How to waste public funds

Hungarian taxpayers paid one million euros for two ice hockey teams to join Slovakian league

The Hungarian government gave 1.88 million euros to the Hungarian Ice Hockey Association in June. Both Hungarian and Slovakian press reported that this money was given to the association so that it can pay the entry fee for two Hungarian teams into the Slovakian Tipsport League.

Hungarian sports daily Nemzeti Sport first reported in March 2018 that two Hungarian ice hockey teams, MAC Budapest and the DVTK Jegesmedvék (Polar Bears), grew too big for the Hungarian league and are applying for spots in the Slovakian Tipsport League.

Two things were needed for this: Tipsport needed to approve the application and the Hungarians needed to pay an entry fee to the league. At the time of the publication of this first story, March 2018, the amount for the entry fee was unknown.

In June 2018 an ice hockey blog reported that within a week a government decree would be published that providing financial support for the two teams to join the Slovakian league for the 2018/2019 season.

György Such, chairman of the Hungarian Ice Hockey Association, confirmed the information when the blog asked, but he said that the money coming from the government would be spent not only on the two teams’ joining the Slovakian league but part of it would also be allocated for the Erste League in Hungary.

Within two days, on June 4, 2018, a government decree was announced: the Hungarian Ice Hockey Association would receive 1.88 million euros from the state.

On the very same day, Nemzeti Sport reported that MAC and DVTK are joining the Tipsport League, even though the information has not officially been confirmed. Nemzeti Sport reported that each of the teams were paying half a million euros to the Tipsport League in order to join.

It is important to know that sports daily Nemzeti Sport has reliable sources. It is reportedly Viktor Orban’s favorite newspaper. It is owned by Orban’s friend and Hungary’s second richest man Lőrinc Mészáros. Its editor-in-chief is György Szöllősi, the former press chief of the Puskás soccer academy – the academy in Orbán’s home village, right across the street from his house.

It was officially announced on June 14, 2018 that the two Hungarian teams are joining the Tipsport League.

Slovakian publication Körkép also reported that both Hungarian teams were paying half a million euros, and it also reported that fiscal reasons were the main driver for Tipsport league to accept them. Körkép reported that Slovakian ice hockey is in financial trouble and that if the money paid by the Hungarians would be distributed among the top Slovakian teams it would mean about 100,000 euros for each team every season. Körkép mentioned that the budget for most of the teams in Slovakia is under a million euros.

Slovakian paper Dennik N put it this way: ’the Hungarian government is paying the one million euros necessary for our poor teams to agree to let them into the league.’

Slovak tabloid Nový Čas said: ’Two interesting teams are joining the Tipsport league: the Hungarians are giving a million euros to our teams.’

Ádám Fodor, the communications manager for the Hungarian Ice Hockey Association confirmed to the Slovakian press that the money was coming from the Hungarian government.

A few days after the confirmation of transfer was made public, we sent a list of questions to the Hungarian Ice Hockey Association. We asked how they are spending the 1.88 million euros coming from the government. We also asked if it was true that most of the money is going to pay for the two top teams to join the Tipsport League. Additionally, we asked how much money the Hungarian Ice Hockey Association paid to Tipsport for MAC and DVTK to join.

The Association answered that it was not using the government support to pay for the two teams’ entry fee in the Slovakian league and it was not telling us how much it was paying to the Slovakian league.

At this point we called György Such, the chairman of the Hungarian Ice Hockey Association to clear the contradictions. Such told Átlátszó that it is actually the Association that pays the entry fee for the two teams but it is paying it from different sources – not from the amount it got from the government.

The government support is there to help with the deficit created by paying the fee in Slovakia, Such said.

He did not say how much the Hungarian Association paid to Tipsport. He was willing to say that it was close to the half million euro range that was reported, but it was lower than that.

We also asked Tipsport about the terms of the two Hungarian teams’ joining them, but we received no answer from them.

Written by Katalin Erdélyi and Botond Bőtös

English version by Anita Kőműves, editing by Clare Humphreys

You can read the original, Hungarian version of this story here.

The photo was taken at a DVTK-MAC match.