There’s big news coming out of Spain today and it has nothing to do with the transfer market or Neymar. The president of the Spanish Football Federation, Angel Maria Villar, was arrested early this morning after Spain’s National High Court ordered an anti-corruption operation against the Spanish Football Federation.
Along with Angel Maria Villar, others arrested include his son Gorka, Juan Padron, the economic vice-president of the federation, Ramon Hernandez Baussou, the president of the Tenerife Football Federation and the general secretary of the Tenerife Football Federation.
While Gorka Villar has never held a position in the Spanish Football Federation, he’s being investigated for a number of activities including the Spanish national team’s friendly in Switzerland.
Some of the main reasons behind Angel Maria Villar’s arrest include:
- Juan Padron allegedly exceeding his administrative powers relating to federation assets.
- Padron allegedly favoring companies that he could benefit from.
- Crimes such as improper management, misappropriation, private corruption and falsifying documents.
- Angel Maria Villar allegedly setting up Spain’s international games in a way that the contracting of services and other relationships would benefit his son.
This isn’t the first time Villar has been accused of corruption. In 2014, Spain’s National Sports Council launched an investigation into some alleged payment irregularities in the federation, including a €1.9 million disbursement to upgrade stadiums owned by some of Spain’s nonprofessional teams and €1.2 million that was supposed to help Spain’s joint 2018 World Cup bid with Portugal.
The Spanish court also investigated the federation last year for forgiving part of the debt owed by Recreativo de Huelva (Spain’s oldest club) and Marino Tenerife.
Interestingly enough, when Villar appeared in court in January, he said he took no part in the decision to forgive the debt of those two clubs and put the blame on the former secretary general of the federation, Jorge Perez — a man who Villar fell out with years ago.
Despite being president of the Spanish Football Federation since 1988, his 29-year mandate has been a peculiar one. Along with the previous corruption charges, he’s been accused by many (like La Liga president Javier Tebas) of using questionable and unethical methods to remain in charge.
Just last May, Villar won re-election as president of the federation unopposed after his two rivals withdrew their candidacies amid criticism of how the election was organized. Originally, the vote was scheduled for last year, but it was postponed over voting rules after Villar opposed the use of electronic ballots.
The idea was to guarantee the secrecy of each vote, but Villar complained to FIFA about excessive interference by the Spanish government and managed to push the vote back. One year later, the electronic ballot was eliminated and Villar won all by himself. It’s absurd that a federation election could get pushed back over an electronic ballot that was meant to assure voter secrecy.
Many have also criticized him for his poor management of Spain’s football competitions. For example, La Liga is a month away from starting and we still don’t know the fixture list. Originally, the draw date was set for this Thursday, but it’s now been postponed to a later date because of the arrests. Most other leagues know their fixture lists for the upcoming season months in advance.
What other lesser issues have occurred under his watch? Well, the La Liga winner isn’t awarded the trophy until the first home game of the following season, something that took Luka Modric and Gareth Bale completely by surprise in May.
Also, Spain needs to resolve the absurdity of the Copa del Rey final location decision. While in most countries the stadium is chosen a year in advance, the Spanish federation waits for the finalists to be set before selecting a venue.
Other issues include:
- The Copa del Rey tournament using two legs ties instead of a single leg knockout match.
- How the old revenue distribution model was allowed to stand for so long (it’s finally changing this summer).
- Mismanagement of on-field discipline issues and suspensions.
- The poor implementation of fan behavior guidelines at stadiums.
We don’t know what will happen to Angel Maria Villar and the Spanish Football Federation. The investigation just started, and it’s uncertain what the federation will do with regards to possible new elections.
Reports in Spain are saying that former Barcelona president and member of the Spanish Football Federation Joan Gaspart will probably take over in the meantime.