Man City case joins list of soccer’s biggest scandals

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A exterior shot of the stadium before the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, England, Wednesday, June 17, 2020. Manchester City has been accused of numerous breaches of the Premier League’s financial regulations between 2009-18. The period covers the first nine full seasons under the club’s Abu Dhabi ownership. City won the league on three occasions during that time in 2012, 2014 and 2018. (Peter Powell/Pool via AP, File)

Manchester City is not the first high-profile soccer club to be caught up in a scandal.

The Premier League has accused City of breaching a host of financial regulations, and the club could face a range of punishments including a fine or a deduction of points.

As City mounts its defense, The Associated Press takes a look at scandals that hit have Europe’s leading leagues.

FRANCE

Marseille was the dominant club in France and a rising force in Europe under flamboyant club president Bernard Tapie.

Marseille was playing Valenciennes in the league just six days before facing AC Milan in the European Cup final, and three Valenciennes were approached with bribes to throw the game. Tapie was convicted of rigging the match and later jailed.

On May 20, 1993, defender Jacques Glassmann, forward Christophe Robert and winger Jorge Burruchaga were asked via middleman Jean-Jacques Eydelie — a former midfielder — to go easy.

Robert, who went off early in the game, and Burruchaga, a World Cup winner with Argentina in 1986, accepted the money.

Glassmann refused and then blew the whistle on the plot. He was awarded the 1995 FIFA Fair Play Award.

Marseille beat Valenciennes and downed giant Milan 1-0 with a header from defender Basile Boli. Marseille remains the only French team to win the competition.

Prosecutors charged Eydelie, who confessed to arranging the phone conversation between Marseille general manager Jean-Pierre Bernès and the three players.

Robert’s wife, meanwhile, was charged with conspiracy after an envelope containing 250,000 francs (then about $43,000) was dug up from a back garden.

Marseille kept its Champions League title but wasn’t allowed to defend it. Marseille was stripped of its French league title, having won the previous four in a dominant era, and demoted to the second division.

Tapie, who died in 2021, was ordered to stand down and in 1997 he started an eight-month prison term.

Eydelie, Burruchaga, Robert were also sentenced to jail terms in a corruption scandal that sent shockwaves through French soccer. The club did not win the league again until 2010.

UEFA

European soccer’s governing body has a hit-and-miss record punishing clubs suspected of cheating.

Clubs alleged to have fixed games for betting scams in the Champions League qualifying rounds and the Europa League have been banned from UEFA competitions for up to 10 seasons.

In higher-profile cases, Anderlecht and Manchester City won at the Court of Arbitration for Sport to overturn European bans of one and two seasons, respectively. City’s case was regarding “Financial Fair Play” rules.

Anderlecht advanced to the 1984 UEFA Cup final by beating Nottingham Forest 3-0 after a two-goal loss in the first leg. In Brussels, a penalty awarded to Anderlecht and a disallowed stoppage-time goal for Forest raised suspicions.

In 1997, Belgian media and legal cases revealed Anderlecht’s president admitted paying the Spanish referee — who had since died in a car crash — 13 years earlier.

UEFA’s executive committee imposed a one-season ban from European competitions. Anderlecht won its appeal in 1998 when CAS ruled UEFA did not follow its proper judicial process.

In 2020, Man City overturned a two-year ban imposed by a UEFA-appointed club finance panel. CAS judges decided the allegations of inflating sponsorship deals and breaching “Financial Fair Play” rules were not proven or the evidence was time-barred.

UEFA has been on more solid ground in match-fixing cases. CAS upheld a 10-season ban for Skenderbeu from Albania, imposed in 2018, and an eight-season ban in 2009 for Pobeda of North Macedonia.

ITALY

Juventus again finds itself mired in scandal 17 years after one of the club’s darkest moments.

The storied Italian club was hit last month with a 15-point penalty deduction for false accounting, while several of its former directors were handed bans from soccer activities. Former president Andrea Agnelli was banned for two years.

Agnelli and the entire board of directors had resigned in November following an investigation by Turin prosecutors.

At the start of the pandemic, Juventus said 23 players agreed to reduce their salary for four months to help the club through the crisis. But prosecutors claim the players gave up only one month’s salary.

Juventus is appealing the Italian soccer federation’s decision, and a preliminary hearing for the investigation by Turin prosecutors is scheduled for March.

The move comes 17 years after the “Calciopoli” refereeing scandal that saw Juventus, a record 36-time Italian champion, demoted to Serie B and stripped of two Serie A titles. There were also points penalties for other clubs, including AC Milan and Lazio.

That shook Italian soccer but the Italy team restored some joy when it won the World Cup that year, just as it had done 24 year earlier following another scandal.

Italy great Paolo Rossi was banned for two years for his involvement in the 1980 betting scandal known as “Totonero” while he was at Perugia.

Rossi, who always professed his innocence, was bought by Juventus in 1981 and returned from his suspension at the end of the 1981-82 season — just in time for the World Cup.

There he scored a hat trick against Brazil, two against Poland in the semifinal and the opening goal against West Germany to help Italy win the final.

Rossi was named player of the tournament and he also went on to win the Ballon d’Or that year.

SPAIN

In 2019, more than 40 people were accused of fixing the Spanish league game between Levante and Zaragoza at the end of the 2010-11 season. Among those acquitted was former México coach Javier Aguirre, who now is with Mallorca. Two former Zaragoza officials were convicted of fraud and given a 15-month prison sentence.

A year later, a former director of Spanish club Osasuna said the team made payments to fix Spanish league results. The payments were allegedly made to try to keep Osasuna in the first division both in 2012-13 and 2013-14.

GERMANY

A soccer scandal in the shadow of the Cold War shook up the Bundesliga in 1965 and led to one of the worst-ever seasons by any top-division team.

West German club Hertha Berlin had a problem. Players didn’t want to sign for a club based in West Berlin, half of a divided city that was surrounded by communist-run East Germany. Hertha solved that problem with secret extra payments to players and was relegated as punishment — though allegations persist that other clubs had similar schemes that went unpunished.

Political pressure for West Berlin to be represented in the Bundesliga led to woefully unprepared Tasmania Berlin being given a place just before the new season began. Tasmania scored just 15 goals all season, conceded 108 and held one game at the Olympiastadion with just 827 fans, meaning the huge arena was about 1% full.

Germany’s biggest scandal in the last decade came when Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness was sentenced to prison for large-scale tax evasion in 2014. He was re-elected as Bayern president in 2016 following his release.

-AP

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