BARCELONA The man who aims to end the 28-year career of the head of Spanish football is counting on the support of smaller clubs that he says have been neglected as elite soccer thrives.
Miguel Angel Galan, who runs a soccer coaching company and has never held office in sports administration, is a fierce critic of Angel Maria Villar whom he hopes to unseat as president of the national association, RFEF, at an election.
Galan says he will set a term limit of eight years for future presidents, increase the number of women on RFEF's board from the current one, and plough funding into smaller clubs.
Although Spanish soccer has thrived at elite level under 67-year-old Villar, with the national team winning the European Championship in 2008 and 2012 and their first World Cup in 2010 as well as numerous triumphs for the country's big clubs in European competition, Galan believes it needs serious reform.
"I'm the candidate for lower league soccer. Lower league clubs have been abandoned and they need a bailout. We can't make any future plans without rescuing them," Galan told Reuters.
His plan to topple Villar will depend on the votes of the 600 clubs in the lower rungs of Spanish soccer to whom he is promising a subsidy of 50,000 euros ($53,000) each.
The president is elected by an absolute majority of the 140 members of the RFEF general assembly which includes 120 members representing the clubs, players, referees and managers/coaches, who in turn are elected by the federation's ordinary members.
Galan also wants La Liga to join the Bundesliga, Premier League, Serie A and Ligue 1 in installing goal-line technology, an issue which came under the spotlight after Barcelona were denied a clear goal in a 1-1 draw with Real Betis last month.
The election is set to take place on May 22, with ex-RFEF general secretary Jorge Perez running as the third candidate.
Galan has been involved in a series of legal disputes against Villar in the last 12 months, the most recent centring on accusations that Villar misappropriated government funds donated to build a soccer school in Haiti after its devastating earthquake in 2011.
The RFEF returned the donated sum, 1.2 million euros ($1.27 million) plus 300,000 euros in interest, to the sports ministry last month. A judge is yet to determine whether the case should go to court.
"He's doing a lot of damage to Spanish football," Galan said.
An RFEF spokesman speaking on behalf of Villar declined to comment on the accusations made by Galan in this interview.
Villar has sat on the executive committee of world soccer's governing body FIFA since 1998. He was fined 25,000 Swiss francs ($25,000) in 2015 by FIFA's Ethics Committee for failing to co-operate with an investigation into the contest to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
Last year he stood as a candidate to succeed disgraced UEFA president Michel Platini but withdrew days before the election, saying he made the decision after being asked by representatives of Spanish soccer to stand for re-election to RFEF.
It is not the first time Galan has taken on a powerful football figure. In 2014 he complained about Zinedine Zidane being put in charge of Real Madrid's reserve side without completing his coaching badges.
The Frenchman, now in charge of Real's first team, was barred from coaching for three months.
Galan said he felt compelled to run for Spanish soccer's top job after Villar's clumsy response to the death of a Deportivo La Coruna supporter in clashes with Atletico Madrid fans in November 2014.
While La Liga and Spain's sports ministry launched initiatives to combat hooliganism, Galan says Villar did nothing.
"We had a case as important as the death of a person, and the president of Spanish soccer says nothing, takes no measures and does nothing on the subject," Galan said.
"It all contributed to me deciding to run for president. We can't keep Villar in the job for 28 years, it's too long for any mandate. People want a change and I'm the only one who has taken on Villar."
($1 = 0.9482 euros)
(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)