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Russia to bribe Israel in their upcoming football match

I’m fascinated by this London Times article which reports on a number of alleged conspiracy theories surrounding Russia’s upcoming Euro 2008 match against Israel.

If the wooly – and completely unsourced – theories in the article are to be believed, someone Russian (possibly someone related to the team, possibly someone related to Roman Abramovich) is going to bribe the Israeli team to throw the game.

Wednesday was a bad night for England but a good one for conspiracy theorists. After Moscow’s plastic surface, will Tel Aviv’s Ramat Gan Stadium prove English football’s grassy knoll, their qualification hopes shot to bits amid mysterious circumstances? Russia visit Israel on November 17 and victory for Guus Hiddink’s side would all but seal their place at Euro 2008, at England’s expense.

The article is based almost entirely on rumours – none of which are actually attributed to someone. Ominously, the central theme of their article seems to be that Roman Abramovich is Jewish, has ties to Israel – he funds a $4 million tournament there every year and, last month he unexpectedly hired a previously little known Israeli to coach his multi-million pound team at Chelsea.

The only actual quotes in the article come from Israeli football officials, keen to quash these mysterious rumours.

I’m sure there are rumours floating about, but I’m amazed that Russia’s PR over recent months has become so bad that even a (supposedly) reputable newspaper such as the Times feels it is appropriate to print them uncritically. Whatever jobs Putin takes on over the next few months, few will be as challenging as the massive PR job needed to salvage Russia’s reputation.


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