League boss criticizes Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia

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              FILE - In this Monday, Sept. 24, 2018 file photo, Javier Tebas, the president of the Spanish La Liga, speaks during the World Football summit in Madrid, Spain. A Spanish court is going to decide Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019 whether the Spanish league will be allowed to play the Villarreal-Atletico Madrid game in the United States next month. The league accuses the Spanish soccer federation of unfair competition for not giving its approval for the game scheduled for Dec. 6. The dispute is the latest between league president Javier Tebas and federation president Luis Rubiales, two outspoken figures in Spanish soccer who have been at odds over a series of issues. (AP Photo/Paul White, file)
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MADRID (AP) — The president of the Spanish league is criticizing the decision of the Spanish soccer federation to play the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia, citing the country’s backing of a satellite company that is allegedly behind the piracy of European match broadcasts.

The federation on Monday announced a three-year deal with Saudi Arabia for the newly expanded tournament that will be played in January with Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid and Valencia.

“I don’t think it’s the best moment to play in Saudi Arabia,” Tebas said Wednesday. “It’s a country that has been pirating us, pirating European soccer.

“It was the better offer (for the Super Cup) because it will be paid with money taken from European soccer,” Tebas said in a meeting with international media.

Leading soccer organizations said in September a Saudi Arabia-backed satellite company was “without question” behind pirated match broadcasts that steal content from Qatar’s beIN Sports.

The conclusion was reached in a joint statement by FIFA, UEFA and some of the top European leagues, including the Spanish league, after they commissioned a report into the operations of the beoutQ channels.

The federation’s decision to play in Saudi Arabia also appeared to go against recent advice from UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin for European soccer teams not to play in countries “where the basic rights of women are not respected.”

The federation cited its ambitions to host the 2030 World Cup as a factor in giving Saudi Arabia the three-year deal.

CLÁSICO FALLOUT

Tebas also said the league has received complaints from some TV rights holders because of the change in date of the “clásico” match between Barcelona and Real Madrid.

The game scheduled for a Saturday in October was postponed until Dec. 18, a Wednesday, because of a separatist rally in the Catalan capital.

The league didn’t want the game to be played midweek and at night because it will hurt rights holders in the Asian market. The federation and the clubs decided on the new date despite the league’s opposition. The league runs the top two tiers of Spanish soccer, while the federation controls regulations and fixtures for professional and amateur games.

“We have received some complaints,” Tebas said. “The ‘clásico’ was set for the Asian market. It was set for China, for Japan, where we have a lot of followers. This (change) has hurt us, no doubt.”

Tebas and federation president Luis Rubiales have been at odds over a series of issues involving Spanish soccer, including the league’s attempt to play a regular-season match in the United States, something the federation has not approved.

A Spanish court will decide in the coming days whether the league will be allowed to play the Villarreal-Atlético Madrid game in Miami next month, which would be the first league match outside of Spain.

The league’s attempt to play the match between Girona and Barcelona last season failed because of the lack of approval by the federation.

MAN CITY CRITICISM

Tebas accused Manchester City of “financial doping,” claiming it’s the influx of money from Abu Dhabi that has allowed the team to have a top squad.

“Manchester City is not competitive exclusively because of audiovisual rights, there’s been financial doping in the last few years,” he said. “I don’t see doping with Liverpool, it’s not a team with money from a state.”

Tebas has often accused Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain of breaking financial fair-play rules.