On Wednesday morning, the headquarters of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and the home of its former president were searched as part of an investigation into alleged corruption during Luis Rubiales’ five years in charge.

Rubiales resigned as RFEF president in September after being initially suspended by FIFA, world football’s governing body, for his behaviour when Spain won the 2023 Women’s World Cup final the previous month, including an allegedly non-consensual kiss with Spain player Jenni Hermoso during the post-game medal and trophy presentation ceremony.

Officers from Spain’s Civil Guard (Guardia Civil), instructed by court investigators, also conducted raids at other sites in Spain. Seven arrests were made; five in Madrid and two in Granada, where Rubiales has an apartment. He was out of the country at the time, but his legal team has told the judge overseeing the investigation that he will cooperate.

Investigators in a case which has been named ‘Operacion Brody’ have confirmed they are looking at potential crimes including corruption, money laundering and misuse of federation funds between 2018 and 2023, potentially including the deal that saw the Supercopa de Espana, Spain’s equivalent of the Community Shield in English football, moved to be played in Saudi Arabia and the construction work at the Estadio de la Cartuja in Seville, where the Spanish national team sometimes play home games.

The Athletic looks at the dramatic events of this week and the potential consequences for Rubiales, the RFEF and Spain’s national teams.

What happened at RFEF HQ?

Just after 11am local time on Wednesday, uniformed agents made a surprise swoop on RFEF headquarters in Las Rozas, a wealthy suburb to the north-west of Madrid’s city centre.

A search was carried out by officers from the Guardia Civil’s Unidad Central Operativa, in coordination with anti-corruption prosecutors and with the support of Europol.

It took place as Spain’s national team players were preparing for training at another part of the complex. The squad were staying on-site ahead of this week’s friendlies against Colombia in London today (Friday) and Brazil in Madrid on Tuesday.

Players including Manchester City’s Rodrigo, Real Madrid’s Dani Carvajal, Barcelona’s Lamine Yamal and national captain Alvaro Morata of Atletico Madrid took part in a training session overseen by head coach Luis de la Fuente, while police officers were entering and leaving the federation’s offices, taking away boxes of documents and other possible evidence.

The RFEF attempted to present a ‘business as usual’ face, especially on social media.

“Successful session completed!” read one post on its official X account. “Big fan of these players and the good mood that reigns among the team.”

Afterwards, Arsenal’s on-loan Brentford goalkeeper David Raya attended a press conference, at which the first question was whether he had been aware of the police activity all morning at the complex. “We got up, had our breakfast and did our training session as normal,” Raya said. “I for sure had no idea what was happening.”

Another session went ahead as scheduled in the afternoon as RFEF staff tried to keep things as normal as possible for the players and coaches as they prepared for their upcoming games, with this summer’s European Championship in Germany now less than three months away.

At nearly 8pm, the RFEF released a statement saying it was “collaborating fully” with the Guardia Civil search and was showing “absolute transparency”.

What happened with Rubiales?

Around the same time as their visit to the RFEF, police also raided offices at the stadium known as La Cartuja in Seville and properties related to some of Rubiales’ closest associates. Boxes of documents were carried out of the ex-president’s flat in Granada city centre as passers-by on the busy street watched in amazement.

Rubiales was not present. He was in the Dominican Republic, in the Caribbean, where he has spent a substantial amount of time since he was forced out of the RFEF and banned from all football activity by FIFA in October.

“I’m completely surprised by all this,” Rubiales told Spanish TV show Telecinco on Thursday evening. “I’ve been working here for months, in the Dominican Republic, and been here for the last month. Actually, my family was about to fly out here to spend Easter with me.”

Rubiales also told newspaper El Espanol that he had “done nothing wrong”, had “nothing to hide” and was “surprised” at what had happened. He also said, “I’ll answer everything when (the investigators) ask me.”

Rubiales’ kiss of Hermoso (Noemi Llamas/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)

After the global uproar when Rubiales kissed national-team player Hermoso during the trophy ceremony when Spain won the Women’s World Cup last summer, Spanish prosecutors launched an investigation for potential charges of sexual assault and coercion.

Hermoso said in evidence in early January that she had not given consent for Rubiales to kiss her. In late January, National Court (Audencia Nacional) judge Francisco de Jorge ordered the case to go forward to trial. A date is yet to be set.

