ZURICH: Spain’s Angel Maria Villar, a vice-president of both world and European federations FIFA and UEFA, has been rapped over the knuckles for failing to cooperate initially with the 2018-2022 World Cup bid investigation writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

The FIFA ethics committee has imposed a SFr25,000 fine and a warning on the veteran lawyer who has been president of the Spanish football federation for the past 25 years. He has also been formally cautioned.

Villar’s suitability to continue as head of FIFA’s legal committee may come under scrutiny because of his inappropriate conduct.

The former Spain and Bilbao midfielder had led the Spain-Portugal co-hosting bid which lost out to Russia for 2018. He is also interim chairman of FIFA’s 2018 World Cup organising committee after Michel Platini was suspended by the ethics committee over allegations of financial misconduct.

Last month he also chaired an emergency meeting of UEFA and its own executive in his role as first vice-president, also because of Platini’s enforced absence.

Confirmation of long-running speculation that Villar was under investigation came on October 21 after a relaxation of the confidentiality rules surrounding some of the ethics committee’s work.

Villar has come under increasing pressure over the past years, notably from Soanish league president Javier Tebas who forced the 65-year-old federation leader into a humiliating climbdown over the issue of centralised sale of league TV rights.

Last month, at a conference in London, Tebas said it was time Villar stepped aside because of his apparent turning of a blind eye to corruption among members of FIFA’s governing council. Tebas described Villar as “either very clever or very stupid if he did not notice anything.”

Reform opponent

Villar has long been regarded as a conservative on the FIFA exco and a loyal supporter of outgoing president Sepp Blatter. He was among leaders of a group of exco members who tried to block reform proposals from governance guru Mark Pieth and also tried to halt American lawyer Michael Garcia’s investigation into the 2018-2022 World Cup bid scandal.

He refused, initially, to answer questions from Garcia, former ethics investigator, until he was referred to the ethics committee. The comparative leniency of the sanction reflects the fact that, grudgingly, he changed his position.

The Spain-Portugal bid was known to have entered into a vote-swap agreement with Qatar. Qatar benefited by securing the 2022 finals but Spain-Portugal lost out to Russia for 2018.

An ethics committee statement said: “Mr Villar Llona failed to behave in accordance with the general rules of conduct applicable to football officials in the context of the investigations conducted by the then chairman of the investigatory chamber of the FIFA Ethics Committee regarding the 2018-2022 FIFA World Cup bids, thereby violating article 13 of the FCE.

“As he subsequently expressed his commitment to collaborate and demonstrated a willingness to cooperate, he has been sanctioned with a warning and a fine of SFr25,000.”

The lenient sanction for Villar suggests that Franz Beckenbauer, a former FIFA executive committee member who took part in the December 2010 vote and who also refused to cooperate initially with the inquiry, will also escape a ban.

The FIFA ethics committee, along with announcing its action against Villar, also banned for six months both Jean Guy Blaise Mayolas, vice-president of the Congolese FA and Badji Mombo Wantete, its general secretary. They were deemed to have breached ethics code regulations concerning the offering and accepting of gifts and other benefits.

Both men had already been suspended provisionally for 135 days, hence the remaining ban will be 45 days.