Earlier this year, the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) announced controversial plans to change the format of the Supercopa de España for the 2019/20 season. With the competition’s first game fast approaching, FSE spoke to the General Secretary of national supporters’ organisation Federación de Accionistas y Socios del Fútbol Español (FASFE), Emilio Abejón, about this development and the potential for fans to have their voices heard.
FSE: Could you provide us with an overview of the Supercopa situation?
EA: Some months ago, RFEF decided to change the format of the Supercopa. From now on it will be played by the champions and runners up of both the La Liga and the Copa del Rey. Apparently, RFEF’s idea is for it to be played overseas to generate extra revenue. More recently, certain media outlets have reported that RFEF are keen to host the competition in Saudi Arabia or Qatar, with other candidates such as the United States, China, and India already having been ruled out.
FSE: Why do you think the Spanish Football Federation has gone ahead with its plans even though a similar scheme by La Liga was dropped last season?
EA: Besides being the governing body of Spanish football, RFEF is also responsible for leagues below the Segunda División, or second vision. In Spain, much like elsewhere, the huge revenues from the top do not trickle down the pyramid, and as such, the lower leagues are chronically underfunded. RFEF is therefore justifying the Supercopa being played abroad by saying that some of the funds generated will be invested where it is needed most.
FSE: What is the general mood amongst Spanish fans, and particularly those of clubs who are set to play in the competition?
EA: Almost all fans are opposed to this move, and those of the involved clubs—Valenica, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid—are especially active and forthright in their opposition. If Saudi Arabia or Qatar host the Supercopa, the overwhelming majority of fans won’t be able to attend. More to the point, the human rights issues in both of these countries make the whole idea of playing our competition there an utter outrage.
Although the Supercopa is not as big as, say, the Community Shield in England, we firmly believe that our competitions must be played in our country, with fans of all clubs involved in the stands.
The Supercopa used to be played over two legs in August, lacking the magic of a proper final. Last season, it was moved abroad for the first time and played as one proper final, taking place in Tangier, Morocco, a city with close historical ties to Spain. Still, it was incredibly controversial, and Sevilla fans, in particular, made their disapproval known.
FSE: Given this opposition, how likely do you think it is that RFEF will reconsider the new format?
EA: To be honest, I have no idea. The president of RFEF, Luis Rubiales, seems to be more fan friendly than his predecessors, and certainly more so than his counterpart at La Liga.
That said, he has yet to consult with supporters’ organisations on this subject, which is very disappointing.
FSE: What advice do you have for fans from other nations who may be facing similar problems?
EA: I don’t think I’m in a position to give advice to others. So far, we have been successful in dissuading La Liga from hosting a fixture abroad, but the pressure is still there, so it is too early to say that we have won. The people in charge of Spanish football are enthusiastic about exporting our game.