“Football loses with tension”

The call for General Elections removed the chair of Secretary of State for Sport. José Manuel Franco left for the Senate and on June 13, the Government appointed Víctor Francos (Cerdanyola del Vallès, Barcelona, ​​1979) president of the Higher Sports Council. The right hand of Minister Miquel Iceta (he held the position of Secretary General of Culture and Sports) reached the headquarters of Martín Fierro. A month later, he shells out his ideas in AS.

How have you been these first few days? She hasn’t stopped…

-It’s a month already! I have decided to have an intense schedule because it is important to get closer to sports and athletes and that requires a mobility effort. It doesn’t take away for me to be tired… But I have found a very orderly and sensible world of sport.

-When the minister Miquel Iceta tells you that you have to assume the presidency of the Higher Sports Council, which in reality was going down in the ministry’s organization chart because you were the general secretary and his right hand, do you think about it a lot?

-When Minister Iceta asks me for something, I don’t think about it. In the balance with him, I have respect and admiration on the same level. I said yes immediately.

-From the outside, we have the appreciation that sport is the little brother of culture within the ministry. Is it different from the inside?

-I would say that cultured people see it the other way around! Sport has a higher level of popularity, although culture, in some areas, is stronger. The minister has put them on the same plane. It is what he asked us the first day, although it is true that they are two worlds that have nothing to do with each other.

-With elections just around the corner, does working condition a certain sense of interim status?

-No, because I have always had a vocation for permanence. Continuity in policies and permanence was what I put on the table when I took office. If we work with a sense of interim, we will not do it well. If we make decisions thinking about the elections, bad. You have to look at the long term.

-His profile is very political. He has gone through all the steps of the PSC and has spent time in the arena of national politics, in Madrid. But what connection does he have with sport, which is what we all think when an appointment like this occurs?

-The first is that I like it a lot, and that is not minor. The second is that I have spent time in the state administration in positions of responsibility. It is not necessary to be an athlete to chair the CSD, but to know how to manage. I am a lawyer, but I do not have to be Secretary of State for Justice.

-You like football, don’t you?

-Yes, although it is the one that gives me the most problems, and tennis a lot. I have practiced them amateurishly, like sailing.

“We can have a historic generation of athletes”

Victor Francos

-That LaLiga and the Football Federation row in the same direction continues to be the great pending issue…

-It is one of the issues that I would be excited to address. And see how we could have meeting points in football. It’s more than four people fighting. I talk to everyone and I try to let them know that the frontispiece of our sports policies is seeking more agreement and less disagreement. But this requires calm and time.

-It takes a long time…

-Maybe what you need is calm.

-Participated in the negotiations to avoid the football lockout when LaLiga threatened by some articles of the Sports Law. Was it difficult to find a balance?

-In the end, everything depended on a specific issue that was resolved in a telephone conversation with the vice president of LaLiga and that allowed us to have a very good Sports Law today, which everyone wanted but which was hanging by a thread. Yes it cost. For a government, the fact that there was a closure of the competition was not minor. Sometimes when we see the precipice we all do our part.

-He also participated in the failed candidacy for the 2030 Winter Games with Aragon and Catalonia. Were they for Spain?

-I always had the feeling that there were real options. And that’s saying a lot. The minister, in the first person, had had conversations at an international level and we always had that feeling. It was a disgrace. He was overly politicized.

Víctor Francos, in his CSD office.
Víctor Francos, in his CSD office.

-What is the most urgent thing that had to be done when you took office? The elections were upon us…

-There were pending issues, but not because the previous secretary was not involved. In sports, on June 30 the world ends because the exercises are closed. Two examples, the regulations on the professionalization of handball and on the women’s soccer league were pending.

-What would Víctor Francos like to do in sport if the PSOE is still in the Government?

-One, reinforce our model, which is born in boys and girls. Second, in our neighborhoods sport is integration and equality. The bank account does not matter. You have to support the base, the federations because they work. They must have help and equipment and we are investing many millions of euros in modernization and energy efficiency. It cannot be that a council cannot turn on the light of a pavilion because it cannot pay for it. The third, the Olympics, which placed us in the world and gives us happiness every four years. Elite sport has its structure around the Games. And as a fourth thing, that football be pacified. I am certain that people are tired of the tension and that is where football loses. The leaders pass and the football ecosystem cannot be impoverished. It is the king of sports.

“If we work with a sense of interim, we will not do it well”

Victor Francos

-When you talk about children, non-professional clubs are the backbone of grassroots sports. And don’t you think they are the forgotten ones?

