Rubiales vs Tebas:  Gloves off in latest round of Spain’s SuperClasico

By Andrew Warshaw

November 18 – The bitter war of words between the respective bosses of the Spanish FA (RFEF) and La Liga has plumbed new depths of acrimony amid claim and counter-claim  following last week’s court ruling against the latest attempt to stage a league fixture in the United States.

The federation, headed by Luis Rubiales (pictured left), has urged La Liga’s outspoken chief Javier Tebas to resign and is calling on the clubs to back its stance. Tebas (pictured right), in trademark counter-punching style, has hit back just as powerfully.

Last week’s Madrid Trade Court ruling preventing next month’s Villareal-Atletico Madrid-Villareal fixture being switched to Miami came in the wake of the RFEF’s somewhat hypocritical  announcement that it will be taking the next three Spanish Super Cups to Saudi Arabia. The RFEF has been opposed to taking a league match to North America from the outset but seems to find no contradiction in terms of its own overseas proposals.

La Liga had originally planned a Girona vs Barcelona league game in Miami but that stalled due to opposition from various stakeholders.  LaLiga and its US partners Relevent subsequently resurrected the Miami hosting proposal by putting forward Villarreal’s home game against Atletico d on December 6. But this also failed with last week’s  ruling that La Liga was not permitted to act on its own since its actions had to be “agreed and coordinated with the institution that directs football in Spain”.

That last clause is the key to the entire dispute and in a strongly-worded RFEF statement, Tebas is accused of having an “absolutely hostile and irresponsible” attitude which is “causing damage” to La Liga clubs. The federation also claims that the move to play a La Liga match in the US put Atletico and Villarreal in breach of FIFA and UEFA regulations.

The RFEF has consequently requested all La Liga clubs enter into dialogue in relation to “the immediate dismissal of the president of the league or his immediate resignation.”

Only the clubs can vote on who leads them since the RFEF does not hold a vote.

Tebas, whose rows with Rubiales over match scheduling have become commonplace, has been hugely critical of moves to take the new-look, four-team Super Cup to Saudi Arabia in January 2020, saying the RFEF was doing business with a country that is “flying the flag for piracy”. He has also threatened to take the federation to court over a decision to move last month’s El Clasico – postponed as a result of the Catalan protest movement – to a midweek slot, citing damage that might be caused to La Liga’s reputation and revenues by alienating its Asian audience.

Both sides are striving to take the moral high ground and its latest missive the RFEF says Tebas should step down for putting clubs at risk of “serious sporting and/or economic sanctions” over persistent plans to try and take games overseas.

A final decision is expected in February to determine whether the RFEF has the legal right to prevent LaLiga hosting matches in the United States. In the meantime no punches are being pulled by either side.

“The president of LaLiga, Mr. Javier Tebas, has filed all kinds of lawsuits (criminal, civil, commercial, administrative) and appeals against the RFEF, in what is considered an attempt to justify his own mistakes,” said the RFEF.

“The leader of LaLiga considers that he can act outside the Federation. However, judges, administration, etc … have found and communicated that this is not possible and that, without the authorisation of the RFEF, he cannot organise the soccer competitions in Spain.

“LaLiga … must adapt … to the rules of FIFA, UEFA and RFEF. This attitude that can be considered a total disregard from the president of LaLiga for the rules of FIFA, UEFA, as well as the RFEF, leading to an extremely serious situation and putting LaLiga clubs themselves at risk.”

Tebas wasted no time taking a swipe back at the federation and its leader, accusing them of employing scare tactics by warning of UEFA and FIFA sanctions and saying Rubiales, a former professional player and union leader who only took over in May, is not fit to run the organisation.

“I am convinced he is not qualified to be president of the RFEF but I am not the one who asked him to resign,” said Tebas.  “The problem is that Rubiales wants to stay active with the clubs. You see it in what he says: ‘ownership over everything else’.  It’s not like this in professional football.”

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