Further reports in Poland have provided new information on the bonuses scandal erupting in Polish football after the national team’s last 16 exit from the World Cup, including details of Barcelona striker Robert Lewandowksi’s involvement.
It has emerged that the Polish government agreed to pay the team a sizeable collective bonus for making the last 16 in Qatar, having not done so at a World Cup since 1986. Most controversially, the bonuses would reportedly be drawn from public finances and could fall anywhere between 30 and 50 million Polish Zloty, which equates to between €6.4m and €9.2m, depending on how far the team progressed at the tournament.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki met the players for dinner at a Hilton hotel the night before the flight out to Qatar, during which the topic of bonuses came up after earlier talks between the coach Czesław Michniewicz and Morawiecki. However, any agreement was, at that time, loose with players not taking the deal entirely seriously.
The topic went away during the first few games at the World Cup but returned after qualification was achieved following defeat to Argentina in Group C when coach Michniewicz looked to arrange a system to allocate the bonuses amongst the squad and staff. Some players wanted a distribution based on minutes played, which captain Lewandowski allegedly opposed and was instead in favour of more an equal sharing of the funds.
It was agreed that 10% of the amount would go to the staff who then demanded 20%. Kamil Potrykus, Poland’s assistant coach, participated in the talks which Lewandowksi supposedly became frustrated with, asking for them to be put on hold until after the tournament so the team could focus on the last 16 game with France.
The bonuses were to bypass the Polish federation (PZPN), which has infuriated PZPN president Cezary Kulesza while becoming a source of division at the federation. The scandal could contribute to Michniewicz’s sacking, despite his contract being extended as a result of the team’s round of 16 qualification, with the team’s dour style of play already a concern.
The government has since said that the amount was intended for the PZPN to support youth football in the country. However, his claim, say Polish outlet Meczyki, has been met with criticism and disbelief by the public. Meanwhile, it’s now likely, given the ongoing scandal, which is a major story in Poland, that none of the players or coaches would accept the money which could yet find its way to the PZPN after all as a result.