So the footballing authorities are corrupt eh, who would have bet on that? I doubt you would have got very good odds with Titanbet on that one. Well ask any Leeds fan and I’m sure they would tell you that they have known that for a long time. Last weeks revelations that seven FIFA officials had been arrested in Zurich and a further seven indicted on corruption charges in a US inquiry came nearly forty years to the day since the 1975 European Cup final at the Parc des Princes. A final shrouded in controversy, a final where Leeds United were cheated out of the biggest prize in club football. But it’s not the first or only time that Leeds United can feel aggrieved at their treatment by those supposedly responsible for the game.
1919; Association football was a late starter in Leeds but since 1905 the city was represented in the Football League by Leeds City FC. During the First World War competitive football was suspended in England though regional competitions with guest players were arranged. Following the cessation of war the Football League looked to rearrange the league structure, Arsenal would have missed out on a place in the new first division and their chairman and MP Henry Norris argued the case for a ballot to decide who would take up the additional position. Arsenal won the vote with eighteen votes though many people were of the opinion Norris had bribed his fellow chairmen to vote in his favour, Arsenal had bought their way into the league.
The 1919 season kicked off and City were towards the top of the table but on 7th October 1919 the fans received a big shock as Leeds City were suspended by the Football League. The reason for the suspension? During the war all players were deemed ‘amateur’ and as such could be paid legitimate expenses and no more, the issue was that City had paid ‘excessive’ expenses to players during this time. It all came to a head when a disgruntled player, Charlie Copeland, made allegations of these illegal payments to the authorities. On 13th October 1919 a Football League Committee of Inquiry announced that Leeds City were to be expelled from the Football League and on 17th October the players were auctioned off at the Hotel Metropole.
Leeds City were replace in the league by Port Vale who took on their results, league position and remaining fixtures. Leeds City remain the only club to be expelled from the League mid-season, and the only ones to be expelled from the League due to financial irregularities. They can feel hard done to as well as although not allowed paying ‘excessive’ expenses to payers during the war period was common place. Within hours of the player auction hundreds gathered at the Salem Hall in Hunslet to sow the seeds of the formation of Leeds United.
1973; In an interview with Norman Hunter regarding the European Cup Winners Cup Final in Salonica he describes amazement as the referee for the match Christos Michas strolled off the plane with the AC Milan squad. Luciano Chiarugi scored the only goal of the game in the fifth minute, direct from an indirect fee kick, Michas allowed the goal to stand. He also let several obvious fouls against Leeds players go unpunished. The accusation was that Michas had friends with deep pockets at Milan and he was subsequently investigated by his own football association on suspicion that he had been bribed by Milan. He was later banned by UEFA from referring international matches. Those who were at the match on the delay knew what had happened, the local fans pelted Milan with missiles as they attempted a lap of honour.
1975; Forty years ago on 28th May 1975 perhaps the most famous injustice our club has faced occurred in Paris. Leeds played Bayern Munich in the European Cup Final, what was to have been the greatest night in Leeds United’s history turned into a nightmare. There has much been written about this night, some detailed match reports, but as in 1973 it hinged around some very dubious refereeing decisions. Leeds had dominated the game and were ‘unlucky’ not to have been awarded two penalties, both involving Franz Beckenbauer. The first a hand ball to take the ball away from Peter Lorimer, the second Alan Clarke had his legs taken from under him as he bore down on goal just before half time. The referee, Michel Kitabdjian, gave nothing.
The second half was no better, Leeds were still on top but decisions still went against them. On sixty six minutes Peter Lorimer unleashed a trademark screamer past Sepp Maier, the goal was ruled out as Billy Bremner had judged to have been off-side. The referee had initially given the goal but after Beckenbauer protested to the linesman the decision was overturned. Minutes later against the run of play Franz Roth gave Baynern the lead. Leeds were shell shocked, 10 minutes later they were two down, cheated out of European glory yet again.
2007; In May 2007 Ken Bates placed Leeds United into administration and incurred a 10 point points deduction. Relegation to League One was already fairly certain but this secured our fate. Despite their being five offers on the table for Leeds United it was Ken Bates who regained control of the club when it emerged from administration with 75% of the creditors votes. HMRC challenged the CVA decision and after the resulting bidding process KPMG revealed that Ken Bates had been chosen again. The league sanctioned the sale without a CVA under their "exceptional circumstances rule" however the imposed a 15 point penalty on Leeds.
There is no question that Ken Bates had played the system, the issue the fans took was that the points deduction was so arbitrary. It seemed like a punishment solely made up for the purpose of punishing Leeds United. It did not punish Ken Bates, he was still fit to run a football club apparently, what it did was punish the team and the fans. And I think that’s the point that sticks with me over this whole FIFA corruption issue. It’s always the fans that suffer. The spirit of the game has been lost, jumpers for goalposts, it’s not about TV rights, sponsorship, bidding, money and backhanders. The administrators no longer administrate they embezzle and the game has been taken from the fans.
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FIFA corrupt! Who’d have thought?