Spanish FA chief blames ‘mafia’ in Gerard Pique, Saudi Arabia conflict of interest row
Spanish Football Federation president Luis Rubiales has vehemently denied that a conflict of interest exists with Barcelona defender Gerard Pique‘s company in the FA deal that was signed with Saudi Arabia to host the Spanish Super Cup from 2019 until 2029.
Information and audio recordings stolen from Spanish FA’s top executives, including Rubiales, by hackers revealed that Pique’s company, Kosmos, acted as intermediary in the agreement between the Spanish FA and Sela, a public Saudi Arabian sports marketing company, and received a €24 million commission.
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“Kosmos’ commission is being paid by Saudi Arabia and not by the federation,” Rubiales said in Wednesday’s press conference. “We have no financial rapport with Pique or Kosmos. Our compliance department told us that there is no conflict of interest because the rapport is between Saudi Arabia and Kosmos.
“Each of us has its own ethical standard but at the Spanish FA, we have three filters that have to be passed and this agreement did.”
Rubiales said Pique is a role model to other footballers.
“I hope that there are more footballers like Pique, who are businessmen and have other activities,” he added.
“What we want is for footballers to have studies, to have other careers.”
The RFEF reported the theft of information to the police, and Rubiales said he believes the “mafia” are behind the act in a bid to discredit him.
“I trust the police and I hope they can catch the mafia that have done this,” he said. “I am upset that they [media] are prioritising the false news that I’m hearing rather than the robbery of private information taken from my phone. I’ve been at the helm of the RFEF for four years. I haven’t stopped being attacked since I decided to run for president. There is a campaign to discredit me. If they can do this, I cannot guarantee that one day they will put a bag of cocaine in the boot of my car.
“I don’t deserve this, neither does my family.”
Rubiales said the agreement signed with Saudi Arabia was done in a “transparent, honourable, legal” way and is “beneficial” for Spanish football.
“This is a great and exemplary agreement, that some people want to stain,” he said. “We have worked well; we have acted in an honourable manner.
“The Italian FA took their Super Cup [final] overseas and got €7m and we have gotten €40m per tournament (€400m in total). I don’t know where those €7m in Italy went to, but I can assure you that of the €40m, half of this amount, will go to our modest clubs, that need to survive.”
The rest of the amount will go to the clubs that participate.
The Spanish FA received criticism for taking the competition to a country that has been criticised for its treatment of women.
“Thanks to the Spanish FA, women in Saudi Arabia have been able to walk into a stadium and not have to sit by themselves,” Rubiales said. “Our ambassador [in Saudi Arabia] even thanked us for signing this agreement.”
Among the audios stolen that were leaked to the media, was a conversation between Pique and Rubiales in which the veteran defender expressed his desire to play at the Tokyo Olympics.
A 2010 World Cup winner and 2012 European Champion, Pique retired from the Spanish national team in the summer of 2018.
“He [Pique] wasn’t the only player to call me,” Rubiales said. “There were others. I spoke to [Spain Under-21 coach Luis] De la Fuente about him and about many others. But I told him to make the decision he had to make. Luis then made his own decision.
“It’s better that no player calls me because as you can see, it didn’t work.”