Panama Papers Reveal Further Link Between Football and Corruption

By | April 5, 2016


Photo Credit: International Consortium of Investigative Journalists


This week the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists released the Panama Papers. The Panama Papers are a massive list of records that were leaked from a Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca, illuminating a large network of offshore holdings from high ranking foreign leaders and wealthy individuals. These offshore accounts reveal ties to tax evasion and corruption of the wealthiest and most powerful individuals in the world.

Although FIFA recently had an election and vowed to clean up the bribery and corruption scandal that it faced earlier this year, the football world was pulled back into the corruption spotlight with the Panama Papers. The documents exposed league officials, team owners, sports agents, players, and football clubs that used these offshore entities to hold their money.

Football Officials

The Panama Papers show that 4 of the 16 FIFA officials that were indicted in the corruption scandal earlier this year were also listed in the leaked documents; the documents revealed that they had offshore companies linked to illegal activity. Most notably included in this list is Michel Platini, one of the biggest French football figures.


 A large array of players from many different countries including Brazil, Uruguay, and Great Britain were also included in the leaked documents. The information now available points to these players using mostly offshore companies to hold money earned from advertisers and image rights deals. The most notable player included is Lionel Messi and his father (Messi’s agent as well). Messi, arguably the greatest football player in history, is now under major scrutiny. Other well known players named in the files include Leonardo Ulloa, a star on Leister City, and Ivan Zamorano, a famous retired footballer from Chile.

Real Sociedad

 The team was exposed in the secret document leak for having paid its players using offshore companies. It appears that this was a way for the players and the club to avoid paying taxes to the Spanish government. For example, the files revealed that Darko Kovacevic got paid $1.4 million for the 2006-2007 season although contradictory evidence points to him being a salary of $2,000 a month.

Conclusion/Why this Matters?

 It is clear that football has become a business, but the game should not be tainted by corruption. Although other sports such as hockey and golf were linked to these Panama Papers, football is a much more important global game in the world. “The beautiful game” is the most widely played game in the world. It makes me disappointed to see further corruption in football once again highlighted. There is no excuse for Lionel Messi, who makes millions and millions of dollars, to hide his money in secret places to avoid taxes. What type of role model is he playing for other aspiring football players? It also makes me question how the link between football and criminal activity. The business of sports will only grow in the future, and I hope that individuals involved in the wonderful game of football will learn from others’ mistakes and clean up the immoral activity associated with the game.





Bomey, Nathan. “Panama Papers Read like Who’s Who of World Power.”USA Today. Gannett, 04 Apr. 2016. Web. 05 Apr. 2016.

Rivlin, Gary, Marcos Garcia Rey, and Michael Hudson. “Leak Ties Ethics Guru to Three Men Charged in FIFA Scandal.” The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The Center for Public Integrity, 03 Apr. 2016. Web. 05 Apr. 2016.

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