Russia 2018 spot on the line? FIFA warns Spanish government to keep out of football

Spanish shirt

By Andrew Warshaw

December 18 – It’s an unthinkable scenario but Spain’s participation in next year’s World Cup could technically be under threat if the Spanish government meddles in the election of a replacement for disgraced Spanish FA (RFEF) president Angel Maria Villar, the former FIFA and UEFA bigwig who was forced to relinquish his posts over corruption charges.

FIFA have raised concerns over political interference within the federation which is being run on an interim basis by Juan Luis Larrea.

“We can confirm that FIFA recently sent a letter to the RFEF showing its concern with the situation the federation is in and reminding it that… all member associations should manage their affairs in an independent way,” said a widely reported FIFA statement.

“All associations must be assured that there is no outside interference from third parties in its internal affairs. FIFA is in contact with the RFEF and in the next few weeks a delegation of FIFA and UEFA members will travel to Madrid to analyse the situation the RFEF is in.”

Any breaches of that “puts the (Spanish) federation’s autonomy at risk, and would be a serious violation of its own statutes.”

FIFA’s intervention is reported to have been prompted by a complaint allegedly lodged by Villar himself, who resigned as senior vice-president of FIFA and vice-president of UEFA following his arrest in July but who is still de facto president of the RFEF.

According to Spanish reports, the government’s National Sports Council has been pushing the RFEF to hold new presidential elections, taking both Larrea and Villar out of their respective positions.

Larrea has said he has no intention of stepping down prematurely and is certain FIFA won’t  go as far as to threaten to throw Spain out of international competition as it has done with various African and Asian nations in the past.

Larrea told AS: “The meeting (with FIFA) will be informative and, in no case, punitive. No-one is going to take Spain out of the World Cup. It’s impossible and never been talked about. It won’t happen.”

Spain’s prime minister Mariano Rajoy took a similar line saying there was no chance of Spain missing out on Russia 2018.

“I cannot contemplate that scenario. I’m absolutely convinced that Spain will go to the World (Cup) in Russia and what’s more, we’ll win,” said Rajoy. “The government’s behaviour is exemplary and those in charge of the department for sport (CSD) have the total support of the prime minister.”

A further statement from the RFEF attempted to play down the issue saying it “wants everything to return to normal; that has always been the main objective of the current board of directors.”

Spain won the World Cup for the first time in 2010 and are among the favourites to lift the trophy in Russia next year.

Captain Sergio Ramos, speaking ahead of the Club World Cup final in Abu Dhabi, added his voice to the mere idea of not going to Russia. “I cannot believe that Spain could lose what we have worked so hard for on the pitch due to an institutional dispute, I struggle to believe that.”

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