AN anti-corruption spotlight has been shone on a cluster of top Spanish referees after a report revealed their sprawling property empires.
Caught up in the gaze of the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office are Spain’s VAR (Video Assistant Referee) chief, another VAR referee, a leading international ref and a La Liga ref.
The leaked report details the lavish outlays made by the referees, most of which were paid in cash without any mortgage loans, raising suspicions about their provenance and the integrity of Spanish football in general.
In total, the four referees under scrutiny, including veterans who have marshalled Messi and Ronaldo in showpiece El Clasico matches, own 20 properties between them.
How much did they set the referees back? Around a cool €5 million, according to El Debate.
Accustomed to scrutinising the offences of others, Carlos Clos Gómez, Santiago Jaime Latre, Alejandro Hernández Hernández, and José María Sánchez Martínez now find the shoe on the other foot as forensic investigators look back at replays of their finances.
Senior VAR chief Clos Gomez has been revealed to own seven properties with a combined value of over one million euros, bought between 2007 and 2016.
They include three houses in Zaragoza and Castellon as well as an 813-square-metre villa in the former, all bought with cash.
He also bought a 147-metre property with a parking space and storage unit in Madrid, although this time with the help of a mortgage.
Santiago Jaime Latre, his VAR subordinate, owns a total of seven properties, all of which were paid up front in cash.
In 2020 Jaime went on a ten day spending blitz in which he splashed cash on a 152-sq-metre, €750,000 luxury new build apartment near Madrid’s Atocha station.
As well as parking and storage units, he then splurged nearly one million euros on another apartment in Madrid measuring 209 square metres.
Alejandro Hernández made his debut in La Liga in 2012 and became an international referee within just two years, also officiating iconic clashes between Real Madrid and Barcelona on five separate occasions.
However, it is not his on-field performance that is raising eyebrows; rather, it is his real estate portfolio.
His first acquisition in 2019 was a 190-square-metre house in Las Rozas, Madrid, complete with parking space and storage room.
From there, he expanded his holdings, including a property in Arrecife, Las Palmas, featuring a garage and storage room, as well as a third property in Yaiza, Lanzarote, situated near the breathtaking Timanfaya National Park.
On February 7, 2022, he made yet another purchase—an additional parking space in Las Rozas.
José María Sánchez Martínez, who has officiated matches in the top tier since the 2015-16 season, owns a 164-square-metre, €650,000 house in Murcia.
Towards the end of 2022, he added a third parking space in Murcia to his growing collection. Notably, all these acquisitions, as stated in the report, were made without any mortgage loans.
La Liga referees are thought to be among the best-paid in Europe, taking home a mammoth €12,500 a month, according to reports.
They will also receive bonuses for matches officiated that climb depending on the importance of the game.
Nonetheless, such eye watering salaries do not explain how referees have been able to go on property spending sprees, paying up front without taking out mortgages.
The alleged financial impropriety comes hot on the heels of the ongoing Negreira scandal, in which Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira was revealed to have received millions of euros during his tenure as the Vice President of the Technical Committee of Referees.
Investigators are now mulling over whether to merge the investigations into one.
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