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Wednesday February 10 2016
Final whistle for Villar?

The RFEF President has been in power for almost three decades but with elections approaching and allegations of corruption, the end may be near for Angel Maria Villar, Garreth Nunn writes.

Angel Maria Villar has sat at the head of Spanish football’s top table for almost three decades now. In that time he has seen Spain go from the traditional bridesmaids of football to World Cup winners and back-to-back European champions. Ironically Spanish football’s most successful period, the past decade, has also been its most polemical and there are no signs of it stopping anytime soon. And right in the middle is Villar, who faces re-election this year but for many he has had his time and now a change is needed. But Villar is not going to go quietly. 

To say that Villar’s reign has been rocky is an understatement, especially in the last 10 years. When Real Madrid failed to back his bid for the Spanish Football Federation [RFEF] Presidency a few years ago, the term ‘Villarto’ was coined by the media. It was used to suggest that teams that won dubious decisions, had only won said decisions because of the support they had shown to the RFEF’s President.

One club that supported Villar was Barcelona and so ‘Villarto’ is used almost on a weekly basis by the Madrid Press. Villar has been elected again since the term was created and many believed he was on course for another term but it has been a tough 18 months for the former Athletic Bilbao player.

First up was the fiasco that the RFEF found themselves in after a fan was killed before a game. Atletico Madrid Ultras prior to a fixture at Vicente Calderon tragically killed a Deportivo La Coruna fan. Most felt the game should not have kicked off but for the tie to be postponed, a member of the RFEF had to give the say so. At the Calderon, calls were made but were not answered by the person who was supposed to be on duty.

The game went ahead and when the clubs and the League addressed the media, most expected the Federation to follow suit but Villar remained silent. This drew a lot of criticism as many expected the Spain’s top football official to come out and condone the violence but he was staying quiet and people were starting to question his position.

Next up there was an argument in 2015 with the LFP, its President Javier Tebas and the Spanish government. Villar was recorded insulting Tebas as a new collective broadcasting deal was being discussed. A new deal would see the Federation lose some control over the League and also receive a smaller percentage of TV rights.

The LFP argued that the percentage figure may be smaller but the income would be actually higher. For years a deal similar to that in the Premier League, where everyone gets a fairer share of the TV rights, had been called for but the Federation were dragging their heels.

For such a deal to get off the ground, the Spanish government needed to change the law, something that saw FIFA get involved.  Villar, who is also a FIFA Vice-President, received the full support from football’s governing body, who threatened to suspend Spain from the international game should its government get involved in footballing affairs.

There was no love lost between Villar and Spain’s Sports Minister as they both came out and stood their ground but would FIFA follow up on their threat? Their bluff was called and nothing happened, but it wouldn’t be the last we would hear from FIFA.

Lately anyone who has seen the news in Spain will have seen that almost everyday there is a story about corruption. The sports news is no different. Transfer deals and players not paying tax are the usual but now Villar has found himself amongst the headlines.

Allegations have been made and the RFEF’s headquarters raided amid reports that Villar broke the RFEF’s own rules when dealing with Recreativo Huelva. The club were technically bankrupt, with huge tax debts and instead of being punished, they were granted a licence to compete and also received a loan from the RFEF to allegedly pay off a former Coach.

Considering that RFEF traditionally comes down hard on clubs who have failed to comply with the rules, most notably Elche, who were relegated from the Primera, the treatment of Recreativo is baffling and raised more and more questions. It has been called the final straw and there have been calls for Villar to step down but he isn’t going without a fight.

Before the CSD, Consejo Superior de Deportes, raided the offices, Villar asked for some time to look at the allegations but he was denied. He has since turned over all documents but has started a war of words and threats with Spain’s Sports Minister, Miguel Cardenal. Villar has questioned whether the Spanish government have any right to get involved because right now, Spain is in political limbo.

A general election in December 2015 saw no clear winner and since then the four main parties have been in discussions to form a new government. FIFA has once again come into the fold and threatened the government with exclusion from the international game. Villar has also threatened to withdraw Spain from Euro 2016 if the government persists. This isn’t the first time he has done this - he did likewise in 2008. It may be an empty threat but it does show the power that Villar has, or he believes he has.

Villar has said that he would like the elections to be postponed but since that doesn’t look like happening, he has said he has no plans to resign and will stand again. The elections are due to take place in April. So far two candidates have thrown their hats into the ring. Jorge Perez, the RFEF’s secretary, has announced that he will stand against his former boss and Miguel Galan is an outsider who some might see as a breath of fresh air.

But, Spain is different. President Mariano Rajoy has seen his party involved in numerous corruption cases but still saw his party win the most seats in the General Election. In Spain people talk about change a lot but normally go with tradition and those they know best. Villar is hoping that will be the case again. 

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