Bookies’ Čeferin, Will He Bet UEFA’s Own Money Too?

This article is a follow-up on the most recent Josimar article on Čeferin, where my Nordic friends claim that Čeferin’s NZS used a UEFA loans to buy 17.3% stake in “Sportna Loterija”, the Slovenian sports betting company. So please read the Josimar Fotballblad article first and then let’s dance.

I also asked Josimar a set of questions to clarify the claim and illustrate the story with visual evidence if possible. I’ll update as soon as I get a reply from them.

UPDATE: I received all the infomation I asked and Josimar’s report is mostly correct. I’m — updating & — commenting below, when necessary.


€4 million from UEFA: Loan, grant or advance of a grant?

Are we 100% sure that it’s a loan? UEFA does not disclose any official loans to national associations, I doubt they have such a practice. — Yes it’s indeed a loan of €4 million @ 4% per annum interest and over 5 years. The loan date is “June 2015”.

Officially there are pro-rated grants & contributions of equal amounts for each association, allocated in four year cycles and distributed annually. They are called “Hattrick”. Anything other than this is probably off the books and/or subject to negotiation.

Follow The Money

Tracking the money, we start with the cost of the Slovenian National Football Center, an investment mostly financed by grants. Slovenian Times reports the cost of the center as €8.5m & 90% coming from UEFA & FIFA. That makes €7.65m in grants.

The information regarding the total cost of €8.5 m & 90% of it coming from UEFA & FIFA, originates directly from NZS itself, the source is the 54th issue (December 2014 ) of their own magazine “Nas Nogomet” (Our Football). He even compares it with Planica Nordic Center which cost €40m and brag (or complain) about not using any public funds like the Norwegians. (Skiing in Norway? A Nordic connection late in 2014? Kjetil Siem, is that you?:)

“Nas Nagomet” Issue 54
Very rough Googlish translation of the related paragraph

— But, NZS’ Official Annual Report nets the total cost of the National Football Center at €9.95m.

Same year, in 2015 NZS reports grants from UEFA & FIFA totaling to €2.4m, €2m of which from UEFA, %19 of their €10.5m budget. NZS publicly claim everywhere that they mostly used Hattrick III & IV funds (meaning two separate four year cycles, Hattrick III as 2012–2016 for a one-off sum of €3m and probably the Hattrick IV as 2016–2020, one-off sum of €3.6m*, this assumption is based on their own magazine “Nas Nogomet” issue 43 dating Hattrick II program to 2008–2012 for a sum of €2.5m, thus 20% raise) from UEFA & to a lesser extent Goal Project funds from FIFA to build the national football center. That is in line with their declared 2015 revenues of €2m from UEFA & €400K from FIFA.

If Hattrick II is 2008–2012, so Hattrick III is 2012–2016, Hattrick IV is 2016–2020

Page 34 of “Nas Nogomet” issue 43, from Google Cache

— The Official 2015 Annual Report and the publicly available Summary Financials slightly differ in numbers, the former might have been later adjusted by the auditors. The budget is indeed €10.5m and not €10.8m.

— Regarding UEFA’s Hattrick III, for 2014 & 2015, UEFA reports that the combined funds allocated for Slovenian infrasturucture were €2.33m, so we can assume it adds up to €3m with 2012 & 2013 at around €700K.

— NZS reports in multiple public sources that Hattrick III & Hattrick IV cycles along with FIFA Goal Project funds are used to finance 90% of the National Footbal Center. On this rather limited edition, undisclosed Financal Report those are the exact words:

“The investment was substantially covered by means of UEFA (football program of financing infrastructure Hattrick III and Hattrick IV), to a lesser extent even by means of FIFA (Goal Project), the Foundation for Sport (FSO), but also with their own means the NZS.”

— This time no mention of 90%. Because, now there’s also a Sberbank mortgage of €3m involved, which is again not publicly disclosed. A silent favor from your kind friends in Kremlin. You are now indebted.

“NZS is funding this project through a long-term loan from Sberbank dd and as per insurance obligations a mortgage is established on building rights.”

— Well anyway it’s much smarter to fund a property with a long term mortgage, rather than free money — NZS assume as net income from operations — which are indeed subsidizing grants, flowing in regularly, up to 30–40% of your total income.

