The recent investigation into the activities of Luis Rubiales, the President of the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), has taken a new turn as the judicial authorities look into a trip he made to New York. The trip, allegedly funded by the RFEF, has raised suspicions of irregularities and potential misuse of funds by Rubiales.
According to a report by ‘El Confidencial,’ Rubiales purportedly used the guise of meetings with organizations such as the United Nations and the Major League Soccer (MLS) to spend six days in the United States. Accompanying him on this trip was a Mexican painter, with the expenses allegedly covered by the football institution’s budget.
The investigation, led by Judge Delia Rodrigo from Majadahonda (Madrid), was initiated following a request by the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, which has been scrutinizing Rubiales’ activities for over a year. In a court order dated July 14, the judge sought specific information regarding the New York trip.
The court, located in Majadahonda’s First Instance Court No. 4, aims to gather concrete details about Rubiales’ travel arrangements. Previously, the RFEF had claimed that the trip was work-related and released a statement from an individual responsible for organizing several professional meetings for Rubiales. However, it was later revealed that the dates mentioned in the statement did not align with the president’s actual visit to New York, as highlighted by ‘El Confidencial.’
The person mentioned in the statement, Román Ignacio Rodríguez Fernández, is listed in RFEF documents as an assembly member representing R.S.D. Alcalá. The club was among the 83 members of the football organization present at a meeting on May 30, 2022, where Rubiales’ new salary of €675,761.87 per year, along with an additional €3,000 mortgage assistance, was approved.
Judge Delia Rodrigo and the prosecutor are now seeking information from Román Ignacio Rodríguez regarding the dates and supporting documents for the New York trip. The alleged tourism activities of Rubiales in Manhattan, accompanied by a Mexican painter, could potentially constitute a crime of mismanagement, which carries a maximum prison sentence of three years, according to legal sources.
Rubiales reportedly reimbursed the RFEF for the cost of flights, hotel accommodations, and a rental car, claiming that these expenses were related to his official duties. However, according to ‘El Confidencial,’ the president of the RFEF even sent a message to his trusted circle instructing them on how to respond if questioned about the trip. The message suggested that they should mention meetings with the MLS and the United Nations before casually dining with them—an account that contradicts the information provided by knowledgeable sources.
The only semblance of a work-related meeting during Rubiales’ stay in the United States appeared to be a last-minute request from Relevent, a New York-based company specializing in sports event organization. The company’s executives had written to Rubiales to arrange a meeting, but he ultimately canceled it just minutes before the scheduled time.
Relevent is the same company that negotiated contracts related to Spanish football with Javier Tebas, the president of La Liga. The investigation into the alleged corruption surrounding the sale of the Spanish Super Cup to Saudi Arabia has been ongoing for over a year and two months. In June, Judge Delia Rodrigo extended the proceedings for at least another six months, citing the need for further investigation. Several pending inquiries remain to be resolved.