LONDON — FIFA acknowledged this week its computer systems were hacked earlier this year for the second time, and officials from European soccer’s governing body fear they also may have suffered a data breach.
The hack on FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, occurred in March and is not thought to be connected to a cyberattack orchestrated by a group linked to Russia’s intelligence agency in 2017. That incident led to the publication of a list of failed drug tests by soccer players.
The information that was compromised in the second cyberattack on FIFA is not yet clear, but a consortium of European media organizations plans to publish a series of stories based in part on the internal documents as early as Friday. The group Football Leaks originally obtained the documents.
UEFA officials were targeted in a so-called phishing operation in which third parties fool their targets into giving up password-protected login details, though the organization has been unable to find traces of a hack in its computer systems.
In recent weeks, both FIFA and UEFA have received hundreds of questions, including several related to information contained in confidential documents. FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino, was UEFA’s most senior administrator before being elected to lead global soccer in 2016.
FIFA officials discussed the prospect of a new hack, and more uncomfortable revelations in the news media, on the edges of the FIFA Council meeting last week in Kigali, Rwanda.
Information published by Football Leaks has rattled global soccer since 2015, when stolen documents emerged on a specially created website. Since the initial leak, a trove of emails, contracts and private messages have been obtained exclusively by the German weekly newsmagazine Der Spiegel. Der Spiegel has sought to deal with the volume of information it received by sharing it with an investigative reporting consortium called European Investigative Collaborations.
The leaks have uncovered some of soccer’s biggest secrets, shining light on dubious practices that have led to tougher regulations in soccer and in some cases, criminal prosecutions. FIFA earlier this year announced planned changes to the $6 billion transfer market, in part as a response to dealing unveiled by Football Leaks, and Spanish authorities have successfully prosecuted top players and coaches for tax evasion.
Most recently, information obtained from the leak led to articles in Der Spiegel that revealed the details of a nondisclosure agreement Cristiano Ronaldo signed with a Las Vegas woman who accused the Portuguese star of sexually assaulting her in 2009. Ronaldo has denied the charges and, though his lawyers, threatened to sue the magazine.
A coordinator with E.I.C. said he could not comment on the content of the next batch of articles, or when they would be published. FIFA issued a statement criticizing the leaks of stolen information.
“FIFA condemns any attempts to compromise the confidentiality, integrity and availability of data in any organization using unlawful practices,” FIFA said.
Asked about the leaks, Infantino said he had tried to do his work honestly. That has meant having discussions and sharing ideas and documents with numerous people, he added.
“If then this is being portrayed as something bad then I think there’s not much I can do other than my job,” he said during a conversation in Kigali last week. “We are not stealing.”
Details of the person or group behind Football Leaks were presented in a book written by two reporters from Der Spiegel and published earlier this year. The group told the authors that its aim is to cleanse world soccer by exposing bad actors.
Football Leaks is not the only major data breach that has roiled soccer, or global sports. In October, the United States Department of Justice announced charges against seven Russian intelligence officers who it said had successfully compromised the networks of organizations including FIFA and The International Olympic Committee. And for most of the past year, confidential emails belonging to the Portuguese club Benfica have surfaced on the internet. Those leaks have highlighted how the club has tried to influence senior figures in soccer and forged close links to officials responsible for refereeing. Benfica has denied wrongdoing and sought Google’s help in identifying those who have republished the documents.