— So regardless of cash-flow, UEFA contribution for two Hattrick cycles (8 years) may total to €6.4m in grants. Let’s assume that FIFA matches at least an additional €1.1m for 2016–2019 on top of €1.1m for 2014–2015. The total UEFA & FIFA infrastructure related grants through 2012–2019 would make about €8.6m.

— Let’s add the €3m from Sberbank, the total funding available (long term loans & free grants) for the National Football Center is now €11.6m. €1.7m higher than the final figure (€9.9m) in the Financial Report, €3.1m higher than the €8.5m disclosed to public by NZS, during the inauguration, which is 6 months after the center is defacto operational.

When we check the “Properties Under Construction” section under 3.3.2 Tangible Fixed Assets we would see that the starting balance for 2015 is €1.26m and ending balance is €9.95m. So only in 2015 there seems to be a construction investment of $8.69m. Respectively the same investment for 2014 was €792K.

As the National Football Center’s disclosed cost was later deviated by 36.4% (€3.1m), some may think that the cost of the center — or rather the funds used to finance the center — conveniently disguises a few shares of “Sportna Loterija”.


UEFA’s Hat Trick III & IV, FIFA’s Goal Project Funds Used To Finance Slovenian National Football Center

Very rough Googlish translation of the related paragraph

In UEFA books, Hattrick program falls under solidarity. And 2014/15 Slovenian investment share, illustrated as #1 below, is €1.4m, this can only be used on infrastructure projects. So assuming they use Hattrick III & IV, we can expect a total of €6.4m (second cycle adjusted by an estimated 20% increase) from 2012 to 2019, solidarity payment dedicated to infrastructure investment.

There is also a €1.02m yearly solidarity payment. That can be used on running costs, competitions, licensing system, coaching, grassroots, referee convention, women’s football development, governance and appointing an integrity officer. This can’t be used towards infrastructure.

Of course neither can be used to acquire a strategic stake in a betting company. But if your banker friends at UEFA, “who care about football” lend you a shit load of money you too can become a bookie. Platini, Villar, Lefkaritis & Infantino…


Only Public Document Regarding NZS Financial Data

2015 Annual Report of NZS (Just one page of summary financials)
Again a rough Googlish translation of the above financial summary

Undisclosed NZS 2015 Financial Report

Net Income & Expenses for 2015 & 2014

UEFA Solidary Payments by Country

“Slovenia FA’s Solidarity Payments Through the UEFA’s Hattrick III Cycle’s First 3 Years” Source: UEFA.org

Unbearable Questions For UEFA & NZS:

  1. Is the total cost of the National Football Center really €9.9m or €8.5m or even less? 
    I don’t think they would inflate the cost of the center, to disguise Sportna Loterija investment, would they? Oops! Initially budgeted at €4.5m to €5m, in 2013. The contractor of the National Football Center is CGP. Maybe they would know the process better. But as NZS is a private entity, it’s conveniently not subject to public procurement laws.
National Football Center Construction Site: CGP

2. On June 21, 2015, did NZS use the €4m UEFA loan (June 2015) almost instantly to pay €3.6m for 3.086 shares (17.3%) of Sportna Loterija
(This important investment information is not included in the public Annual Report. There’s only a brief and covert mention of “Sportna Loterija” in the finance section of the 2020 Vision Document.

2020 Vision Document
“New business models and ‘products, which will be in football brought more money (Sportna Loterija, official trade-wine-NZS Nike, The National Football Centre Brdo, etc.)” — NZS Vision 2020 Document

So the only solid reference is again the undisclosed official Annual Report:

3.3.3 LONG-TERM INVESTMENTS

“During this calendar year NZS invested €3.6m for 17.3% stake in Sportna Loterija dd. The investment is definitely a success and is justified because the NZS received a quarterly dividend of €268K.” — NZS 2015 Annual Report

We know the answers to these questions, we know that they won’t care to answer, because they can’t.

3. What did UEFA use as collateral for this €4m loan?
What was their guarantee? Settling by cutting the future grants? A new president to guarantee the prosperity of Slovenian football perhaps?

So now, when local associations — small or big — want to invest in a politically driven “safe bet” project, they should be able to borrow from UEFA, with a leverage up to 40% of their total income. Welcome the UEFA Bank ladies and gentleman.

