The Supercopa de España was established in 1982 as a two-team competition, pitting the league champions against the winners of the Copa del Rey.
In November 2019, the Spanish FA (RFEF) announced that it would be expanded to accommodate four teams, including the league and cup runners up, and would be held in Saudi Arabia for the following three years.
The latter revelation proved to be incredibly controversial: first, because it meant that fans of the involved clubs would not be able to attend; and second, because Saudi Arabia has such a poor human rights record.
Despite protestations from all corners of society, including national supporters’ organisation Federación de Accionistas y Socios del Fútbol Español (FASFE) and Amnesty International, RFEF pushed ahead with the new format.
The 2019-20 Supercopa took place in Jeddah, though it returned to Spain in the following season due to the pandemic. Last week, the 2021-22 final saw Real Madrid beat Athletic Bilbao in front of 30,000 spectators at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh.
Ahead of that fixture, FASFE general secretary Emilio Abejón spoke to news outlet El Cierre Digital about supporters’ opposition to the Saudi deal:
“First of all, anyone who stops to think for a moment should comprehend that Spanish sporting events should be played in Spain. But the problem is not just that fans of the participating clubs won’t be able to attend; it is that it is being hosted in a country where fundamental rights are violated.”
“[Hosting the competition in Saudi Arabia] is an exercise in sportswashing. It links our clubs and our sport—two things that should be sources of pride—to a regime that oppresses women and the LGBTI community and opposes democratic freedoms.”
“The problem is that while this link may buy some kind of legitimacy for the Saudi regime, for many others it means tarnishing our game. The authorities must take action. Right now, the new sports law is being debated. It should prohibit national competitions from being played abroad.”
In remarks to AP News, Esteban Beltrán from Amnesty International echoed FASFE’s criticisms, pointing out that “[RFEF] has decided to collaborate in this ‘whitewashing’ of the image of the Saudi authorities.”
Read FASFE’s full comments on the El Cierre Digital website.