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The privileges of Spanish football

The Spanish government wants to quickly remove the controversial president of the football association, Luis Rubiales, following the kissing scandal. In his other scandals, they had turned a blind eye for a long time.

The privileges of Spanish football

Spain continues to be astonished at the significant international attention generated by the "Rubiales case." Concerns are arising regarding its impact on the country's reputation, especially in the context of its bid to host the 2030 Men's FIFA World Cup. The suspended president of the Spanish Football Association, Luis Rubiales, still maintains his innocence regarding the accusation of kissing the player Jennifer Hermoso on the mouth during the Women's World Cup award ceremony in Sydney, despite her alleged unwillingness. However, Rubiales, who has previously been associated with questionable behavior and business practices, finds himself increasingly isolated, apart from his mother, who began a hunger strike in protest at a church. According to the wishes of the interim left-wing government, the president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) is set to be removed through the Sports Court (TAD) in the coming days.

Damage to World Cup bid

Apart from the intense public debate about abuse of power and women's rights, the scandal has once again highlighted the interaction between football and politics. Football is essentially a private enterprise but plays a significant societal role and is influenced by public interests. The 47 million euros in public funding that the RFEF has received since 2019 come into play here. Part of this funding is intended for promoting Spain's image in the context of the bid to host the 2030 World Cup, which is planned to be jointly held with neighboring countries Portugal and Morocco. The government has acknowledged that Rubiales' behavior in Australia has not been helpful to the bid. Nevertheless, Sports Minister Miquel Iceta is confident that there is enough time to repair the damage since Spain is considered one of the world's most progressive countries in terms of women's rights.

Shady deals

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and his Socialists are currently facing accusations of having turned a blind eye to Rubiales for a long time. The controversial dealings of the federation president, which are now being revisited in the media, are by no means new. This applies in particular to the highly questionable decision to award the Spanish Super Cup to Saudi Arabia, where it has been held for three years. Tape recordings leaked to illustrated how Rubiales, in collaboration with the company of former FC Barcelona player Gerard Piqué, sold the summer competition to the Saudis. What makes this especially explosive is the assurance given to the hosts that the two giants, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, would participate every year, leading to the expansion of the tournament to include the league runner-up and the cup finalists. The RFEF, which profits significantly from the deal with the Saudis, is responsible for referee operations in the league and cup. The scandal made headlines for weeks, but the Sánchez government saw no reason to intervene.

Ironically, Rubiales had previously blocked the plans of the Spanish professional league (LFP) to hold a La Liga match between Girona and Barcelona in Miami. In 2018, he stated: "This harms the values of sports." The competition between the LFP and the RFEF in recent years was also characterized by the power struggle between Rubiales and league boss Javier Tebas, who have spied on each other on several occasions.

The government aims to counter the impression that football enjoys a special status. This week, it was revealed that FC Barcelona is relocating the headquarters of Barça Media, its content subsidiary, to Amsterdam in pursuit of a listing in New York. When the construction company Ferrovial moved to the Netherlands earlier in the year, the Sánchez government criticized the decision. Yet, there has been no official comment on Barcelona's plans so far.