Spain’s police raid RFEF HQ in probe over Saudi Super cup deal

Police searched the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) headquarters and an apartment belonging to its former head Luis Rubiales on Wednesday in a corruption probe over a multimillion-euro deal to relocate the Spanish Super Cup to Saudi Arabia.

A Spanish court has been investigating since June 2022 whether Rubiales committed a crime of improper management when the RFEF agreed with former Barcelona player Gerard Pique’s Kosmos firm to move the tournament, a judicial source said.

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Rubiales did not immediately reply to a Reuters request for comment but he has previously denied wrongdoing. The RFEF declined to comment.

The RFEF said it was “deeply concerned” by the search of its headquarters and has offered its full cooperation. Spanish football’s ruling body pledged “absolute transparency” in a statement posted on its website.

Five people have been arrested in Madrid and two in Granada in connection with the case, the Spanish Civil Guard told Reuters, without giving names or further details.

Rubiales angered Spanish football traditionalists by expanding the contest between the league champions and Copa del Rey winners to a four-team format, shifting the event from August to January, and hosting it outside Spain.

The RFEF in 2019 agreed a three-year deal worth a reported €120 million ($131m) with the Saudi sports authority to stage the competition in Saudi Arabia.

Judge Delia Rodrigo Diaz ordered the new searches of the RFEF’s Madrid base and Rubiales’ Granada apartment as part of her investigation, the source told Reuters.

The operation is part of a wider probe of unspecified entities linked to alleged corruption in business, improper management of assets and money laundering, the prosecutor said.

Police carried out a total of 11 searches on unspecified locations across Spain and the prosecutor expected seven people to be arrested.

As the Civil Guard and undercover agents searched the offices of the football federation, the Spain national team was practising on the adjoining pitch. They face Colombia in a friendly on Friday in London before taking on Brazil at the Bernabéu on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, RFEF staff were barred from entering the building. Media there to cover the practice and interview players were kept under close watch as police conducted searches that continued into the afternoon.

A source at the RFEF told Reuters the home of former president Rubiales in Andalucia had also been searched. Images showed several Civil Guard officers emerging from the Granada city centre apartment with a cardboard box labelled “Luis Rubiales” along with several other bags.

The investigation adds to Rubiales’ legal woes after he was accused of sexual assault and coercion over his unsolicited kiss on the mouth of player Jenni Hermoso during celebrations after Spain’s Women’s World Cup victory last year.

Rubiales resigned as RFEF president in September and was banned by FIFA from all football activities for three years.

Both Hermoso and Rubiales, along with colleagues, have given testimony to the investigating judge, who has recommended the case proceed to trial.

Rubiales’ mandate was full of controversies, including a shock decision to sack Spain manager Julen Lopetegui two days before their opening 2018 World Cup match.