KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- The spectre of the skulduggery surrounding the scandal-laden 2018/2022 World Cup bid process has come back to haunt the Spanish football federation and its long-serving president Angel Maria Villar.
Few of the nine bids from 11 countries involved in the process which ended in hosting awards to Russia and Qatar escaped criticism, censure or major disciplinary action.
Villar, a former Spain and Bilbao midfielder who has led the RFEF since 1988, was fined CHF25,000 and cautioned by the FIFA ethics committee for a lack of co-operation with the bid investigation undertaken by United States lawyer Michael Garcia.
Nevertheless Villar not only clung on to his status as a vice-president of both the world and European federations but was interim president of UEFA between the autumn of 2015 and September 2016 after Michel Platini’s suspension.
Simultaneously the 66-year-old lawyer had come under increasing pressure in Spain over delayed elections within the Spanish federation and allegations concerning the misuse of power over a lower divisions administrative controversy.
Now Villar and the federation have returned €1.2m of public funds which had been granted to the RFEF by the National Sports Council for development projects supporting the World Cup bid. The RFEF has also paid back €300,000 in interest.
The cash was designated for four programs: €462,000 for a sports education project in in Libya and neighbouring countries; €254,000 for an administration training programme in Latin America; €287,000 for international technical development and €219,000 for a football school in Haiti.
Their purpose was to help promote the co-hosting bid launched by Spain and Portugal in vain pursuit of the 2018 World Cup.
Subsequently the federation failed to provide adequate evidence that the monies had been spent as claimed. The Sports Council opened an investigation which was closed only after the federation agreed to pay back the monies plus interest.
Haiti figured in one of the most controversial of the World Cup cash controversies.
In 2012, the Trinidad & Tobago Football Federation claimed that funds donated for the Haiti hurricane relief fund (including $500,000 from South Korea) had been diverted into an account controlled by Jack Warner, the disgraced former vice-president of FIFA and head of the central/north American confederation CONCACAF.
Villar – one of the few powerbroker survivors from Sepp Blatter’s corruption-scarred FIFA regime – saw his status further downgraded last week when he was sacked as president of the world federation’s referees’ committee.
He has been replaced, in another Euro-friendly gesture by FIFA president Gianni Infantino, by former UEFA refereeing chief Pierluigi Collina.
Separately Villar also faces the possibility of a complaint to the FIFA ethics committee by Jorge Perez, former RFEF general secretary and likely presidential election rival.
Perez is threatening legal against Villar over delays in calling an election and in distributing television revenues to lower division clubs.
Villar, who scored three goals in 22 games for Spain between 1973 and 1979, was the victim of personal tragedy last September when a niece was kidnapped and murdered in Mexico.
A son, Gorka, is wanted for questioning by courts in Uruguay over allegations concerning misuse of funds by CONMEBOL, the South American confederation, while he was its legal director and then secretary-general.