Czech soccer rocked by arrest of FA chief on corruption allegations

Miroslav Pelta, photo: CTK

The head of the Czech Football Association, Miroslav Pelta, has been questioned by police after he and a number of other people were arrested over corruption allegations. Czech soccer is often in the news for the wrong reasons – but is this its biggest scandal yet?

Miroslav Pelta,  photo: CTK
On Wednesday police raided the headquarters of the Czech Football Association at Prague’s Strahov, arresting FA chairman Miroslav Pelta.

At the same time, officers swooped on Prague City Hall, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports and Jablonec football club, which is owned by Mr. Pelta.

Alongside the FA chief, they arrested a prominent Prague politician, the head of the Czech Union of Sport and a deputy minister of education. They also questioned Minister Kateřina Valachová.

According to the supreme state attorney, Lenka Bradáčová, the case centres on the alleged abuse of ministry subsidies.

Media reports suggest the sums involved could be in the hundreds of millions. The investigation has been linked to the renovation of a stadium in Prague.

Scandal is nothing new in Czech football and fans have become used to the sport also finding its way to the front pages. But how does this latest situation compare to previous affairs? That’s a question I put to journalist Michal Petrák of the newspaper Sport.

“We don’t know yet. Before, most of the scandals were connected with bribery, or something to do with referees or such.

“This time it is a scandal that can reach into higher echelons. Yesterday even the minister of education and sports was interrogated by the police.

Police car in front of the Czech Football Association headquarters in Prague,  photo: CTK
“So we really don’t know the scale that this scandal can reach, but I think it can be a big one.”

Miroslav Pelta – who has been in the post since 2011 – is due to stand again for the chairmanship of the Czech FA next month. At present there are no other candidates. So given this dramatic situation, what happens now? Michal Petrák again:

“I think anything can happen. I think Pelta can be elected. I have no ideals about Czech football. The delegates of the general [FA] meeting, or the election, are used to scandals in football. They are thick-skinned, as you say.

“So I think it is very possible they can elect Pelta, even though the police are investigating his business.”

The weekly Respekt has reported that charges have been filed against Miroslav Pelta and two others. However, this was unconfirmed at the time of writing.

Meanwhile, said that another candidate may now stand against Mr. Pelta.