Spain face possible World Cup ban
BARCELONA, Spain (AP):
Concerned about the independence of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RSFF), FIFA said yesterday that it will send a delegation to the country to investigate government meddling.
FIFA said in a statement written in Spanish that it had recently sent a letter to the federation "expressing our concern for the situation that the federation is going through and reminding (its officials) that, according to the Statutes of FIFA, all member federations must manage their affairs independently and assure that there is no interference by third parties."
Spanish newspaper El Pais reported earlier yesterday that the FIFA letter warned of a possible suspension because of the government's push to hold elections following the arrest of federation president Angel Maria Villar in July on suspicion of corruption.
According to El Pais, FIFA is concerned that the government's interest in federation elections could be considered outside meddling and break its rules. If the national federation were to be suspended, Spain's team would not be allowed to play at next year's World Cup.
FIFA's statement made no mention of a suspension or other punitive measures.
But the scare was big enough for Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to say that Spain will not miss football's biggest event.
"I am sure that Spain will go to the World Cup in Russia and that it will win it," Rajoy said at a news conference in Brussels.
FIFA added in its statement that "in the coming days" it will send a delegation, which will include representatives from UEFA, to Madrid to "observe and analyse the situation" of the RSFF.
The federation said in a separate statement that its interim president, Juan Luis Larrea, had spoken with FIFA and UEFA officials at the World Cup draw on December 1, and that he had passed on their "enormous concern" to Spain's minister of education, culture and sport.
The Spanish federation said it was waiting for the ministry to set a date for a meeting.