Interview with »Football Leaks«

»We’ve got more than 500 GB of documents«

»Football leaks« publishes secret documents and contracts. Due to their revelations, dutch club Twente got banned and Gareth Bale »became« the most expensive player in history. Here the group speaks out in a long interview.

imago/ Football Leaks

Who is behind »Football leaks«?

We prefer not to go in to such details. Our project is shaking everything from top to bottom, so as you can guess we are creating a lot of enemies, powerful people within the business. And for them transparency in football is a problem.

Reports say you are a group from Portugal. Is that correct?
Yes, we are from Portugal.

When was your organization »founded«?

We decided to start all this back in September 2015, and our main goal at the time was to expose all the lies and controversies within Portuguese clubs. Last summer’s transfer market was the most intense ever in Portugal, there were some shocking transfers, for example Jorge Jesus move from Benfica to Sporting, controversy and many unanswered questions, mostly involving Sporting Lisbon. We decided to help the people understand what really happened so we focused on unmasking that. And fortunately we were able to go even further thanks to our sources. 

Some sites compared you to the likes of Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers. What do you think of it and what are your aims?

All we want is transparency in the sport we all love. Some clubs have no respect for the fans, everything is a taboo; the players wages, transfer contracts, secret clauses, intermediates, etc. The clubs hide everything. In our opinion NBA is a good example of transparency, there are no secrets. Everyone knows how much a specific player or coach earns, and they themselves do not hide it. That’s what football needs.

Contracts and agreements between two parties are not intended to be shared for the public – whether it is in football or elsewhere.
If everyone would think like that there would be no Wikileaks, Luxleaks, Offshore leaks, etc. Everyone would still live in a lie… Football is losing a lot of credibility, the total lack of transparency and the huge amount of undisclosed fees are disrespectful for the fans, so someone had to do something. Fortunately by putting these files online we are finally making an impact across the world, and people are starting to discuss more about those topics. We all want the same. A more transparent a credible sport.

It seems that Third-Party-Ownership is your main topic. If so, how come?

In our opinion there is huge lack of information surrounding those Investment funds. Their existence inside football raises important issues in terms of potential conflicts of interests and match fixing. And of course there’s the risk of money laundering and other criminal activities. Those funds only have a financial interest, which clearly leads to contractual instability between football clubs and players.

Is there any proof for money laundering yet?

We don’t want to accuse anyone without enough evidence, but, for example, Doyen’s structure seems prone to money laundering.

You gained popularity for the first time when you published contracts of Doyen and Twente. Is it an emblematic case of TPO-rule violation?
 Yes, that’s an emblematic case. It shows the damaging interferences of TPO in football clubs policy together with a criminal mismanagement and an irresponsible president. What Doyen Sports do is totally criminal and harmful for the clubs. If you analyze all their Economic Rights Participation Agreement (ERPA), not only with Twente, but with several clubs, you will see they take advantage of cash-strapped clubs and impose unfair terms on the clubs. That’s what we can call ‘loan sharking’. Nevertheless those agreements probably breach the FIFA Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players article 18bis. Most of the clubs involved in those agreements can be in deep trouble and possibly face a FIFA sanction.

In one document it is said that Twente had to compensate 50 percent of the refused offer for a player whose transfer rights shares lay in the hands of Doyen. But how would Doyen find out about a certain offer and it`s details for a player?

Because usually Doyen is the one searching for offers, and when they present it to the club, they have no other choice than to sell the player. Doyen’s contracts usually contain aggressive clausules, similar to loansharking.

So investors could have actually put clubs under pressure to sell the players?

Unfortunately that’s common, and happens behind the curtain. Investors place the players in certain clubs with the promise that in 1 or 2 years they can move them again to bigger clubs. That’s profitable for the investment funds and their fellow agents.

The selling of transfer rights to private investors often is an „open secret“ in football. How does this openness correspond with the prohibition of exactly that action in international football regulations?

In Europe Third Party Investment deals are still happening behind the curtain but nowadays disguised as »Scouting Agreements« and »Intermediary Agreements«. There’s still a lot of money circulating behind the curtain, and not even FIFA has the slight idea of what’s going on. The growing influence of player agents, and the use of offshore corporations continues to be very problematic.

Could you tell us how much Doyen has earned from its engagement and share investments in transfer rights during the past five years?

More than 70 million euros, according to their internal documents.