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Wirtualna Polska

Polish news site links national football team’s manager with match-fixing mastermind

Wirtualna Polska uses Pinpoint to analyze 65,000 pages of court documents, proving links between the manager of Poland’s national football team and the architect behind a massive match-fixing scandal.

Investigating corruption in Polish football

As the first Polish-language website, founded in 1995, Wirtualna Polska is also the largest media portal in Poland. With an audience of around 20 million, they knew that uncovering a football betting scandal would make waves, but the full investigation was easier said than done.

The story goes back to the early ‘90s, when a Polish businessman nicknamed the “Hairdresser” was match-fixing football games. He was convicted in 2009 thanks to Global System for Mobile (GSM) data and wiretapping evidence, but rumors arose years later that the Hairdresser had a connection to the at the time manager of the Polish national football team.

That’s when Szymon Jadczak, a journalist for Wirtualna Polska’s Magzyn WP, got involved. “I knew there was GSM data related to their conversations, so I decided to apply for the court archives from the Hairdresser’s case,” Szymon explains. “But when I arrived at the court reading room, I realized that I would have to go through 65,000 pages of archives to be able to answer my questions.” For that impossible task, Szymon turned to Google News Initiative (GNI).

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“Pinpoint is extremely useful because it allows us to analyze big collections of diverse types of data, be it pictures, tables, or handwritten documents. It really makes them searchable and compatible.”
Szymon Jadczak
Reporter, Wirtualna Polska

Using Pinpoint to analyze court documents

Szymon first became acquainted with GNI in 2020, when he participated in the Warsaw News Lab Summer School organized by the local Google team. So, when it came time to investigate the football scandal, he knew that GNI could help.

Szymon participated in one-on-one training on the latest features of Pinpoint, a Google research tool that helps journalists and academics analyze large collections of documents. He then used Pinpoint to digitize the court archives via his mobile phone, even old documents that were sometimes in poor condition. “Pinpoint did a great job with those, because it was able to read and analyze everything, even from pictures that weren’t readable to the human eye,” he says. He also used Pinpoint’s speech-to-text function to transcribe interviews in Polish.

Once uploaded to Pinpoint, Szymon could easily search documents for names and phrases that allowed him to draw a clear connection between the Hairdresser and the team manager. “Pinpoint was crucial in organizing the data sets and analyzing them,” Szymon says.

Looking forward to increased access to information

After two and a half months of research, Magazyn WP published Szymon’s story in June 2022. In the first month, the story generated over 1.3 million page views and nearly 730,000 unique visitors. Plus, it was quoted 94 times by leading media outlets across Poland to reach over 11 million Poles – nearly one-third of the population. ”It’s not about saving hours of investigations,” says Szymon. "Without Pinpoint, the story about corruption in Polish football would have been impossible to investigate.”

Szymon continues to use Pinpoint to collect data, preserve his archive, and transcribe interviews. With recent elections and a new government in Poland, he calls it the perfect situation for an investigative journalist to fish for stories. “The previous government was infamous for blocking access to public information, so I’m looking forward to using Pinpoint when information becomes available,” he says. “In that sense, I’m expecting a golden age.”

About Wirtualna Polska

Wirtualna Polska was launched in 1995 as the first Polish language web portal. Today their media properties reach around 20 million visitors every month. This includes Magazyn WP, which is dedicated to in-depth news, analysis, and investigative journalism. In 2022, Wirtualna Polska was named “the most opinion-forming” media company in Poland.

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Pinpoint, Warsaw News Lab Summer School


-Over 1.3 million page views in one month

-Read by over 11 million Poles

-Quoted 94 times by leading Polish media outlets

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