Gerard Pique might have retired in part to escape the constant noise that accompanies being a celebrity footballer, but he continues to make the headlines for all the wrong reasons. He finds himself under investigation alongside the RFEF following the deal to take the Spanish Supercup to Saudi Arabia.
His sports management firm Kosmos, which also runs the Davis Cup in tennis, was the intermediary for a deal between Saudi Arabia and the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) to take the Spanish Supercup to the Middle East.
El Confidencial (via MD) say that a judge will now investigate to see if Barcelona benefitted from the agreement in terms of refereeing decisions. It was described as ‘notable’ that Barcelona, Gerard Pique and the RFEF stood to benefit from favourable refereeing which would lead to them qualifying for the Spanish Supercup.
“It is notable Gerard Pique Bernabeu belonged as a player at the time of the agreements and currently belongs to Barcelona [the request was made before his retirement], a club that together with Real Madrid CF appears in one of the clauses of one of the contracts expressly contemplated in the sense that, if you do not attend the tournament as a participant because you have not obtained the classification in the Spanish competition that entitles you to do so, it results in an economic penalty translated into a decrease in income for the RFEF for an amount of €5m for each edition in which this happens.”
It is not yet clear how this will be investigated, without proof of influence over referees. Without that, it would be a hard line to draw between errors and favouring, as referees make mistakes every game.
Even in spite of the incentives, it seems unlikely that either the RFEF President Luis Rubiales or Pique actively worked to gain favourable treatment for Barcelona. While it cannot be ruled out, the last time Barcelona would not have qualified for the Spanish Supercup in its current format would have been 2008. Pique has vociferously denied that he or Barcelona were given favourable treatment by referees in the past.
The same financial punishment would also apply were Real Madrid not to qualify. Obviously none of their players were involved in the agreement, but both the RFEF and Pique would have stood to lose without them.