Agreeing to disagree – that’s the default position in Spain as another plan to move games abroad with the Spanish Super Cup hits the winds of controversy
On Tuesday, Luis Rubiales – the Spanish FA’s (RFEF) president – held a press conference early in the morning to announce major news in Spanish football: a special department inside the Spanish Federation in charge of fighting against discrimination and homophobia, and the set-up of a Center of Excellence for referees led by Spanish top officials.
Oh, and a new format for the Spanish Super Cup.
A seemingly side-note on Rubiales’ notepad suddenly transformed into a full-on announcement which sent the press and fans into a whirlwind of opinion and speculation.
See, the Spanish Super Cup has traditionally been regarded as a minor trophy. It takes place in August, when teams are slightly less worried about their performance as they’re in the midst of the pre-season. It always works for everyone: if you lose, it doesn’t really matter that much; and, if you win, it’s a quick burst of happiness even though it will never even remotely satisfy your fandom, who usually expect more ambitious trophies to be picked up at the end of the season.
Rubiales wants to change this perception and, by doing so, earn some cash along the way. The new format would pit a ‘final four’ bracket against each other in a foreign country one week before the LaLiga season kicks off. The teams would include both the Copa del Rey and LaLiga champions of the earlier season, as well as the runner-ups in both cases. Two semifinals and a final game; overall, three matches played throughout a whole week outside Spain in some kind of ‘football celebration’ which would take over the city of choice.
It doesn’t look that bad, right?
A revenge mission from LaLiga over taking games abroad
This plan is still to be voted upon and approved by the Spanish Federation Assembly on April, but has stirred quite a few reactions. The first and most important one, Rubiales himself, who stated that in case a team earns more than one spot in the tournament (ie. Barça or Real Madrid winning a ‘Doblete’), they would use historical stats from the Copa del Rey to invite a wildcard to the competition.
Rubiales had also been absolutely against playing a LaLiga game in Miami earlier this season but, surprisingly, is keen on holding this new Super Cup in foreign ground. He had an explanation already prepared when asked about this sudden change of mind: “FIFA was very clear on this. Neutral tournaments held in summer don’t garner the same interest amongst fans than LaLiga games at stadiums in Spain. We saw a good opportunity of enhancing the ‘Spain brand’ while not affecting the sporting principles”, he fired back.
What the RFEF president didn’t highlight was the allegedly high financial benefit both the Federation and the teams will possibly have with this new format. Stuff that ought to be worked out down the road. For now, the idea is now out in the wild and it has drawn mixed reactions.
For example, one of the teams that is expected to play the Super Cup due to its current rankings both in LaLiga and Copa del Rey is FC Barcelona. But they remain on the fence about the new competition and will wait until more details are available. “Also, we haven’t qualified yet for it”, added a spokesperson modestly.
Whenever Rubiales comes up with something, you definitely know LaLiga’s president is going to be positioned against it… and vice versa. The ongoing feud between Javier Tebas and his counterpart has suddenly found a new battleground. Tebas doesn’t forget how Rubiales didn’t move a finger on the Miami affair and spoke against the idea of playing the Girona-Barça game abroad.
“It’s another wild idea, which has been executed without remotely knowing which effects it will have and creating false expectations. There has been no mention of this idea at all in all the meetings between both organizations to coordinate competitions”, said Tebas soon after Rubiales’ announcement.
The beef between two of the most powerful figures in Spanish football won’t end anytime soon, unfortunately, while more schemes like the LaLiga game abroad and the final-four Spanish Super Cup are concocted in isolation.