The Barcelona Prosecutor’s Office has accused Negreira, the former presidents of Barça Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu, their directors Óscar Grau and Albert Soler, and FC Barcelona itself, as a legal entity, for a continuous crime of corruption in business , in its modality of sports fraud, another of unfair administration and another of false commercial documents. It is the first time that an event of these characteristics has occurred in Spain, and the credibility of the football industry, an industry with a license of marque, is called into question. Even Real Madrid has mobilized and will present itself as a private prosecution, breaking that unwritten alliance with Barcelona to forge the Super League.

If we analyze some of the most striking cases that have affected well-known players in recent years, we see that the yardstick of public opinion is very different when comparing football to other sectors. Scandals and controversies in the world of football have been rife in recent years, including cases of gender violence, extortion and match-fixing. However, it does not seem that they have had serious consequences on the reputation of the figures of this sport. The general feeling is that football is measured with other parameters, compared to other industries with less emotional or identity component.

The examples that can serve as a sample button are numerous. Dani Alves’ prison sentence for sexual assault has been just the latest in a long list of incidents. Before, Maradona has received massive tributes and tributes in life and death, although there was evidence that he had assaulted his ex-partner and even that he had had sexual relations with minors. There are several documentaries about him, including two recent ones from HBO and Amazon. The truth is that, although some lurid aspects appear, his figure is viewed sympathetically, as is the case with singers and other popular culture figures who gloss over his figure.

Benzema was (and still is) considered one of the great stars of Real Madrid and the French team, he has won the Ballon d’Or and is an Adidas icon, although he was convicted of extorting a teammate. Ryan Giggs maintains the status of Manchester United legend, although he is being prosecuted for gender violence. Italy’s Juventus shirts never went out of sight when you traveled the world, despite the calciopoli, a scandal consisting basically in the purchase of referees in the Italian League. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have been guilty of tax fraud and have continued to win awards, Ballon d’Ors and getting sponsors. Ronaldo, despite his sporting decline, is still the highest paid Instagrammer in the world, above Hollywood stars.

In the summer of 2021, the off the record [private audios] of Florentino Pérez were revealed, insulting some legends of the institution. Despite the fact that all the club did was publish some tweets and a press release announcing demands on the journalist, the scandal resulted in some nice supportive memes from fans of the Madrid president. The insulted players hardly protested, and the management of the president -by dint of works and titles, everything must be said- continues to be undisputed. The journalistic union exploited the audios, but their criticisms were quite lukewarm in the end. Somewhat later, the relative fiasco of his leadership and his support for the European Super League did not have any major consequences either. In fact, his credibility remains the same, even as a gentleman and a man of good manners.

The evidence that the Barcelona Prosecutor’s Office has presented against FC Barcelona, ​​for controlling and manipulating the appointment of referees in the Spanish League for two decades and four boards of directors, is certainly generating a stir in the media, but no one is known who has stopped being a fan or partner because of it. Nor is there any sponsor or sponsor who has withdrawn their support from a company that would have violated the Law and obtained titles perhaps undeservedly. There is still much more talk about the leadership of Barcelona, ​​the games at the end of La Liga over the weekend, or the Champions League qualifiers.

What is this wide sleeve due to? A filmmaker, artist or politician who is convicted of sexual harassment is cancelled. There are the cases of Woody Allen, Louis C.K., Bill Cosby or Harvey Weinstein. Honors are withdrawn, sometimes the product (case of Netflix with Louis C.K.) and attention. At the time, and due to tax issues, Ingmar Bergman or Gerard Depardieu suffered attacks from public opinion in their countries, for changing tax residence to pay less taxes. Does anyone remember the last time Messi or Ronaldo’s tax fraud was discussed?

Now that Ferrovial’s decision to leave Spain is being talked about so much, one wonders why there isn’t more talk about football clubs’ maneuvering to pay less tax, and the kinds of contracts they sign with players for this reason. . Football companies seem, however, to be less vulnerable to the weight of public and published opinion than a construction company. In any industry other than football, a president or CEO who violates the Law suffers the consequences if it is shown that, under his mandate, fraudulent payments have been made to corrupt the authorities.

Many considerations can be made in this regard, but what is obvious is that soccer works with a different set of rules than any industry or sport. After all, it’s panem et circenses. Who can deny the influence of Milan’s sporting successes on the career of Silvio Berlusconi, who won elections and made a fortune in business at the same time. In a de facto post-Christian world; From practical atheism, as Benedict XVI would say, in which religion has been almost restricted to the symbolic order, soccer has become a civil religion. Attacking football is almost like attacking God. The relationship and communication that the protagonists of the football industry maintain with the fans has an ontological, devotional nature. Here are the examples of the inhabitants of those cities who demonstrate when their flagship clubs are at risk of disappearing, as happened with Real Oviedo in 2012 or Real Huelva in 2015.

In a world that is increasingly unequal and in which parallel societies in lifestyles coexist in the same nation states, soccer is practically the only transversal and interclass movement of the masses that we have left. Although in the stadiums, due to the high price of tickets, it is difficult for people from all social strata to meet, it is true that the substitute that constitutes television broadcasts remains, which can be considered great collective communions. In a clearly fragmented media landscape, the large television audiences capable of gathering 12 or 13 million viewers have been reduced to the big football events.

Soccer is one of the few symbolic elements that gives carnality to nation states, increasingly threatened by ways of life and global values ​​that question loyalty to a fellow countryman, perceived as retrograde or out of fashion in almost every other sphere. The soccer World Cup is one of the few occasions in which it is legitimized to display the Spanish flags, a patriotism without nuances, tribal. Football is, first and foremost, a source of identity and continuity in a world where everything is a commodity, where personal and institutional ties are increasingly fragile. In fact, it could be argued that it is more difficult for a person to change soccer teams than it is to change their spouse, sex, name, or religion.

And in the positive order, in a world in which few areas escape the criteria of efficiency and monetization, soccer is one of the few loopholes that remain in public life for human error with a capital letter. An arbitration ruling is still a management error. And some directors who, presumably, influence arbitration decisions, let’s not say. Despite everything, life goes on the same. And the ship goes

César García Muñoz is a professor at ESIC University.

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