Soccer Dodge: How an Exec at Fulham F.C.'s Ad Agency Embezzled $750K to Pay Players on Another Team

Last Updated Jul 9, 2010 2:35 PM EDT

Advertising has a glorious history of corruption, but the TCS Media scandal takes the biscuit. A London production executive embezzled £500,000 (about $750,000) from the shop, which buys ad media for the English Premier League's Fulham F.C., and spent about £260,000 of that to buy players for non-league Croydon Athletic F.C. It is the first time -- and will surely be the only time -- an ad agency executive has managed to use money generated by one professional football team to illegally subsidize player wages at another. (Americans: Imagine a guy at the New York Mets' ad agency funneled money to the Brooklyn Cyclones.)

TCS administration production manager Dean Fisher was sentenced to three years in prison for the scam, a classic "fake vendor" dodge. He set up a bogus paper supply company, invoiced his employer, and then collected checks for doing nothing. (He's the Michael Scott/David Brent of advertising crime!)

At the same time, Fisher was chairman of Croydon Athletic. While it is not clear whether Fisher directly billed TCS for work on the Fulham business and then transferred that cash to Croydon, it is the case that TCS won the Fulham account in November 2007, and Fisher joined TCS in May 2008. He left the company in August 2009. So Fisher's scheme appears to have overlapped with TCS's service for Fulham. If you agree that money is fungible, then you can join the dots yourself.

If you've never heard of Croydon, don't be alarmed. I had to look up "The Rams," too. They toil in the Isthmian League Premier Division, which Wikipedia describes as the Dante-esque "seventh tier of football in England."

Top-flight Fulham, of course, lost the final of last year's UEFA Europa Cup and is currently home to U.S. national team striker Clint Dempsey (pictured, in white). (Fulham's fondness for American players -- it's had five of them -- has given it the nickname "Fulhamerica.")

As Fulham and Croydon are six leagues apart in the soccer standings, Fisher's embezzlement is unlikely to harm the Cottagers (Fulham's nickname). Unless, that is, they meet in the F.A. Cup, in which all 700 of England's professional and semi-professional teams compete in series of knockout rounds. Such a David v. Goliath scenario isn't unheard of: Last season Fulham had to deal with Accrington Stanley, a full two leagues below them, before advancing in the cup.

In addition to prison, Fisher must also pay back to TCS the money he stole.


Image from Fulham F.C.'s media page.