Foto: Jefferson Rudy/Agência Senado

In testimony to the CPI for the Manipulation of Games and Sports Betting, the president of Palmeiras, Leila Pereira, refuted the allegations of favoritism towards the club by referees in the Brazilian Championship made by businessman John Textor, owner of Botafogo.

During the session, Leila defended the VAR system, despite occasional failures, and demanded severe punishments against the manipulation of sports results.

The request for the president of Verdão to appear at the CPI was presented by the president of the commission, senator Jorge Kajuru (PSB-GO). This happened after Textor, Botafogo’s majority partner, accused the São Paulo club of allegedly buying arbitrations to obtain advantages in the championship.

Thus, Leila Pereira countered, stating that the Brasileirão is highly competitive and attributed Botafogo’s negative results to the team’s “incapacity”.

She challenged Textor to present proof of his allegations, otherwise he should be banned from Brazilian football.

“I can’t let a foreigner come here and disqualify Palmeiras’ very important title. My observations are about John Textor’s attitude, not Botafogo’s. In other words, his attitudes are a great harm to Brazilian football.”

President of Palmeiras talks about the integrity of football at the CPI das Apostas

Responding to senator Carlos Portinho (PL-RJ), Leila Pereira stated that Palmeiras’ 4-3 “turnaround” over Botafogo was a normal occurrence in football. She highlighted that, at the time, there were no allegations of game manipulation.

Leila declared that, if she had known about irregularities at her club, she would have reported it to the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF).

In response to Senator Romário (PL-RJ), CPI rapporteur, Leila Pereira defended the banning of all those involved in game manipulation as an educational measure to dissuade such practices.

“Without punishment, we won’t get anywhere. Impunity is the seed of the next crime. If you participate in these schemes that harm the credibility and results of football, you will be banned.”

Senator Kajuru suggested that the 20 clubs from Series A of the Brazilian Championship meet at the CBF to demand evidence from John Textor. He lamented the lack of credibility due to the absence of concrete solutions and stated that repeated lies end up being accepted as truth.

Prevention and education measures

Senator Carlos Portinho mentioned the notification of Corinthians by the betting company VaideBet for violating the anti-corruption contractual clause and asked about similar measures at Palmeiras.

Leila Pereira explained that the club’s code of ethics prohibits players from betting and that Palmeiras makes an effort to educate athletes from a young age.

“They think manipulation is normal, but it’s not. We’ve had this concern since we were kids. Athletes sign a code of ethics and follow what’s in the contract.”

Portinho also criticized the Public Ministry’s lack of agility in responding to complaints and the absence of effective communication channels for whistleblowers.

He suggested cooperation between the CBF and the Public Ministry to improve the response to reports of match manipulation. “It is necessary to investigate and have robust evidence so that the Public Prosecutor’s Office can file charges. It is in the interest of the clubs.”

Leila Pereira added that permissiveness in football makes it difficult to determine responsibilities. She questioned the lack of severe punishments for managers involved in irregularities.

Trust in VAR and improvements in refereeing

Senator Romário cited John Textor’s statement about alleged losses to Botafogo caused by VAR. Leila Pereira said she trusts the tool, despite occasional errors, and believes that the CBF is working to improve arbitration.

“There are mistakes, people need to be more trained, but I believe in the work of the CBF and the director of arbitration to improve our arbitration.”

To senator Chico Rodrigues (PSB-RR), Leila Pereira argued that a system of lottery for referees would not be sufficient to avoid manipulation.

Furthermore, she defended strict punishments for positive results and preferred to question any arbitration errors directly with the CBF, avoiding “tantrums” in the press.