Trust the ‘lies’ not the truth!

4 08 2009

Honesty is not the best policy. Not in the secretive world of the football transfer market. In that world something more like poker is the best policy, with everyone keeping their cards close to their chest in case the opposition figures out what you’ve got and what you want.

Which would explain why Benfica publicly denied being in for Cruzeiro’s Brazilian midfielder Ramires on May 21st, and then announced his €7.5m signing on May 22nd.

Fine by me, mostly because I’ve learned not to trust anything a football team says when it comes to transfers (remember the Ronaldo to Real Madrid deal, where Fergie “wouldn’t sell them a virus” even though a deal was already in place?).

But the Portuguese stock market regulator CMVM took exception, and has fined Benfica €40,000 for telling porky pies.

“On May 21, 2009 at 21.18 Benfica released a statement in which they denied the existence of negotiations with Cruzeiro Esporte Clube for the purchase of the player Ramires,” a CMVM statement read.

“CMVM finds that the communication of Benfica contained untrue information as they were, at that time, in talks regarding the acquisition of Ramires’ playing rights.”

It’s an odd story, but makes a lot of sense. If football teams want to operate as a business and trade shares on the stock market, then they should be expected to disclose information just like any other business.

And it’s nice to know someone was paying attention. As Brooks at Dirty Tackle asks:

This does set an awesome precedent, though. Why can’t FIFA have the power to fine clubs over the lies they tell about their transfer interests? Can we just put the Portuguese stock market in charge of FIFA?

The one fairly major downside here is that Benfica actually got off pretty lightly. According to this translated version of the CMVM’s decision the fine could have been anywhere from €25,000 to €2.5m.

(sidenote: This comes about a year after Porto were fined just €150,000 and docked just six points (allowing them to keep the Liga title) as a result of the Apito Dourado (Golden Whistle) investigation. So seems Portugal is only prepared to punish its big teams with a gentle wrap on the knuckles, nothing more.)

And don’t get too excited. This probably won’t lead to a new era of transfer market transparency. Seems to me that the big difference between Benfica’s lie and Man Utd’s was that Benfica issued an official statement from the club, while Man Utd’s claim that Ronaldo was going nowhere came through Alex Ferguson. So managers will continue to lie to us, even if clubs can’t.

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