-No, because we help the federations so that they can help their clubs. In 2022 we have spent more than 100 million euros on them, an outrage. It is true that the clubs have financial tensions derived from the pandemic and we demand a lot from them at the competition level. But we have multiplied the aid. In 2017, the CSD budget was just over 200 million and we are now at 381.

José Manuel Franco said that with the investment of this legislature (more than 1,100 million euros between 2020 and 2023) we may be facing a ‘second revolution’ of Spanish sport. Do you also think so?

-Yes, if we are able to use all that money we can have a historic generation of athletes. In Paris 2024 we will have great results.

-Will we overcome the 22 medals from Barcelona 1992 there, as Alejandro Blanco, president of the COE, says?

-How convinced will you be that this is the first time you have predicted it! The CSD studies go in that direction. We have just been second in the medal table of the European Games.

-The IOC wants Russians and Belarusians to participate there. What do you think?

-We have always gone hand in hand with the Spanish Olympic Committee. We do not condemn athletes because of their origin, but we are clear that Russia’s performance is condemnable and it would not be logical for them to participate with their anthem and flag. We share the position of the IOC: individual athletes and those who have not been actively involved in the conflict.

“We do not condemn athletes, but it would not be logical for the Russians to compete with their flag in Paris”

Victor Francos

-You have been seen in meetings to promote the candidacy of the 2030 soccer World Cup, athletics in Barcelona 2029, Ryder 2031… Should Spain once again be a focus of attraction for events?

-We will try. Next year the sailing America’s Cup is held in Barcelona, ​​the third or fourth most watched sporting event. And we have already let the organizers know that if the winner wishes, we would also like to celebrate the next edition because we are making a big investment in the port of Barcelona. And yes, we would like to bring athletics and for the Ryder to be held in Barcelona-Costa Brava, and that candidacy is going well. And of course football, with Spain, Portugal and Morocco and Ukraine as venues. The conversations are going very well.

-And the goal is a summer Olympic Games, which would be the most mediatic thing that would remain?

We would like to, obviously. But that ball is in the court of other institutions.

-How is the distribution of European funds for sport going? Are they taking advantage?

-Yeah. Spain is the only country in Europe that has dedicated these funds to sport. The money has been moved to the communities to land it. For example, for cities that are going to seasonally adjust their tourism with more than 37 million euros.

The president of the Higher Sports Council, in front of the CAR courts in Madrid.
The president of the Higher Sports Council, in front of the CAR courts in Madrid.

-Recently, they made a call for aid to athletes for this year for a value of 19 million euros, explain to us…

-There are a series of funds that have to do exclusively with the Olympics, to reinforce them and with that, federations and athletes. In addition to the renewed ADO plan, in good health. And the entire Team Spain programme, more than 40 million euros in total to Paris for elite athletes with chances of medals. (This year the CSD will allocate 36 million euros between Team Spain (17), ADO that assumes the CSD (12), Social Security (3) and aid for international competitions (4)).

-The continuity of the ADO Plan has also just been signed, but what was a model of public-private collaboration has become that the CSD finances everything with the money from the audiovisual rights of football. Where is that plan going?

-We were worried. We were missing the leg of the private sector. But after the signing between COE, CSD and RTVE, Jennifer Pareja, its manager, has already told us that there is interest from companies.

“The biological passport worries us and it will occupy us; we can lose prestige”

Victor Francos

-Spain has been in the spotlight for racism after the Vinicius episode. The Police will be able to stop a match if incidents occur. It is a step that had to be taken, right?

-First of all, football is not racist. Although there are racists who go to football, as sexists or homophobes. That minority must be expelled. It depends on the fans that surround them, the authorities, the clubs and the CSD. That the Police can stop a game seems perfect to me. But in parallel, I have spoken personally with the Federation, LaLiga and some clubs and they all agree that it must be stopped. There is no discrepancy. The mechanisms are missing and we are going to be the part that helps to find them.

-Regarding doping, right now the biological passport in Spain is in limbo after the National Court exonerated Ibai Salas. And with this at least three cases of alleged cheaters cannot be processed. There is discomfort in a good part of Spanish sport. Are they going to do something?

-I have already met with the president of the Agency. And in the next few days its governing council will be convened to discuss this issue. It is complicated and technical. It has to do with an international regulation that forces you to change organic laws from time to time and it is not easy. The biological passport worries us and it will occupy us. We know that we need to update our regulation because if we didn’t, some cheaters could escape us and we would have a prestige problem. We cannot allow even the slightest suspicion.

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