New evidence emerges in sports subsidy scandal embroiling Czech football

Photo: pixel2013, Pixabay / CC0

Fresh evidence has emerged in a sports subsidy scandal over which former Czech Football Association chairman Miroslav Pelta is facing criminal prosecution, alongside a widening array of alleged accomplices, including association, club, and former education ministry officials.

Miroslav Pelta,  photo: Adam Kebrt,  Czech Radio
Czech Radio’s flagship news station Radiožurnal has uncovered potentially damning documents from 2015, the year in which the suspect subsidies in question were distributed. They show the lion’s share of 100 million crowns which should have gone to children’s sports clubs and facilities, went to a handful of other entities.

The internal Czech Football Association documents show the biggest single amounted awarded went to groups close to former association head Miroslav Pelta; his powerful deputy chairman, Roman Berbr, current head of the Pilsen regional football union; and to the home team of former minister of education Marcel Chládek.

The latter case, not been previously reported on, concerns Nove Strašecí, one of 80 fourth division clubs. Somehow, they were allocated a subsidy of 1 million when 75 clubs got nothing at all, and four received subsidies amounting to tens of thousands of crowns.

Photo: pixel2013,  Pixabay / CC0
So why was Nové Strašecí the only one to be awarded such a large subsidy? Former club head Vladimír Kozel told Radiožurnal he cannot recall any details.

“I don’t know. I have absolutely no idea. Someone must have filed an application for a subsidy because they gave it to us. But I really can’t say. It’s great that we got it. But to say someone influenced the process – certainly not.”

Although Nové Strašecí had no youth project, they got money from a subsidy programme aimed at promoting children’s sport. But Mr. Kozel rejected any suggestions of favouritism, though the club chairman was an assistant to Marcel Chládek, the Minister of Education, Youth and Sports – who oversaw subsidies.

Marcel Chládek,  photo: Filip Jandourek,  Czech Radio
“No, he didn’t influence any decisions. He went to observe the process. But he didn’t influence anything. At least I don’t think so. Maybe I’m naïve. But that’s how it was.”

Mr Kozel also couldn’t say how three first division players came to join Nove Strašecí that year, saving the team from relegation to a regional division.

But current club chairman Martin Hrbek notes that the former education minister built a home in Nové Strašecí, where has lived since being pushed out of office in 2015 allegedly for routinely bullying subordinates.

“Marcel Chládek had big plans for the town. He wanted Nove Strašecí to advance to a higher division. He wanted to build sports facilities for children, a new football pitch and so on. He also tried to help us secure sponsors.”

Police are expanding their investigation into the subsidy scandal. They allege Mr. Pelta supplied a free Prague apartment to a deputy minister of education with whom he agreed to divvy up spoils from the subsidies programme. According to Radiožurnal, new evidence shows clubs owned by him and Roman Berbr each got millions in subsidies under dubious circumstances.