Another week, and another refereeing controversy in La Liga. But this isn’t news. It happens all the time in Spain. You may not get fans of opposing teams to agree on much, but they will probably agree with this: La Liga has one of the worst – perhaps the worst – standard of refereeing in Europe’s top five leagues.
It would be a mistake to say the mistrust is unidirectional, though. If you watch Real Madrid TV, you’ll get constant accusations about every referee being biased against them. If you listen to a press conference from Barcelona’s president, you’ll get accusations of bias the other way. There were statements from several players from many different teams objecting to matches they lost or drew this season. There were mistakes and problems in several matches, most notably in Real Madrid’s win over Almeria this season. Of course, there was also the Negreira case, which cast suspicion over Barcelona due to payments made to a Spanish refereeing official. And then there were the audio files leaked by Gerard Romero, a Barcelona based-journalist, which he claims revealed a deep-seated bias in favor of Real Madrid.
The whole thing is a mess, needless to say, and the product on the pitch is suffering. La Liga needs to compete better in terms of viewership with the Premier League, and while the PL has its own set of controversies when it comes to refereeing, they don’t seem to go as far in terms of overshadowing the matches.
It’s time for a solution, but the problem is no one trusts anyone in Spanish football. Any committee or appointment will be seen with suspicion by various factions, who will accuse each other of corrupting the situation.
The solution then, is an international oversight committee. UEFA, for example, could be in charge. Clearly, now, UEFA isn’t completely free of suspicions of corruption or bias, but it is as close to neutral as you will find. Certainly, more neutral than Spanish institutions.
Would it ever happen? Probably not. Institutions are made up of people, people who worked hard to gain power, and will not relinquish it willingly. Having an oversight committee would be seen as giving up power. It would also be seen as a punishment for wrongdoing, wrongdoing no one in Spanish football will admit to.
But the problem now isn’t just wrongdoing, but also the suspicion of it. In order for the various factions to agree they will abide by the decisions of an oversight committee, they must have faith that the oversight committee is in itself not biased. At this point, no Spanish institution has that credibility.