Special ombudsman may be introduced to help “clean up” Czech football

Ivan Hašek, photo: Tomáš Adamec

The head of the Czech-Moravian Football Association has said he is considering a new idea to help combat corruption and injustice in Czech football - the office of a new football ombudsman. The FA head, who was elected in the summer with a strong mandate to “clean up” the sport, has received a slew of complaints on his desk, addressing a number of issues including charges of allegedly corrupt refereeing, questions which a football ombudsman might be better suited to address.

So far the idea is only in its early stages, FA head Ivan Hašek has made clear, but already many in football are saying ‘why not?’ to a football ombudsman. Someone who could be useful in addressing complaints in a sport often tainted by accusations of corruption. Wednesday’s Mladá fronta Dnes reported that Hašek first broached the idea of such an ombudsman with a fellow official on Monday – and since then the idea, at least in the media, has gained traction.

Mladá fronta points out that there are numerous issues and incidents which could be addressed, citing a recent match between lower league clubs Hluboká nad Vltavou and Bavorov as a case in point. The match, which the daily described as “Pythonesque”, saw the referee handed out ten yellow cards and four red – but only to one side, raising questions over bias and intent. Could an ombudsman help? I put that question to journalist for the Czech daily Sport Stanislav Hrabě.

“It’s not a standard approach and I can’t think of any other football association, UEFA or FIFA, which would have an ombudsman’s office. But, if there is a chance it will help it’s worth trying. In my view the ombudsman would not necessarily be as important in resolving disputes from on-the-pitch, where there are already mechanisms in place. He could help in cases which can not easily be resolved due to clashes over legislation. Ivan Hašek is a lawyer and he knows that regulations can sometimes ‘roll over’ justice; an ombudsman could address such problems.”

Ivan Hašek, photo: Tomáš Adamec
According to Stanislav Hrabě, in the past existing legislation was often manipulated by different parties in power struggles within the association, something an ombudsman could shed a clear light on in the future. Overall, the person in the post could help raise morale within the leagues by bringing greater transparency to the sport. Who might be eligible? FA head Ivan Hašek is far from tipping his hand yet. But, journalist Stanislav Hrabě says there is one name that might be considered:

“One person who has already sort of been mentioned is Rudolf Baťa - the former FA general secretary. On the other hand, it should be someone with experience in law.”

It should be mentioned that the football ombudsman’s office would not just be one man: there would be several assistants or advisors who could help in cases. Now it remains a question whether Hašek will move forward with the plan. As Stanislav Hrabě says and others seem to agree, the state of Czech football is such that introducing a new ombudsman is worth a shot.