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Luis Rubiales, President of the AFE, the Association of Football Players in Spain, came to the offices of daily Marca and said the agreement reached with the Liga (LFP) is ‘historic’. He added that AFE had achieved the objectives they had set themselves ‘with no winners’.


Was it necessary to halt the competition?
‘A year and a half ago, I would have said no. We only took this decision because we could not find another way.’


When did you see that there was no way out but to strike?
‘When we had exhausted all the other options. Everything was being postponed, and our commitment to the players meant they were not going to play without protection.’


One of the central issues was the guarantee fund.
‘Yes, because it was approved subject to a few conditions that were not what we had discussed. A bankruptcy fund is no good because it keeps the Insolvency Law within the football world. This law is now before the Senate and we hope the amendment will be approved, because it’s fundamental for football players that the clubs do things right and preserve the equality of the competition.’


What has to change?
‘If it goes ahead, a law of insolvency is going to be created. We have to close the option of declaring bankruptcy to avoid relegation. We shall have taken a giant step forward at the legal level in this country if it goes ahead.’


Shouldn’t players be more responsible when they sign up with clubs that don’t pay?
‘More and more footballers are calling us up and, if they ask us for advice, we give it to them. In any case, as we see it, it’s the competition that has to guarantee the wages.


In Spain, between the First and Second Divisions, football players earn some 750 million euros from a business that takes in 2,000 million. In the majority of cases, they are below the 70% that UEFA asks for. Another thing is that transfer fees and commissions, things that aren’t payroll items, are included as staff expenses.’


Can you clarify what has been achieved?
‘In the first place, payment has been guaranteed to the more than 200 football players that are owed money. They are going to receive what’s due in full.


Next, a change of rules has been achieved so that, as in Segunda Division B, for each team that is relegated the team that is promoted takes over its debt to players. If the position remains vacant, which seems unlikely, a subsidiary guarantee is created so that the players can be paid. The social fund is to be maintained for the next four years, in step with the increase in the consumer prices index.’


‘On this point, we have tried to help the Liga by permitting the payment to go from less to more so that the clubs can increase their takings. A fourth point, and a very important one, is that if there is non-payment for three months, the player who reports it is free to go to any team for a period of five to ten days, as long as we aren’t in the last ten days of the Liga. This limitation is to avoid interfering with the competition.’


What percentage of what you wanted have you got?
‘All of it. This is a historic agreement with no winners.’


Have the players started being paid?
‘We have to wait for the last teams that went into bankruptcy to begin to act, because we are not going to treat the players involved differently. It’s a period of three or four months. Before, the guarantees were due in three years. We have now deferred the period, but collecting from the start.’


Have you agreed that no action will be taken because of the strike?
‘Yes. The clubs are not going to deduct anything from the players for the stoppage, nor is the AFE going to claim an illegal lockout situation because the clubs did not offer the conditions for matches to be played. In addition, it has been agreed that matches won’t be played at Christmas. Both sides have come out very satisfied.’


You spoke with a lot of players. And with club presidents?
‘Yes, many. Some understand it, while others don’t. What I can say is that they are very worried about the Insolvency Law.’


Is it right for a bankrupt team to sign people up for millions of euros?
‘No. It’s bad, very bad. There’s one team that has signed up a player for a price equal to what it owes its employees from last season. Its owner promised me that all its debts were going to be paid in full. For me, this person is best ignored. We all know what’s happening, teams that buy players through a legal person other than the club.’




In the middle of negotiations, a letter appeared from Javier Tebas (ex president of LFP), talking about black money and the buying and selling of matches.
‘Black money does not form part of the AFE’s complaints. Our allegation is about contracts deposited with the LFP. One club was pointed out [Editor’s note: Rayo Vallecano], but they all obtained federation contracts last season, because we checked them out. It’s possible that it happened in the past. This year, it’s bankrupt. If there’s black money in a team under the Insolvency Law, let’s pack our bags and go home now. All those people who keep on talking about black money, what they have to do is show proof, as the AFE does. Any player who gets a contract that way ceases to be protected.’


And the buying of matches?
‘As a player, I was always against that and never took part in it. People talk about Athletic-Levante in 2007, when I was playing for Levante. Recorded conversations exist that make it clear that I was against any arrangement. As AFE president, it isn’t whether I’m against it, the fact is I go to each dressing room to explain to the players that it’s a crime.


When I was a player and suspected that this could be happening, I notified the AFE and didn’t act in that way. Nowadays, every player knows that anyone who makes a mistake and is caught will have to pay for it. There’s only one way to go, and we are on the side of the CSD [Supreme Council for Sports] to do away with this. In these matters, it’s easy to throw a stone and hide your hand.’


Have you had many adverse reactions from the man in the street?
‘I think the people have understood our complaints this time. There had never been a situation like this in a great Liga, with so many players affected and mobilized. When there’s a contract but it isn’t being complied with, the one who doesn’t get what he signed up for  is not to blame. This was something just and we had to go right up to the end.’