PtG Article 31.01.2007

Scandal upon scandal in Macedonian football

Imagine a country where football clubs have not legally registered their players, where the national football federation has ordered thousands of jerseys and shorts with false PUMA trade marks and the top official in the federation has obtained his job with a false university degree. If media reports are to believed this country is Macedonia.

Over the past month, local media in the small Balkan republic of Macedonia have exposed football scandal upon football scandal,

In the beginning of January - a website dedicated  to inform football fans and journalist with professionally researched news in English about South-Eastern European  football  - reported what  a team of inspectors from  the government’s labour inspection body found out when they visited the 12 teams in the Macedonian First League.

Seven out of the 12 clubs did not have a single player registered as a professional player although all players in the Macedonian First League are playing professionally. The players are instead playing illegally, they do not have contracts and the clubs are not paying social insurance for them. 

According to the website, the Football Federation of Macedonia (FFM) has given up taking action against the clubs because to be effective they would have to close down almost all of the clubs.

At the end of January picked up a story from the Macedonian daily sports paper ”Makedonski Sport” which could reveal that the  FFM had ordered 4500 football kits with false PUMA trade marks from a sports equipment factory in Prilep. Part of the equipment has already been distributed among youth training centres in Macedonia.

Puma is the official sponsor of the Macedonian national football teams but the company has nevertheless taken out a lawsuit against the FFM after receiving samples of the false equipment.

UEFA and FIFA calls investigations for interference

The third scandal has made it into the international media spotlight as it has involved UEFA and FIFA.

The story began when police in Macedonia decided to investigate persistent rumours in Macedonian media that the secretary general of the FFM had forged a university diploma in order to obtain his post. The police closed down and searched the FFM offices on 15 January and questioned  some of its managers for hours at the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

A week later UEFA and FIFA wrote the Macedonian Minister of Internal Affairs complaining that Macedonia had violated the principles of autonomy that applies throughout the sports movement.

”FIFA and UEFA are asking the Macedonian government to bring the situation back to normal and to immediately stop interfering in the running of the football association,” the statement read.

But the Macedonian Ministry of Internal Affairs maintains that the police was acting in accordance with its legal authorisation to combat corruption. It sees no reason for complaint when state institutions perform the job they are set up to do.

”We expect support from the FFM management in the efforts of clearing up the issues,” the Ministry replied in a statement quoted by the Macedonian news agency Makfax.

Makfax also reports that the police has now charged Lazar Mitrovski, the secretary general of FFM, for suspected use of a forged university diploma from the Electro-Technical Faculty of Sarajevo University during his selection in 2003 where a university degree was one of the conditions that the candidates had to meet to become secretary general. Mitrovski is also charged with destroying the diploma out of fear for being found out.