Friday, March 24, 2023

Albert Soler, from receiving Rubiales’ endorsement for the CSD to being designated (without naming him) as an accomplice of Negreira

“The RFEF has been able to verify that there would be a person who, knowing the facts first hand, he did not denounce them when he had governmental responsibilities. We are studying presenting the corresponding complaint or complaint against that person”. The federation general secretary and number two of Luis Rubiales, Andreu Camps, made this statement during the press conference on Thursday, in which the RFEF and the referees offered explanations about the Negreira case, referred to Millionaire payments from Barcelona to José María Enríquez Negreira between 2001 and 2018when he was vice president of the Technical Committee of Referees.

“Are you referring to Albert Soler?”, asked a journalist during question time. Camps threw balls out, neither confirmed nor denied that he was referring to who between May 2021 and January 2023 was general director of the Higher Sports Council, second in command of the organization after the Secretary of State and president of the same, José Manuel Franco, both under the mandate of Minister Miquel Iceta. But no one escapes it, and this is how it slips from all the national sports offices consulted by this newspaper, which was also Barça executive between 2014 and 2021under the presidency of Josep Maria Bartomeu, was the omitted subject of the accusation.

Did Soler know about the payments from Barça to Enríquez Negreira for alleged services not provided? From his environment they categorically deny that this was the case. They explain that went to the Barcelona Prosecutor’s Office a few months ago to testify as a witness and that he was asked about the reports made for Barça by Javier Enríquez, of which he was aware based on his position as director of professional sports for the Barça entity. But that, in no case, did he know of any connection with Enríquez Negreira, of which, they say, he had news in the press.

Revenge? Treason?

So why does the RFEF point to him? From Las Rozas, through the voice of Camps, written down, he makes sure he has indications that he actually knew him. From other executive offices of national sport it is clear that, Whether or not he knew anything about the former vice president of referees, revenge is a powerful motivation for Rubiales towards someone by whom, they say, he felt betrayed.

EL PERIÓDICO DE ESPAÑA, from the Prensa Ibérica group, has collected the testimony, on condition of anonymity, of seven sources familiar with the relations between Rubiales and Soler while they cohabited as president of the RFEF and general director of the CSD, respectively. And in many cases, the versions differ radically, even revealing themselves to be contradictory.

Soler had been a manager of Barça for seven years. At that time, thanks to Bartomeu’s policy (later followed by Laporta) of building bridges with the Federation and facing LaLiga, builds good relations with Rubiales and Campswhom he has known for 25 years, thanks to his coincidence in positions of a sporting nature in various Catalan public institutions.

With Soler already out of Barça, after Bartomeu’s departure from the Barça presidency, José Manuel Franco is appointed Secretary of State for Sport, replacing Irene Lozano. No experience in sports management, one of its first tasks is to recruit a general manager who does have that experience. The chosen one ends up being Soler. As? Here is the first big divergence.

Who called who?

From Soler’s environment they assure that it was Franco who picked up the phone to offer him the position, which he had already held between 2008 and 2011, even being president of the CSD for a few months, and that he was not looking for that job, because in fact he rejected several professional offers to answer the call of the Government. In other offices, the version is different: Soler called Rubiales, and other leaders such as the president of the Spanish Olympic Committee, Alexander Whiteto ask them for help to fill that position. And Franco, after hearing that these leaders recommended the election of the former Barça manager, decided to appoint him to the position.

In any case, the president of the RFEF gave his endorsement to Soler, whether or not this was decisive for his appointment. There are those who say that he did it because of the good past relationship, but that never stopped trusting him. Other sources indicate that within the Government they considered that Soler was Rubiales’ man in the Socialist Executive. In LaLiga, the appointment was deeply upsetting.

Soler is commissioned to develop several projects that the Government considered strategic for the current mandate. Among them, the promotion of the women’s professional soccer league, the articulated and approval of a new Sports Law or the creation of a new support program for elite Olympic athletes, finally known as Team Spain.

With the first of these orders is where the problems between the RFEF and Soler begin. Sources close to the then general director of the CSD assure that the only problem was that Rubiales did not want the league to become professional, because the Federation was going to lose control (as it did) on the Women’s First Division, while he was in charge of taking it forward. Another version among those collected was that Soler blessed the postulates of Rubiales’ natural opponents in the structuring of the new league.

A source from the PSOE assures, very forcefully, that Soler never worked looking out for the interests of the CSD, but first for those of Rubiales and later for those of Tebas, in these endless soccer wars. From his environment they explain that, quite to the contrary, if he stirred up both at different stages, it was precisely because He always put the interests of the Government and his responsibilities as a public official first.

Loss of confidence

That dialectic is what ends up causing him to lose favor with the Secretary of State, José Manuel Franco. It occurs after the outbreak of the Rubiales case, originated by the publication by ‘El Confidencial’ of numerous private conversations of the president of the RFEF, which have ended up causing the Justice to investigate him for the alleged crimes of corruption in business and unfair administration.

Two complaints from AFE and the International Doge of Madrid arrive at the CSD with the aim of having them submitted to the Administrative Court of Sports (TAD) to a possible disqualification of Rubiales. The Government understands that, with the law in hand, it must freeze any administrative procedure until the Justice rules on the case. Soler, however, actively and passively insists on moving forward and that the TAD be the one to make that decision.

And he does it, say those around him, because it was his responsibility as a public manager and because he had acted in a similar way months before with the former president of the Rugby Federation, Alfonso Feijoo, whom he personally forced to resign after the scandal of the passports that left the Spanish team without playing the World Cup. And that adopting a position different from the one he took would have been prevaricating.

change sides?

This insistence, in any case, is interpreted within the Government, and also in the RFEF, as an undisguised will of Soler to ‘kill’ Rubiales. The almost unanimous conclusion around those who move in the football offices is that the general director was committing the betrayal of him whom he endorsed for the position, going over to the side of Thebes. An uncomfortable position for a CSD that from the top of the Government asked for temperance (and, at times, equidistance) between LaLiga and the RFEF.

It is then, in the summer, when Soler loses Franco’s trust. It was also at that time that the last conversation between Rubiales and him took place. During the autumn, it is already being heard in the Government that Soler “does not paint anything” in the CSD. Finally, on January 10, 2023, he ceases as CEO. According to his environment, he resigns because he considers that he is not being allowed to work and because the four or five large projects that he had been commissioned to have already been completed. From the Government it is heard that he wanted to give him a dignified exit, but that he had already lacked power in the organization for weeks or even months.

Soler files for the Acento consultancy, owned by the former socialist minister Pepe Blanco, after his departure from the Government. One of the clients of this company, for three years, is LaLiga and that has raised logical suspicions. From Soler’s environment they assure that he does not manage that company account nor does he intervene in any way in it.

And so we come to the last chapter, to the undisguised insinuations that Soler knew the details of the link between Barça and Enríquez Negreira and that he hid them. It will be necessary to see if the RFEF decides to file a complaint or a complaint. And, if it does, if everything was, in effect, a revenge or there was cloth to cut.


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