Betting In Slovenia

Aleksander & Friends Always Considered Betting A Savior

Ironically, Aleksander Čeferin mentions the Sportna Loterija deal and the National Football Center — in a combo, on December 15, 2015:

“Regarding the acquisitions of the NZS in 2015, I am extremely satisfied mainly by two things. By buying a share in ‘Sportna Loterija’, which is important both from a financial and symbolic point of view, since the main sports lottery, if I may say so, operates exclusively in connection with football. Even more, I am happy the layout of the national training center at Brdo, which is beautiful. Many generations of players, both young and memberships will be here training test and become better and better. In this respect, I can not ignore the fact that all the European countries envy our center, all of our colleagues. At the same time we regret that Republic of Slovenia could not find a single euro for assistance in building our football center, a center of the sport, which has registered more than 45,000 players and more than 35,000 children .” — Aleksander Čeferin, 15/12/2015 (Very rough Googlish translation, slightly edited)

This “Sportna Loterija” project of NZS is indeed a very old one, pre-dating Čeferin to August 2010.

NZS Board Reviewing Sportna Loterija Bid in August 2010

And Čeferin brings this subject up, as soon as he is elected NZS President:

“Bookmakers can help Slovenian club football” — Aleksander Čeferin, 18/2/2011

And just 5 days after Ministry of Finance opens up the betting market to foreign companies, NZS’ attempt to buy 17.3% shares of Sportna Loterija becomes official.


UPDATE: Upon further research, I found out that NZS & Probanka agreed upon the sale of those shares long before June 2015. On February 18, 2015, Čeferin declares that they’ve already signed the contract for Sportna Loterija shares and UEFA financed the deal, pending for Ministry of Finance approval.

So what we know is, UEFA approved to finance this controversial loan deal, before the reelection of Čeferin. Assuming the approval process would take weeks if not months, the loan might have been requested pre-Christmas 2014.

The loan approval comes somewhere before February 18, 2015 and NZS signs the contract with Probanka, which was recapitalized in 2013 by the State of Slovenia. So apparently, UEFA financed NZS to buy stakes in a betting company from the Slovenian State. How wonderful that is!

A hypocrite, a Machiavellian or both?

On his re-election day, RTV Slovenia reports that he was still pro-liberalization of sports betting, but the next day, suddenly he is not:

About efforts to deregulate the betting?
“Given that we bought a stake in the Sportna Loterija (17.3% from Probanka), the deregulation of betting in Slovenia dramatically dropped from being our top priority. Since it’s no longer in our interest, we will not be engaged anymore. — Aleksander Čeferin, February 18, 2015

So as the NZS head, he was lobbying Slovenian Government for liberalization, only to buy the shares of Sportna Loterija — from them — at a bargain. And now it’s even clearer that, NZS’ investment obviously aims at selling the shares to a foreign betting company at a profit. This can’t really be called a gamble, in a country as small as Slovenia, when played by a politically well connected lawyer like Čeferin. It’s a safe bet, potentially with good return on investment, if things don’t go sideways in Slovenia or in the region.

And by the way, we should not forget that all this happened during the last reelection of Sepp Blatter, amidst FIFA corruption scandal.

Almost one fifth of “Sportna Loterija” (€80m in sales), now shared with other sports federations, Post of Slovenia & Lottery of Slovenia Source
Although Sales and Net Income Decline Is So Far Disappointing, It’s A strategic Investment Source

A safe bet, maybe. But whose money was bet on Sportna Loterija? Clearly NZS used a UEFA loan as big as 34.3% of its income, to secure the shares of Sportna Loterija before it’s too late.

And there is this issue that this is totally against FIFA’s Code of Ethics.

FIFA’s Code of Ethics, Article 25:

Integrity of matches and competitions
Persons bound by this Code shall be forbidden from taking part in, either directly or indirectly, or otherwise being associated with, betting, gambling, lotteries and similar events or transactions connected with football matches. They are forbidden from having stakes, either actively or passively, in companies, concerns, organisations, etc. that promote, broker, arrange or conduct such events or transactions.

Regarding my questions to Josimar, apparently the only tiny mistake they made is that the have taken the turnover/income as €17m. That is indeed the balance sheet size. The turnover is €10.5m.

  • “In 2015 the Association’s turnover was roughly 17 million euro.” (This contradicts with their summary Annual Report where the budget is declared €10.8m)

Cem ARGUN.-