Football: Fifa holds talks with Spain amid fears over a World Cup ban

Fifa had warned the Spanish federation that it could be suspended from Russia 2018 because of government interference.
Fifa had warned the Spanish federation that it could be suspended from Russia 2018 because of government interference.PHOTO: AFP

MADRID (AFP/REUTERS) - Fifa and the Spanish government on Monday (Feb 5) agreed that there is a "need to clarify as quickly as possible" the situation regarding the country's football federation (RFEF) to avoid a potential World Cup ban.

World football's governing body had warned the Spanish federation in December that it could be suspended from Russia 2018 because of government interference.

The issue arose after long-time RFEF president Angel Maria Villar was forced to resign last year from the post he had occupied since 1988 following his arrest as part of a corruption investigation. He was detained in July on allegations of collusion, embezzlement and falsifying documents and spent two weeks in custody before being released on bail.

However, the Spanish Sports Council's (CSD) insistence that new elections be called for the presidency of the football federation attracted Fifa's interest because it regards the move as political interference.

On Monday, Fifa secretary general Fatma Samoura met Spanish sports minister Inigo Mendez de Vigo in Madrid, along with CSD president Jose Ramon Lete and interim RFEF chief Juan Luis Larrea.

"The two delegations agreed on the need to clarify as quickly as possible and by legal means the exceptional situation of the RFEF," read a statement from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports, adding that talks were held in "a climate of full collaboration".

Larrea, another long-time football administrator, said he was "convinced there is no danger" surrounding Spain's participation at this year's World Cup.

 

Spain won the World Cup for the first time in 2010 and are one of the favourites to lift the trophy in Russia in the summer.

In recent years, the countries that have been suspended by Fifa include Kuwait and Indonesia.

In 2015, Indonesia was banned from competing in qualifiers for this year's World Cup after Fifa said the central government had taken over its federation's affairs.

Fifa stepped in to ban the country, one of Asia's biggest football markets, after a long-running row between the government and the local football association (PSSI) over which teams should be entered in the top-flight domestic league.

The government had suspended the PSSI after it ignored requests to ban two teams whose owners failed to meet new governance regulations.

Fifa, after repeated warnings to resolve the row, then banned Indonesia, ruling the country out of the joint 2018 World Cup and 2019 Asian Cup qualifying campaign.

The ban was lifted a year later, after the government agreed to lift the sanctions imposed on the PSSI.

In 2015, Kuwait was suspended over a government bill which the global football body said interfered in the independence of the country's football association and fell foul of the Fifa statutes.

The ban saw Kuwait's national teams and clubs sidelined from international competitions and its FA was ineligible for Fifa grants.

The suspension was eventually lifted in December last year.