Soccer has a long and dark history of matches being either fixed, wagered upon, or outright manipulated by special interest. FIFA, in particular, has a black stain on their reputation after rampant institutional bias, illegal bribery, and money laundering were revealed by US investigators back in 2015.
This time around, controversy surrounding bias comes at the club level in the Spanish professional league, La Liga. In a match between Villarreal and world-renowned Real Madrid, there has been an outcry of favoritism after the game officials were seen touting Real Madrid paraphernalia.
Fox Sports relayed information regarding the controversy taking European soccer by storm:
“Villarreal president Fernando Roig has publicly complained about spotting refs with Real Madrid bags after the Spanish giants came from behind to beat Villarreal 3-2 on Sunday.
“What has surprised me and made me laugh is that the referees have come out with Real Madrid bags,” Roig told a Spanish radio station. “They were carrying bags of Real Madrid. I don’t know what they had in those bags.”
He added in comments to Marca: “I just don’t think it’s a good image. They tell me it’s common. But they have not come out with Villarreal bags.”
According to Marca, the Spanish Referees’ Committee said that the bags carried by the referees included Real Madrid merchandise like “keychains, pins and pens.”
The situation was made far worse when put into context with what occurred in the actual game:
“But the issue has been made worse by a dubious call on Sunday that helped Real Madrid win and reclaim the top La Liga spot.
With Real Madrid down 2-1 at Villarreal, a handball penalty was awarded to the visitors, which allowed Cristiano Ronaldo to equalize and has ended up being a controversial decision. From there, Real Madrid rallied and roared back to a 3-2 finish.”
The referees from last night's Villarreal vs Real Madrid game walked away with a Real Madrid bag?….. pic.twitter.com/kLGK7xma2k
— Martin Pantoja (@PerSourcesGoal) February 27, 2017