investigative journalist Merijn Rengers from Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad gave MEPs an overview of the European Investigative Collaborations' main findings. He explained that when questions were asked to representatives of the football industry, the answer was that it maybe be strange in the outside world but “you know, this is soccer, for us this is the way it goes, this is how we’ve been doing it the whole professional career”.

The journalist also the issue of taxes.  “We found out that the biggest clubs, the biggest players, the biggest agents - pretty much everyone were using tax structures to channel money out of sight of tax authorities. It’s epidemic,” Rengers said.

Spanish S&D member Juan Fernando López Aguilar told the hearing:  “It is not only the amount [of money] that is huge but there are also huge networks of individuals involved, in order to move different funds through different shady means to different tax heavens."

Kimberly Morris, from Fifa’s transfer matching system, described how players’ transfers are monitored across the globe. Uefa’s legal counsel Julien Zylberstein explained among others the merits of the financial fair play rule introduced in 2010, while Gregor Reiter introduced the work of the European Football Agents Association.

The meeting was chaired by German EPP member Werner Langen.