Once again this has not been a good week for football. No less than four stories have hit the front pages this week, all highlighting the seedier side of the not so beautiful game.
The HMRC investigation into alleged tax fraud resulted in dawn raids at Newcastle United and at West Ham United, as well as the arrest of the Newcastle United Managing Director. Media reports are hinting that this may be the first of many such actions by HMRC as they look into the financial conduct of some of the UK’s highest profile clubs.
David Moyes, the manager of relegation certainties Sunderland, has been charged with misconduct by the FA after his comments about slapping a female BBC reporter. It’s not the first time a Sunderland manager has hit the headlines for the wrong reasons, in 2013 the club appointed Paolo Di Canio despite his well known support for Fascism.
Craig Whyte, a former owner of Rangers, is on trial in Glasgow for fraud offences relating to his takeover of the club. The trial is still at an early stage, but already has made public some pretty shady goings on which one fears are not unique to the Ibrox club.
Then there is Burnley’s Joey Barton who has been handed an 18 month ban by the FA over his betting on matches, many of them games in which he was actually playing. In mitigation, Barton has pointed out that Burnley is one of many clubs sponsored by bookmakers.
While I do not for one minute condone Barton’s behaviour, you have to admit that he has a point. Many clubs have the name of a bookmaker prominently on their shirts and the commercial breaks during TV football are dominated by ads for online betting apps. Only yesterday Ladbrokes announced the £4m renewal of their deal to be the main sponsor of the Scottish League.
Every time I think that the image of football cannot be damaged any further, the not so beautiful game always manages to prove me wrong. If football doesn’t clean up its act it will soon find that sponsors will start to walk away. No business, even bookmakers, will want to be associated with a sport that has a reputation for shenanigans.