[…] This past spring, John decided to share his secret Football Leaks treasure. He no longer wanted to merely publish a player contract here and disclose a bank account statement there. He instead wanted to show the public how everything fit together: the well-hidden power relations, the objectionable or even illegal deals between teams and sports marketing agencies, and the tax tricks used by the multimillionaires. He wanted the stories hidden in the material to be told — entire stories and not just fragments. So he handed his data over to SPIEGEL: eight portable hard drives containing documents, including original contracts complete with secret subsidiary agreements, emails, Word files, Excel charts and photos. The data reaches into 2016 and takes up 1.9 terabytes of memory. That is roughly the equivalent of 500,000 Bibles.
Where did the data come from? John won’t say. He didn’t ask SPIEGEL to pay him anything for the information, even though player agents recently offered him up to 650,000 euros.
SPIEGEL spent weeks examining the authenticity of the documents before deciding to share the material with the European Investigative Collaborations (EIC), a consortium of 10 well-respected journalistic outlets in Europe. To enable them to share their findings, an encrypted internet platform was built and the journalists met in Hamburg, Mechelen, Paris and Lisbon to discuss what they had found and talk about additional sources and publication plans.