Rubiales as a symptom: the lack of good governance in Spanish sport | Soccer | Sports


Luis Rubiales became president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation appealing to the need for ethical regeneration and the implementation of governance in federative management. Today, he is being sought by the courts to account for the contracts signed with Piqué’s company, Kosmos, and the collection of large commissions for bringing the celebration of the Super Cup to Saudi Arabia. The granting of the organization of said competition had obvious moral and reputational risks given the lack of respect for human rights in that country and the whitewashing of the dictatorial regime that this could entail. But perhaps this was less of a problem for him since his main interest was probably obtaining personal financial benefits. Now, adopting that decision to additionally charge irregular commissions leads to the judgment on his actions going from an ethical level to a legal-criminal level that not only affects him personally, but also muddies football and Spanish sports, especially a few. years of organizing a World Cup.

Unfortunately, it is not the only infraction that the former president is accused of: the Salobreña party, the espionage of the president of the Spanish Football Players Association and the famous “piquito” to Jenni Hermoso in the celebration for winning the World Cup in Sydney are other of the “doubtful” performances during his mandate. The list of scandals allows us to venture that his intention to change the RFEF to bring it closer to ethical standards were only tricks to gain power. The reality is that its management is closer to what is usually classified as a “toxic organization”, which is characterized because not only the leader, but its own structure and its members live comfortably in a “criminal comfort” zone, that is, That is, they “normalize” their irregularities.

If we delve into the features of a toxic organization, we must mention several features, which were present in the management of the RFEF. Firstly, clientelism, that is, the giving of favors and privileges for the benefit of the person granting them. As an example of this, it is enough to point out the shameful applause of the majority of members of the General Assembly when Rubiales expressed his refusal to resign after the events in Sydney, when the social clamor for him to abandon his position was overwhelming. Secondly, the rampant conflict of interest that affected several of the main leaders. Not only to Rubiales and Piqué for their interested participation in the contract with Saudi Arabia, the possible cases of conflicts within the RFEF do not end here. There are suspicions that the High Commissioner for External Control, Rubiales’ main legal advisor, runs a law firm that allegedly received numerous legal assignments from the RFEF. He is one of those detained by court order. And finally, the non-limitation of mandates, a first-order ethical requirement in the good governance of organizations to which Rubiales not only flatly opposed, but it seems that he intervened directly by pressing so that the sports law did not include it among their demands to the sports federations.

This bleak panorama of the RFEF is, curiously, not the worst news. The fact is that these practices seem to be widespread in some territorial federations such as the Catalan one, which was also intervened by the police by court order just a few days ago under suspicion of disloyal administration, falsification of public and private documents. Its president, another supporter and supporter of Rubiales.

If we add to these cases of corruption the problems of doping (and poor surveillance thereof), violence, racism, abuse and harassment, match-fixing, etc., a general rethinking of Spanish sport from the point of view of its governance becomes necessary. . Establishing legal and cultural mechanisms to promote ethical culture in federations is necessary and urgent. It is bloody in this aspect that just a few days ago in Great Britain a law was approved that affects, among other aspects, a strengthening of public powers in the control of sports entities in order to ensure their adaptation to governance standards (integrity , transparency, democracy, accountability, sustainability). In Spain, the need to address structural reforms of the federative system is urgent, as well as, as some experts in this matter have been proposing, the creation of an observatory of integrity in sport that enjoys independence to promote ethics in sport and its management, but also to implement useful measures for such purposes as well as, and mainly, to have control, surveillance and sanction powers when behaviors arise that deviate from the ethical principles of sports governance. Only in this way will sports management be able to match the successes of its athletes. They and society do not deserve anything else.

Alberto Carrio Sampedro and José Luis Pérez Triviño are Professors and experts in Sports Ethics. Pompeu Fabra University (Barcelona)

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