Criminal Hacker Behind Manchester City Ban

by Anoushka Mahendra-Rajah

Rui Pinto should be thanked, not convicted, for exposing crime

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Borussia Dortmund fans stand in support of Rui Pinto and his work

In November 2018, the German magazine Der Spiegel leaked documents that accused Manchester City Football Club of committing accounting fraud. Following that, UEFA recently banned Manchester City from the Champions League and the Europa League for two years due to their violations of Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules. In addition to restricting the Citizens from continent-wide competitions, this ban could deny Manchester City substantial revenue needed to keep hold of their star players including Sergio Agüero, David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, and Raheem Sterling. The mastermind behind the exposé is Rui Pinto, a Portuguese hacker and the founder of Football Leaks. He is currently on trial for over 90 charges of hacking and attempted extortion while he should be receiving recognition for his noble work in uncovering crimes.

Rui Pinto’s exposé of Manchester City revealed disturbing ways the club tried to circumvent FFP rules. These rules regulate club spending by ensuring that soccer clubs spend money on players and salaries based on revenue alone. Teams must balance soccer-related expenditure with television and ticket income to help maintain the credibility and long-term sustainability of the teams. Sheikh Mansour, Manchester City’s owner, paid the club’s main sponsor, Etihad Airways, in order to cover most of Etihad’s official £65.7 million sponsorship for the team. Manchester City artificially inflated their sponsorship revenue and hid it from UEFA auditors, which gave them an unfair advantage over teams with less wealthy owners.

Despite leading authorities questioning the murky world of soccer finances, Pinto is seen as a criminal by many. In an interview with Der Spiegel, Pinto confessed that he was scared for his life after he was sentenced to life in a Portuguese prison. Pinto has released over 70 million classified documents to the press. These various documents have exposed the tax evasions of soccer players and have even reignited a sexual assault investigation involving Cristiano Ronaldo. Pinto considers himself a whistleblower, or in his own words, a citizen acting in the “public interest.” Since the start of Pinto’s trial, the hashtag #freepinto has been trending on Twitter. Soccer fans are furious that Pinto has not been rewarded, but punished, for his tireless work to promote transparency and fair play within soccer clubs.

Pinto claims that leaders of massive soccer teams like Manchester City have too much power; they have connections and finances that allow them to disregard rules and behave unethically. Soccer fans around the world seem to agree: after a Hungarian court ruled that Pinto would face charges, Borussia Dortmund fans held up banners saying “Stay Strong Rui Pinto” during a Champions League game. Pinto emphasizes that “it was never about becoming the world's greatest whistleblower but about exposing as many wrongdoings as possible. Whistleblowers only exist because of the numerous unlawful practices that are perpetrated in our societies.” Rui Pinto should not be prosecuted for exposing crime. His unfair punishment only proves how necessary his work is, and any fans invested in the ethical and impartial game of soccer should be indebted to him.