Pique company paid £20m for role in taking Spanish tournament to Saudi Arabia

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique’s company Kosmas reportedly pocketed £20million for the footballer’s role in ensuring the Spanish Supercopa is played in Saudi Arabia.

In 2020, the tournament was revolutionised by moving from the traditional two-team format played ahead of La Liga starting to a mid-season four-team edition to be played in January, with the games exported to Saudi Arabia. The new-look tournament is now contested between the winners and runners-up of the Copa del Rey and La Liga from the previous season.

A range of documents and audio files that have been released by El Confidencial which claim to be conversations between Barca defender Pique and Spanish FA president Luis Rubiales. They show that the two were in regular contact throughout 2019 to work on clinching an agreement with Saudi Arabia to host the tournament.

The deal was clinched on 15 September 2019 – a day after Pique netted for Barca in a 5-2 win over Valencia at Camp Nou. An audio document alleges to show Spanish FA chief Rubiales telling Pique: “Geri, congratulations. And I’m not referring to yesterday’s great match or your goal. I mean that it’s already past 12 o’clock and therefore the agreement with Saudi Arabia is already closed. A hug, thanks for everything and here I am for whatever you need.”

A spokesperson speaking on Pique’s behalf has explained to El Confidencial that the footballer did not receive any favourable treatment from Rubiales during the negotiation process, while the Spanish FA have refused to comment on the information.

The Spanish FA responded on Monday morning: “The information does not add anything new to what was published in 2019. All the numbers of the operation were presented, explained and supported by the Football Assembly.”

Mirror Football have approached Kosmos Holding company, of which Pique is president, for comment but at the time of publication has yet to receive a response.

Pique is the president of the Kosmos, and they are alleged to have helped play a role in taking the Spanish Supercopa to Saudi Arabia – with initial conversations to revolutionise the trophy beginning in late 2018. The report alleges that Rubiales, who has a variable salary linked to the income received by the Spanish FA, gave his approval to the new competition format and is alleged to have authorised the footballer to secretly sound out the audiovisual market in search of possible buyers to fund the tournament.

The documents include audio files between Luis Rubiales (pictured) and Pique


Oscar J. Barroso/Europa Press via Getty Images)

A message from Rubiales to Pique confirms that the two were planning to approach Real Madrid with a view to their Santiago Bernabeu stadium hosting matches, although his comments suggest that both were intent of instead hosting it and Barcelona ’s Camp Nou home. “Let’s see, Geri, look,” Rubiales is alleged to say. “I’m going to see this with Madrid as well. I think Madrid is going to say no to me. As Madrid is going to say no, that means we must justify our decision and we say it should be in the stadium with the most capacity [Camp Nou], which is the League champion [at the time – Barcelona], which is the Copa champion or Copa finalist [at the time – Barcelona]…I think we have legitimacy.” Barca were on their way to winning La Liga and had qualified for the Copa del Rey final, which they lost to Valencia.

The report alleges that their documents show that Pique had already informed the Spanish FA that Saudi Arabia, a country with which he had collaborated in the past, was interested in hosting him in exchange for a large sum of money – as an alternative to playing matches in Spain. However, Rubiales is then alleged to have told Pique that Real Madrid had no interest in that proposal and if they were going to play outside of Spain, it would only be in the US.

An audio file then alleges to have Pique replying in a phone call: “Let’s see, Rubi, if it is an issue of money, if they (Real Madrid) will go for €8million then, hell, man, pay €8million to Madrid and €8million to Barca. The others (the two other teams in the tournament) can be paid €2million and €1million. That adds up to €19million, and you can have €6million for the Spanish FA. Man, you will have €6million left. And we squeeze Saudi Arabia and maybe we’ll get more…we can tell them that if they do not, then Madrid will not go… so we can another €1-2million. In Spain you would only be able to make €3million, if it’s a matter of money.”

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The proposal was received well by Rubiales, who is alleged to have encouraged Pique to continue talking to those responsible for Sela, the public company of the Saudi dictatorship that is responsible for organising major sporting and cultural events in the nation to try to enhance its international image. The communications allegedly indicate that the president of the Spanish FA was aware at all times of Pique’s efforts.

