Tebas criticises Spanish Super Cup Saudi plans given piracy association

LaLiga president Javier Tebas has criticised the Spanish Football Federation’s (RFEF) decision to stage its Supercopa club competition in Saudi Arabia, citing the country’s alleged support for pirate broadcaster beoutQ.

On Monday RFEF announced the lucrative three-year hosting deal with the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, estimated to be worth €120m over three years (from 2019-20 to 2021-22). Real Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Atlético Madrid will take part in the revamped event, which will reportedly take place from January 8-12 at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah.

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

The LaLiga president suggested the reason Saudi Arabia had been able to provide such a lucrative offer was because the deal would be “paid with money taken from European soccer”.

LaLiga joined Fifa, Uefa, the AFC and Europe’s other top five leagues in condemning beoutQ’s piracy of their content in September. The eight major sports bodies jointly published a report which they said proved the pirate signal was being transmitted using the satellite infrastructure of Saudi state-backed broadcaster Arabsat.

The decision to host the Supercopa match in Saudi Arabia is also controversial given the country’s human rights record. Lega Serie A came under sustained criticism earlier this year for a decision to host the Supercoppa Italiana in the country. UsigRai, the journalists’ union of public-service broadcaster Rai, and the Italian division of Amnesty International called on Juventus and Lazio to boycott this season’s match.

In October, Yousef Al-Obaidly, chief executive of beIN Media Group, which has been hit hardest by the emergence of beoutQ, criticised rights-holders for hosting events in Saudi Arabia despite the ongoing threat that the pirate channel poses to their leagues.

He said: “The CEOs of Serie A and the Spanish FA (RFEF) continue to see no issue with hosting their flagship Super Cup games in the very country that has been stealing the commercial rights of all their broadcast partners for over two years, destroying the value of the Italian and Spanish game in the process.

“Amazingly, the Spanish FA is also completely undermining the great work that LaLiga has done. In response to piracy generally putting beoutQ aside, the industry is paying lip service to the problem at best.”

Tebas’s criticisms of the RFEF will fuel the ongoing animosity between the two organisations. The RFEF refused to approve LaLiga’s plans to schedule a regular-season match in the United States between Girona and Barcelona. A Spanish court will decide later this week whether it can proceed with plans to host a match between Villerreal and Atlético Madrid in Miami in December.