Soccer’s backroom business is often shrouded in complete mystery. What goes into transfers; their inner workings, machinations and politicking are often beyond the bounds of even the most reputable journalists. Until recently, only the Secret Footballer provided any intimate detail on the underground world of transfers, and even those were outlines minus any names or clubs.
That is until a website named Football Leaks came about. It’s a rather plain website, complete with an outdated year and WordPress still clearly visible in the URL. If one wanted to start up a WordPress blog parodying Football Leaks with the same design, observers might not be able to spot the difference.
But, this is one book that shouldn’t be judged by its cover. The website has thrown Dutch club Vitesse (Chelsea’s farm team) into chaos over once secret transfer dealings and has leaked the transfer contracts for Gareth Bale, Radamel Falcao and now Mesut Ozil to the public eye. Even forgetting the unearthing of the details hidden inside these documents, this is a site with boundless power to change the game as we know it. Even the Secret Footballer is blushing.
Keeping a secret in the modern media world of 2016 is almost impossible, and Football Leaks’ mission is to bring transparency to a sport that bathed in shadows and secrecy from its infancy. FIFA is being radically transformed because of all of its dirty laundry being made public, and now clubs and agents are feeling the same heat.
This leaves us with a couple of questions: Why are these documents so secretive to begin with and what can this one website do to change the game?
As ever, dealing with confidential information has meant they are rapidly coming under fire. “We are not talking by phone or in person, we are making huge enemies in the game, so we need to be very careful …,” the people behind the site told The Times recently. “The Big Bosses in Turkey and Kazakhstan are really angry, and they want to silence us as fast as possible, so people can understand that we are taking huge risks.”
The website is based in Portugal, but its servers are based in Russia, making it nigh on impossible for EU authorities to go after them. And while in many cases that can provide headaches for authorities trying to snuff out illegal activity, this one detail allows Football Leaks to keep operating even if more and more bosses in the game have the site on their hit list.
But their mission at the core is to bring transparency to a game at a fundamental level. How do transfers really work? What is really going on behind the scenes? When clubs publish financial statements, there is often work done behind the scenes to creatively change the numbers, and most clubs, federations and agents have no reason to publish any information, nor are they compelled by any means. In an era when secrecy and shady dealings are getting massive spotlights shone on them, a site in the mold of Football Leaks seemed inevitable. Someone very brave had reason to leak these documents to them, and everyone should read them (even if it means going through a few nasty popups to view them).
Everyone wants transfers to be more transparent and open, but up until now, there has been no reason to bring that to the forefront. Now the pressure on clubs and agents is increasing. The demand for information is skyrocketing, and they can take the opportunity to make sites like Football Leaks worthless if they published some of the information themselves. Why are clubs being punished by FFP if the average supporter has no idea what the books look like? How are they supposed to follow transfers and see exactly where the money is going? Football as an industry is only getting bigger, and the money flying around in just transfers alone is obscene. Supporters have a right to know where some of their money is going.
But until there are wider changes inside the boardrooms at FIFA, clubs and in agencies, sites like Football Leaks are needed to underline just what the public doesn’t know, and how criminal it is that we don’t know 75% of what goes on behind the scenes. Not everything needs to be public, but more than contract length and undisclosed fee should be known, and especially what entities get what chunk of these massive fees paid.
The site’s secondary heading reads, “Football and TPO whistleblowing.” Short and simple, and as it turns out, revolutionary.
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