Spain considers playing Super Cup in Saudi Arabia

The competition has been played in a one-game final between the champions at the beginning of the season. The idea is to play the new Super Cup in January. (Reuters)

The Spanish soccer federation is looking into the possibility of playing the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia beginning next year.

Federation president Luis Rubiales said Wednesday playing in the Middle East is one of the options being considered for the tournament, as well as a "final four" format with the top finishers in the Spanish league and the Copa del Rey.

The competition has been played in a one-game final between the champions at the beginning of the season. The idea is to play the new Super Cup in January.

The proposal will be made during the federation’s general assembly next week.

Rubiales did not confirm reports the deal will be worth 30 million euros ($33 million) a year for six seasons, saying "it will be difficult" to reach that value.

The federation president, one of the main critics of the Spanish league’s idea to play a regular-season match in the United States, said the decision would take into consideration the players’ health, noting that playing in Saudi Arabia would not affect them as much as if the game was played in the United States or Asia, where travel time and time differences were greater.

Last year’s final, won by Barcelona against Sevilla, was played in Tangier, Morocco.

This year’s Italian Super Cup was played in Saudi Arabia as part of a multi-year deal worth more than 20 million euros ($22 million). Italian politicians and human rights activists had objected to the game, citing the assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

The Spanish players’ association, which also complained about the Spanish league’s attempt to play in the U.S., did not oppose the idea of playing in Saudi Arabia.

"We weren’t against playing in the United States, what we wanted at the time was to be consulted about the idea and to give our opinion," association president David Aganzo said Wednesday at an event organized by Europa Press. "If the proposal for the Super Cup is good for the players, we won’t have a problem with it."

The Spanish league had to scrap the game in Florida after Barcelona, which would have faced Girona, backed down because of the lack of consensus among the parties involved. The league said it will try playing abroad again next season.

There is also a plan by the federation to reduce the number of games in the Copa del Rey to help clear up the calendar and keep teams from playing too many matches. The competition would include single elimination matches in some rounds, instead of a two-leg series. The proposal is also expected to be presented in next week’s general assembly.

"The clubs and the players want less official matches in the calendar," Rubiales said.

During its own general assembly later on Wednesday, the Spanish league voted not to support the changes proposed by the federation for the Super Cup and the Copa del Rey, saying the changes in the calendar must also be discussed with the league.

La Liga clubs vote against changes to Copa del Rey, Super Cup

Clubs in the top two pisions of Spanish football have overwhelmingly voted against plans by the Spanish soccer federation (RFEF) to shake up the Copa del Rey and the Spanish Super Cup, La Liga’s organising body said on Wednesday.

RFEF president Luis Rubiales earlier this month revealed plans to turn the Super Cup — the annual curtain raiser played between the winners of La Liga and the Copa del Rey — into a tournament involving four teams to be played outside of Spain each January.

The federation has also proposed doing away with the two-legged format of the Copa del Rey, aside from at the semi-final stage.

"La Liga’s general assembly has agreed at today’s meeting to not support the changes to the Copa del Rey and Super Cup which have been proposed by the RFEF," said a statement from La Liga, the organising body for the 42 clubs in the top two pisions.

"This is due to the fact that these types of changes should be agreed to by La Liga as they affect clubs belonging to the league and they imply an important change to the professional competition calendar."

The statement added that 39 clubs agreed to oppose the changes, with two clubs supporting the changes and one club abstaining.

The changes to the Super Cup and the Copa del Rey must be approved by the RFEF’s general assembly next Monday.

An RFEF source told Reuters that opposition from clubs in La Liga and the Segunda Division to the changes would not determine whether or not they go ahead.

According to reports in the Spanish media, Saudi Arabia has been proposed as the host of the revamped Super Cup, with China also in the running.

Under the new Copa del Rey format, La Liga teams would also be pitted against sides from the bottom pisions of Spanish football from the first round, unlike under the current format where top-flight sides enter in the round of 32.