Pique then is alleged to make several attempts to meet Rubiales – asking if he could take advantage of Barcelona’s match in Madrid to visit him at the Spanish FA headquarters. Pique is then said to have asked the Spanish FA chief to meet him in the Camp Nou dressing room when Barcelona were proclaimed La Liga champions. Rubiales was going to attend the meeting to witness the delivery of the trophy. A voice message alleges to have Pique saying: “What’s going on, Rubi, is everything okay? Is everything under control? I guess we’ll see each other tomorrow after the game. If that’s the case, we’ll meet for a moment there in the locker room if you need to talk about something. From your side, it seems that everything is ok, right? There will not be any problem.”

Another voice message alleges to show Pique calming concerns from Rubiales that a document sent to him from Saudi Arabia showed a lower commission that he was expected. Pique is heard to say: “Rubi, he [the representative of Saudi Arabia] is not referring to the fact that you pay the commission. He is referring to…it is that in the end we have tried to remove the commission from the €25million payment. That is how you received the €25million without the commission. So, what he is saying is that we do not push him so much and that the commission be included within the €25million. Do not worry about that. He is simply saying that you consider the possibility of, instead of taking out the commission from that equation, that you count on the fact that the commission is included in the price. Do you understand?”

There were fresh concerns from Rubiales. A document shows that he began to have doubts about moving the competition to Saudi Arabia and the public reaction there would be in Spain to the move, but again – an audio recording alleges to show Pique calming his concern.

Pique adds: “Rubi, I perfectly understand your position, but think about it for a moment. If you now…when everyone already knows…it was a rumour that we were going to Saudi Arabia. If now you change your mind and go to another place simply because of the fact that people have found out about this, they are going to use it against you . They are going to say that you were going to go to Saudi Arabia, you were going to do this and how they caught you, well now you change your mind.

“I would value it, because in this way you show that you were not doing anything wrong, do you understand? And besides, you go with the same people and with the same price. And you can say, ‘No, no, you were wrong. This is a lie, what you are saying.’ That’s why, damn, just spin it. We have until the 8th to talk about it and we think about it.”

The “third party agent” is not clarified in the document but is later alleged by an annex to be Pique’s Kosmos company

The Spanish FA would be able to cancel the agreement without payment to the “third party”

A €40million per annum agreement was subsequently signed between the Spanish FA and Saudi Arabia on a six-year deal. Pique’s company would net a total of €24million (£20m) – €4million per year – for his role.

Rubiales subsequently claimed in a press conference that Kosmos were involved in the negotiations but that there was no payment from the Spanish FA and denied Pique’s direct involvement due to a conflict in interest. Due to the audiovisual assignment, that would mean that Pique was involved in the company who provides images for VAR – for example. Rubiales explained at the time: “The Spanish FA has not paid any commission to Pique or to anyone else.”

The Spanish FA ensured a clause in their contract with Saudi Arabia that Kosmos should be paid €4million per annum, the report’s document show, and that failure to meet this would result in the tournament not taking place. It is written in the document: “in the event that Sela (acting on behalf of Saudi Arabia) fails to pay the entire amount set as a success fee to the third party (Kosmos), the Spanish FA will have the right to terminate this agreement without charge and keeping the amounts already collected.”

The annex to the agreement which references Kosmos’s involvement

The only direct reference to Kosmos as the “third party” is said to be in an annex to the agreement, which is signed by Kosmos, Rubiales and the authorities of Saudi Arabia.

In December 2019, a month ahead of the inaugural tournament, another audio document allegedly has Pique telling Rubiales that the company has not yet been paid: “Rubi, now that we are so close, this is fast. They said they were going to pay tomorrow. The problem is that they said they’re going to pay you. And hell…I think it doesn’t make sense that they don’t pay us directly. So, the message that must be sent is: ‘The president [Rubiales] is going to go if they pay us all.’ Because if they leave us out of the band, the truth is that we have no certainty that they will pay us. So, simply, I would like you to support us in this. And that they have to pay us all. If not, the tournament will not happen.”

It is claimed by the report that documents show Kosmos was paid by the relevant authorities a few days later and the first Spanish Supercopa to be staged in Saudi Arabia took place the following month.

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