Rubiales has always strongly protested that he did nothing seriously wrong, saying Hermoso consented to the kiss. He has also repeatedly stated he is the victim of a conspiracy because enemies elsewhere in Spanish football wanted to force him out (those he suspects include Javier Tebas, president of La Liga).

After FIFA moved to suspend him, Rubiales resigned, using an interview on British broadcaster TalkTV to again portray himself as the victim of “lies” from Hermoso, while boasting of having raised the RFEF’s annual revenues from €3million (£2.6m/$3.2m at current rates) up to €27m during his five years as president.

In December, Rubiales also did a similar interview with Luis ‘Alvise’ Perez, a Spanish internet personality known for far-right, anti-feminist and anti-immigration messages. He claimed Spain’s current socialist prime minister Pedro Sanchez’s government had made a big deal of him kissing Hermoso to distract people from the government’s ‘amnesty’ deal with Catalan separatist politicians.

The following month, Rubiales and South Korean company The Moon Labs launched an NFT. The supporting publicity material claimed Rubiales “made a small mistake” at the Women’s World Cup, but said “everybody knows in our deep heart” that he was not guilty of any “violent sexual assault”, adding the NFT was part of a campaign against “extremism and radical feminism” globally.

Rubiales claimed online that the NFTs sold out almost immediately. However, very few were actually bought and their value also quickly plummeted.

He is reported to be involved in more business activities in the Dominican Republic. Former footballer Francisco Javier Martin Alcaide, known as Nene and a long-time friend of the ex-RFEF president, now runs several hotels under the brand Urban Dream, both in Spain and in the Caribbean island nation.

What is it the police are investigating?

Rubiales’ exit from the RFEF was due to his behaviour at the Women’s World Cup final — where he also grabbed his crotch just a few seats down from Spain’s Queen Letizia and her 16-year-old daughter Sofia in the stadium VIP box.

Even before that tournament in Australia and New Zealand, investigators in Spain were looking closely at his business dealings as RFEF president.

A legal complaint by Miguel Angel Galan, dated May 30, 2022, to a court in Majadahonda, Madrid, set in motion events that led to Wednesday’s raids. Galan is president of the Association for Transparency and Democracy in Sport and previously spoke to The Athletic about alleged corruption in the RFEF.



Miguel Galan: The man who first took on Luis Rubiales and Spain’s football powers

That legal complaint included claims of irregularities in the contract that saw the annual Supercopa de Espana moved to Saudi Arabia. That deal was agreed in 2019 after mediation by Kosmos, a company owned by former Barcelona and Spain defender Gerard Pique (who was still a Barca player at the time).

Investigators have also been looking into the potential use of RFEF funds to pay the rent on Rubiales’ luxury flat in Madrid, for a trip he took to New York in October 2018, and a party at Salobrena, a seaside town in the Andalusia region of southern Spain, involving federation staff and female companions.

Rubiales has always denied misusing RFEF funds.

The scene outside RFEF headquarters on Wednesday (Oscar J.Barroso/AFP7/Europa Press via Getty Images)

Among the properties raided on Wednesday were Urban Dream hotels in Granada and Torrox, near Malaga, and La Cartuja in Seville, which hosts the Copa del Rey final each year, as well as Spain internationals. Those arrested include the RFEF’s legal director Pedro Gonzalez Segura, its human resources director Jose Jimenez and its external legal advisor Tomas Gonzalez Cueto (officers also raided the offices of GC Legal, the latter’s firm).

Angel Gonzalez Segura, brother of the body’s legal director and a director of construction company Gruconsa, was also arrested. During Rubiales’ tenure at the federation, almost €1million was paid to Gruconsa for work at La Cartuja, including to prepare a stadium configured for track and field to stage games at the previous European Championship, which was meant to be played in 2020 but was delayed 12 months due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

For brokering the move of the Supercopa competition to Saudi, Kosmos reportedly received a €24million commission. That deal was first agreed for three years until 2021 but was then extended to 2029.

It appears Kosmos is not under investigation as the Guardia Civil has not contacted the company, asked it for any documents, or looked for anything from Pique or at his house. A Kosmos spokesperson told The Athletic it would not be commenting on the matter.

Pique and Rubiales have previously denied any wrongdoing.

The Guardia Civil also visited the Andalusian regional government headquarters on Wednesday. In early 2021, the regional government made an “exceptional grant” of €4.9million to go towards the upgrade of the Estadio Cartuja ahead of the (delayed) Euro 2020 games held there.

