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From Rubiales to Roach, his right-hand man: The problem with the federation is not people, but structure.

Knowing he had a foot and a half outside the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), Luis Rubiales devised a succession plan that would allow him to keep people he trusted at the helm of the organisation. On Friday, August 25, in the already famous assembly and its five “I will not resign”, Rubiales restructured the leadership of the RFEF: he got rid of all the vice-presidents – the power that governs in the federation – and left only. One, Pedro Rocha, head of the Extremadura Football Federation and who was his right-hand man in the organization.

Thus, the president made sure that Rocha would resign instead of leaving the election in the hands of the board of directors. Rubiales’ move came at the right time. Just one day after the changes, FIFA released him from all football-related activities. The suspension is temporary while soccer’s top international body decides on its open file, but there are signs that it will be final for Rubiales. Several media outlets are taking it for granted that FIFA will ban him for 15 years, and in addition, the government is also planning to lift his suspension on its own, despite the failure of the TAD decision.

Rocha’s position was strengthened after the meeting of the RFEF Presidents’ Committee last Monday. Regional managers supported Rocha at the head of the organization. The President of Madrid sums up the feeling that came with this appointment. “Rocha asked for a vote of confidence. We gave it to him and I trust Pedro Rocha. Later, time will tell if I will keep this trust,” he explains in an interview with Rafael del Amo, another RFEF baron, insists that “you have to look at him as someone who has to make a profound change.” “We’re going to change everything,” he said.

In addition, the federation has ruled out holding elections until next year, when it is time to elect the next RFEF president. The rock remains. Change something (even everything) without changing anything?

“I’m an establishment man”

The interested party itself rejects the majority and defends its independence. This Thursday, he defined himself as an “institution man.” “All we’ve done is work and lift. All presidents supported me unanimously. We have to work as a team. I am from the Federation, not from anyone else,” he said.

María José López, a lawyer for the Spanish Football Association (AFE), has been dealing with Rubiales and the RFEF for years, even putting private detectives on their trail. “It’s hard to believe, no matter how private the president was, that all the decisions were made by him alone and that the board of directors or the delegated committee was not aware of all those decisions,” he reflects. “There are so many performances by Rubiales that he can go to the cruel position of the president. This is now done by collegial bodies. I am not saying that they are all accomplices, but it is true that these collegiate bodies did not play this controlling role,” he states.

The problem with those trying to oust Rubiales is that he has almost no room to maneuver.

Miguel Angel Galan, a member of the federation and the person who first filed a complaint against Rubiales for kissing Jenny Hermoso, is convinced that everything that happened these days is “toast to the sun.” “What’s the use of getting Rubiales out if his trusted men stay?” he asks the wind.

The problem with those trying to oust Rubiales is that he has almost no room to maneuver. Internally, this is only possible through a motion of censure from the Assembly, a body which, because of the way the RFEF is organized, usually has an iron fist over whoever chairs it. It is enough to look at the last appointment of this body: the resignation of Rubiales was expected, many members of the assembly claimed that he had deceived them, but there were only two interventions between non-criticism and praise of the now suspended president.

The room barely moves

From the outside, the government has only the right to act wildly, given the status of the RFEF. Despite being a “public utility,” the body is completely private, since the previous president, Ángel María Villar, rejected state subsidies precisely so that the administration would not exercise any control over the federation. Part of the public is concerned that this “private association” entity is using public resources to generate the revenue it is allowed to have. The budget for 2023 is almost 400 million eurosOf which a third comes from audiovisual rights generated by football teams (composed of players paid by their clubs) but without any control from the administration.

The RFEF promotes Spain, carrying its name and shield around the world, exclusively in the world of football, but maintains that it is a private entity. Incidentally, his maneuver ultimately did little good for Villar (he was kicked out after being sanctioned by the Sport’s Administrative Court), but it gave his successor an opportunity to explore the whole series of controversies that have surrounded him ever since. He took office, including the trials that are currently underway.

“They are a credit to society”

Although some disagree. “The federations refer to the supranational organizations as the only ones that control them (FIFA and UEFA in the case of football), but this is not the case,” explains Irene Lozano, who knows how the RFEF works since she was secretary of state. Sports from 2018 to 2020. “They are entities that have delegated public entities, the state gives them the opportunity to organize official competitions, but in return they have the job of representing Spain. They are not private entities without more, they are a credit to society,” he adds.

Federations refer to supranational organizations as the only ones that control them (FIFA and UEFA in the case of football), but this is not the case.

Irene Lozano
Former Secretary of State for Sports

But the latest sports law has not finished changing this apparent lack of control, and the RFEF has not hesitated in recent years to blackmail various governments against these international organizations that do not tolerate political interference or sporting justice in football affairs. Villar did it when the CEO wanted to call for elections in the RFEF and Rubiales just did it through the UEFA general secretary, but the play didn’t work out for him.

In RFEF, the president is elected by the 140-member assembly. They are easily accessible (vote me here and I’ll give you a position there) or blackmailable with a dirty rag. It has been like this for years

Irene Lozano

According to Irene Lozano, most of the problems are in the electoral system of the RFEF president. “Federation presidents are elected by closed census and therefore very easy to control. In RFEF, the president is elected by the 140-member assembly. It happens as it was with parties before and now: delegates vote. They are easily accessible (vote me here and I’ll give you a position there) or blackmailable with a dirty rag. This system continues to operate and in the federation it is obvious that everyone who was there that day either Rubiales has dirty laundry or bought it. It’s been like that for years,” he says. Alfredo Rellano, former director of the sports newspaper Ace, defines them as “regime man territorial”.

And the proof of this is that Villar, the previous president, had to be removed from the RFEF by the police. The same is true of his successor, Rubiales.

New law, old ways

The new sports law, as new as the fact that the government did not develop a sanctioning regime according to the regulations and had to condemn Rubiales for the 1992 law, did not improve the situation either, as this fortnight has shown.

Lopez, of the AFE, assesses the RFEF’s economic situation. “Rubiales now says that he does not receive public money, but at the end of December 2022 he received 7.5 million for Spain’s bid to organize the World Cup, but it is not on the Internet. “Transparency issues are important.” Lozano refers to this issue as well: “They receive subsidies, it is the merit of society.”

However, López believes that sports law “goes in the direction of providing more transparency, which is needed because federations are subject to public scrutiny,” he says.

But he sees a flaw in the new law: “Our position is to limit mandates.” There was always denial from the feds on this issue and the government finally bought into it,” he lamented. “There is too much modus operandi reproduction that is too far removed from society,” he closes.

An example of the hierarchical and presidential action of the RFEF is the offer that Rubiales made to women’s coach Jorge Wilda during his last speech. After his appearance and in front of the entire congregation and the Spanish media that followed his appearance, Rubiales offered the coach to renew his contract at half a million euros a year for four years. An offer that may now be blocking Vilda’s departure, which seems certain as it is not legally clear whether it is binding or not.

Source: El Diario





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