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Covering everything from the major news of the week and burning social issues, to expat living and la vida local, EL PAÍS’ team of English-language bloggers offers its opinions, observations and analysis on Spain and beyond.

Questions must be asked of Spain’s footballing authorities

Por: | 27 de febrero de 2014

On the 11th of this month a lighter was thrown from the stands of the Vicente Calderón Stadium, striking Cristiano Ronaldo on the head. No lasting damage was done, and the Portuguese had the last laugh as his two first half penalties fired Real Madrid past their city rivals Atlético into the final of the Copa del Rey.

A couple of days later the Spanish Football Federation’s (RFEF) Competition Committee looked to show it was taking a serious stand against such actions, and handed down a fine of €600 to the Rojiblancos, saying despite the fact it was an isolated incident, it was nevertheless “reprehensible conduct from the spectator”, and the club was warned over the future behaviour of its fans. A small amount, yet enough of a reprimand to ensure there were no repeats. So far so good.

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The RFEF deemed this incident worthy of a €600 fine (Photo via elpais.com)

The 15th of February is International Childhood Cancer Day, and upon scoring Real Jaén striker Jona lifted up his shirt to the cameras to reveal a show of support for children suffering with the disease: “ánimo pequeñines” (keeping going little ones), read the handwritten message, complete with the hashtag #diamundialcontraelcancerinfantil. The referee, Raúl Gago, who had been told by Jona before the match that he planned on doing as much were he to score, approached the player post-celebration and informed him that he was required, under the rules of Spanish football, to make a note of the incident.

Four days later the same Competition Committee somewhat unbelievably charged the player under Section 91 of the Disciplinary Code, which refers to the displaying of publicity, motto, text, signs, anagrams or drawings, whatever their contents, and fined him €2000 - over three times the amount that Atlético Madrid had received for the lighter incident.

The Committee’s decision caused a mixture of shock, outrage and astonishment, not least from the player, who said: “I did it with all the best intentions in the world because I wanted to support and encourage all the children who are having such a hard time. I wanted to make them smile, I had no idea it could lead to a fine."

How an organisation such as the RFEF, whose chief Ángel María Villar has signed a document requesting that former Sevilla FC president Jose María del Nido be pardoned following a court’s decision to sentence him to seven years in prison for his role in the embezzlement of public funds, can come to such a conclusion is bizarre. It is one thing to fine a player for showing his support to children with cancer, but it is another thing to effectively deem an innocent message of support over three-times worse than throwing a lighter at a player.

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Whilst this message of support for children suffering from cancer was deemed worthy of a €2000 penalty (Photo via elpais.com)

This fact was not lost on the Spanish public, who took to social media to express their feelings. Prominent figures called up the RFEF on their decision to support del Nido, whilst newspaper Marca demanded the fine be dropped, a campaign that picked up a lot of support, including from the Spanish Football League’s (LFP) president, Javier Tebas (who, incidentally, has also signed the aforementioned document).

Following a petition that quickly collected over 10,000 signatures, Real Jaén‘s appeal was accepted by the RFEF with their already fragile reputation under even more scrutiny. Serious questions must now surely be asked of the Spanish footballing authorities, who did little to help themselves when they allowed the country’s two biggest teams, Real Madrid and Barcelona, to choose a midweek slot on a working day for their Copa del Rey final. The decision was taken, according to Real Madrid’s official website, because said date gives both sides more time to prepare for a potential Champions League semi-final that they may, or may not reach.

Whilst the RFEF's initial fine should rightly be deplored, one consolation that can be taken is that the their actions have raised more awareness and provided more support for children suffering from cancer than warm-hearted Jona could ever have imagined when writing his message. 

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Authors (Bloggers)

Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

Ben Cardew is a freelance journalist, translator and teacher, now resident in Barcelona after growing up gracefully in Scotland via Norwich. He writes for The Guardian, the NME and The Quietus, among others, on everything from music to digital media. You can find him on Twitter @bencardew

Fiona Flores Watson is a freelance journalist, guide and translator who has lived in Seville since 2003, and has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Originally from Essex, Fiona is also Consulting Editor of Andalucia.com and has her own blog, Scribbler in Seville. She has been contributing to Trans-Iberian since 2014 and tweets at @Seville_Writer

Jeff Brodsky is a freelance writer. He arrived in Barcelona in 2013 via an admittedly indirect route, living in Chicago, Arizona, Seville, Amsterdam, North Carolina and Madrid. Despite not having stepped foot in Seville for over five years, he still speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent. Jeff’s writing has been published in newspapers and magazines in America and Europe.

Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist and blogger enjoying a life of near-eternal sunshine in Alicante. She writes for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, focusing on stories exploring smart and positive approaches to social issues. She hangs out on Twitter at @KorenHelbig and keeps a selection of her favourite stories at korenhelbig.com.

Julie Pybus lives in a small off-grid house on a hillside in Catalunya. She usually focuses on helping charities and social enterprises with their publications and websites, but has also written for The Guardian, Country Living and The Observer. Julie launched and runs a hyperlocal website which endeavors to increase understanding between the different nationalities in her area perelloplus.com. @JuliePybus

Paul Louis Archer is a freelance photographer, multimedia storyteller and artist educator. A cross-disciplinary worker, who endeavors to encompass the mediums of photography, audio design and writing. Born in Hertfordshire of an English father and Spanish mother. Based in the United Kingdom. @PaulLouisArcher

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only daily English language paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Spain-Holiday.com. Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and based in Barcelona, Alx Phillips writes about contemporary art, dance and theatre in a way that human beings can understand. For more previews, reviews, interviews and extras, check: www.lookingfordrama.com.

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