“The work was done and the processes followed were all legal,” said government spokesperson Antonio Sanz on Thursday, when questioned by local reporters.

Why was the timing important?

The raid at Las Rozas came hours before the RFEF committee organising elections to choose Rubiales’ permanent successor was due to meet to formally announce a date for that vote. With police at the federation’s headquarters all through the day, that meeting was suspended indefinitely.

Just before Rubiales was suspended by FIFA, he handpicked Pedro Rocha as his temporary successor and he has since been acting chief of the organisation. Although Rocha’s only official role is to organise the elections to pick a new permanent president, he has been hiring and firing senior federation staff, extending coach De la Fuente’s contract to 2026, representing Spain at events ahead of World Cup 2030, which it is co-hosting, and taking home the president’s €675,000 a year salary.

Rocha was, however, widely seen as the most likely winner of the vote — which is to decide Rubiales’ replacement for the rest of the four-year term he did not get to finish. He would also have been the favourite to win separate elections for the next presidential term, which were to be held before the end of this year.

Rocha, pictured in September at an RFEF event (Thomas Coex/AFP via Getty Images)

That timetable is now on hold.

As well as being the RFEF vice-president, Rocha was also president of its financial committee when some of the contracts now being investigated were signed. He has not been questioned by the police and is not under investigation.

At lunchtime on Thursday, the RFEF announced it had suspended Gonzalez Segura and Jimenez and opened disciplinary proceedings against both men. Its contract with GC Legal was also being ended and Gonzalez Cueto could no longer represent the federation, a statement said. The RFEF was also to formally enter the court investigation as a damaged party.

Rocha was credited with having made these decisions. However, others within and around the RFEF pointed to these actions coming very late and questioned how senior staff close to Rubiales had continued to work for the federation under Rocha’s leadership.

What does it all mean for the RFEF and Spanish football generally?

Thursday morning was relatively quieter at Las Rozas, with the men’s team training again under De la Fuente. It was then time for a quick shower and packing bags before a flight to London for Friday’s game against Colombia at the London Stadium, home of the 2012 Olympics and now West Ham United.

Meanwhile, RFEF business continues.

Wednesday also saw the draw for this summer’s Olympics football tournaments in France, in which Spain’s men’s and women’s under-23 teams will participate. In an ironic twist, the men were drawn in a group with… the Dominican Republic.

There has been frustration among some staff at the constant focus on Rubiales when the RFEF is involved in so much else — running semi-pro leagues, organising senior and age-group national teams, running the Copa del Rey (Spain’s version of the FA Cup) and preparing to be joint-hosts of World Cup 2030.



FIFA’s Rubiales report: Bronze, FA row and ‘The Genitals Incident’

One RFEF source told The Athletic recently how everyone had moved on from last August’s “cataclysm”, with peace and order having returned to the day-to-day at Las Rozas, also highlighting how Hermoso and her team-mates won the first UEFA Women’s Nations League final in February.

However, this week’s events show how they have been unable to just draw a line under the past and move on.

If irregularities are proven in contracts signed by the RFEF under Rubiales, they could be challenged legally. “We will wait for the investigation and the judges,” said Jose Manuel Rodriguez Uribes, president of the Spanish government’s Supreme Council for Sport on Wednesday evening. “If there are irregularities in the contracts, they are not valid.”

Uribe stressed Spain’s co-hosting of the World Cup in six years’ time was not in danger. However, lobbying and politicking is currently underway around which Spanish cities will host which games in the tournament, which is being shared with South American countries Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, Morocco in North Africa and Spain’s neighbour Portugal, and the identity and authority of the RFEF president plays a key role in those decisions.

The venues for future Supercopa de Espana competitions and Copa del Rey finals could also be challenged.

What are the next likely developments?

Rubiales’ lawyer has sent a letter to investigating judge Delia Rodriguez saying he will make himself available to the court in Madrid on April 6, or sooner if required. That appears to have removed any requirement for Spanish authorities to request an extradition warrant from their Dominican Republic counterparts.

It also remains to be seen whether charges are brought against the individuals arrested in these raids and what evidence the police and investigators have gathered in Madrid, Granada, Seville and elsewhere.

Thursday’s RFEF statement spoke about the damage being caused to it as an institution and to the image of football in Spain.

That is certainly true and the full extent of the fallout from Rubiales’ five years as its president is yet to be made clear.

(Top photo: Thomas Coex/AFP via Getty Images)



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