Spanish government interferes in the country's football, FIFA looks on with suspicion. GETTY IMAGES

The Spanish government decided on Thursday to create a commission to "supervise" the country's football federation (RFEF), which has recently been hit by several scandals, amid concerns from FIFA, which could suspend the federation if the case continues to escalate.

Over the past year, a series of scandalous events have dominated headlines around the world. First, ex RFEF president Luis Rubiales' kiss with midfielder Jenny Hermoso after the first Women's World Cup victory in the history of the Iberian country was the absolute protagonist.

As the days went by, the legal proceedings related to the Rubiales-Hermoso case hit the headlines, a growing uproar that Rubiales himself called a persecution against him, stating that it was nothing more than "a consensual kiss". It eventually cost him his resignation as president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF).

After his departure, suspended by FIFA and facing legal proceedings, vice president Pedro Rocha took over and began a transition period that seemed to calm the stormy waters that had hit the Spanish football federation, Spain, a football powerhouse, is set to co-host the Men's World Cup in 2030 with Morroco and Portugal.

Until then, something that, although not something to be proud of, could happen in an elite football federation like the Spanish one.

Time passed, the judicial and legal process against Rubiales continued, statements were made. In short, everything that goes with a criminal case in Spain.

The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF). GETTY IMAGES
The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF). GETTY IMAGES

Until then, everyone thought that the Rubiales-Hermoso case would be closed, but it was not to be. Last March, the Spanish police raided the headquarters of the Federation for irregular contracts over the past five years.

The Central Operative Unit (UCO), the central body of the Judicial Police of the Guardia Civil of Spain, began a series of raids on the RFEF headquarters in search of documents related to the case of irregularities in contracts, arresting seven people throughout the country. In addition, the police searched 11 locations, including RFEF's headquarters in Madrid and Rubiales' home in Granada, as part of the investigation.

The investigation was prompted by conversations between Luis Rubiales and Gerard Piqué about commissions to move the Spanish Super Cup to Saudi Arabia. The Court of First Instance and Instruction No. 4 of Majadahonda, Madrid, in coordination with the Prosecutor's Office against Corruption and Organized Crime, began investigating crimes of economic corruption, mismanagement and money laundering.

Among those implicated were Rubiales, the lawyer Tomas González Cueto, the director of legal services and the director of human resources of the Federation, Pedro Manuel Segura, among others.

Faced with this situation, the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) announced at the beginning of April that it would hold elections to elect a new president to replace the disgraced Luis Rubiales.

Pedro Rocha, Interim President of Spanish football, leading candidate and indicted for corruption in April 2024. GETTY IMAGES
Pedro Rocha, Interim President of Spanish football, leading candidate and indicted for corruption in April 2024. GETTY IMAGES

The head of the administrative commission that oversaw the RFEF after Rubiales' resignation, Pedro Rocha - who also served as interim president - resigned from the commission to run in the elections, being favored by various media in Spain

So far, bureaucratic matters of normalization of the RFEF, which did not seem to escalate further. But the story didn't end there. Pedro Rocha was called as a witness in the corruption case against his former colleagues in the federation. As a result, the judge suspended Rocha's testimony and declared him a suspect in the bribery investigation, charging him with an alleged crime.

Faced with this murky scenario, in which the main opponents, Carlos Herrera and Eva Parera, failed to obtain the necessary 21 approvals from RFEF assembly members to be candidates, while Rocha obtained 107, the Spanish government intervened yesterday.

The CSD said it would create a "Commission of Supervision, Standardization and Representation" headed by "independent personalities" who would "supervise the RFEF in the coming months in response to the federation's crisis and in defense of Spain's general interests."

"The Spanish government has taken this decision in order to resolve the serious situation of the RFEF, so that the organization can enter a period of renewal in a stable climate," announced the National Sports Council (CSD), an agency dependent on the Ministry of Sports.

Luis Rubiales and the King of Spain following the coronation of the women's football team in 2023.GETTY IMAGES
Luis Rubiales and the King of Spain following the coronation of the women's football team in 2023.GETTY IMAGES

The Spanish government is careful, very careful, not to use the word intervention, something that is totally unacceptable to FIFA and UEFA, who want states out of the (business) world of football, often even intervening in the sovereignty of nations.

"FIFA and UEFA will seek additional information to assess the extent to which the CSD's appointment (of the committee) ... may affect the RFEF's obligation to manage its affairs independently and without undue government interference," they said.

FIFA suspended the 2022 memberships of Zimbabwe, Kenya and India due to government or third party interference. In the past, many countries have been unable to participate in qualifiers or have their clubs play in international competitions, something that is unthinkable for the Spanish federation at the moment, but if the conflict continues to escalate, you never know.

These suspensions could lead to a ban on participation in the 2024 European Championship, future World Cups or tournaments organized under FIFA's protective umbrella. 

FIFA, with its privileged position and the cost of suspension in countries where soccer fanaticism borders on religion, has always put pressure on governments. It recently did so in Brazil to reinstate Ednaldo Rodriguez as president of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF).

In addition to its economic and lobbying power, FIFA can act as the mother of the most important federation in the world, also because of its domicile (Switzerland), where its rules and not those of Spain (or other countries) apply to associative relations with member associations. This gives her, if she wants, a completely unbalanced power to impose her rules.

Governments know this, and so do football leaders. Negotiations behind closed doors, beyond strictly formal matters such as the normalization of ordinary administration as required by Spanish law, will determine the future of Spanish football.

The CSD will meet again next Tuesday to analyze the situation and, if necessary, take a decision on the corruption case opened by the Sports Court against Rocha, who took over from Rubiales on an interim basis.

In a year in which the RFEF will be responsible for Spain's teams at the European Championship and the Olympic Games, the Spanish government aims to "restore the reputation, the good name and the image of Spanish football and complete the electoral process with a renewed assembly for the period 2024-2028," said Uribes, the secretary of state for sports and president of the CSD, in a statement from the CSD.

"We have to take care of what we have in the future, the immediate future, which is the planning of the World Cup," Uribes said during an appearance at the Spanish Congress of Deputies. He promised that the government would do everything in its power to resolve the "unacceptable situation" at RFEF.

Uribe also said that he is "in constant contact with FIFA" regarding the RFEF, but he knows very well that he will have to deal with the precision of Swiss watches in order to achieve a normalization without interference that could anger FIFA and lead to sanctions.

In this sense, Urbes insisted: "The CSD will guarantee that Spanish football maintains its excellence at the sporting level and is also exemplary at the institutional level".