How Barcelona & Real Madrid are caught in the middle of La Liga fixture feud

Conflict between the Spanish league and its governing body has escalated to a point that the season’s start date remains unclear as we enter August

Barcelona, Real Madrid and the rest of La Liga have found themselves caught up in a fixture feud, as the league’s row with the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) rages on.

Champions Barca were due to visit Athletic Club on Friday, August 16 to kick the season off, but the RFEF have challenged La Liga’s scheduling and insisted that match will take place on Saturday, August 17 instead.

That isn’t the only game that Spain’s governing body has rescheduled either. They have insisted that all games due to be played on a Friday or a Monday will be moved to a Saturday or a Sunday to suit fans.

“Spanish football fans do not want games on these days,” the RFEF said. “Especially on Mondays, it is very difficult for fans to enjoy games.”

Luis Rubiales, president of the governing body, further emphasised the point on Twitter, sharing pictures of fans opposing the scheduling and writing “there will be no football on Mondays” in block capitals.

La Liga, however, argue that this stance has a negative impact on their broadcast deals around the globe.

“With this illegal conduct, RFEF officials are generating confusion in the national and international broadcast space, which accounts for two billion euro in annual rights income for La Liga,” said the league’s president, Javier Tebas.

“These officials have no idea of the consequences of their irresponsible acts. This has no purpose, nothing will change, this only creates confusion, which is the only thing they know how to do.”

The ongoing conflict leaves Spain’s top flight in a severe mess as the season approaches fast, with a court hearing set for August 7 – just 11 days before Barcelona were meant to get the season under way – to further debate the issue.

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La Liga refute the RFEF’s view that they have a say in fixture scheduling, calling the changes an ‘attack’, before adding that they themselves are “the only competent organisation to set schedules and dates in the national professional football competition”.

The statement continues: “Therefore, the schedules already indicated by La Liga for the first days of the competition will be those in which the matches will be played.”

It is just the latest chapter in an ongoing feud between La Liga and the RFEF.

Throughout last season, the pair disputed the idea of playing Spanish football overseas, with La Liga keen to capitalise on foreign interest while the governing body said it wanted to keep the best interests of local fans at heart.

La Liga proposed that Girona’s home match with Barcelona be played in Miami, following an agreement with sports promotion company Relevent, which included one league match a season being staged in the USA.

“For all Spanish football – presidents, managers, fans, players – having a product that is the best league in the world and that is followed all over the world should make us feel very proud,” said La Liga’s director of international development, Oscar Mayo.

“Proud that a market like the US is so interested in taking one game a year, for example. 

“Obviously we have to do it very carefully, take into account the fans, and the first years will not be easy.

“But we are working in little steps and we are working to make it happen.”

The move couldn’t happen without the approval of the RFEF, FIFA, U.S. Soccer and CONCACAF, though. As a result, it failed to materialise, with Rubiales labelling the Relevent deal as “worthless” without support from the governing body.

“Tebas spoke to everyone except the people he had to speak to,” he told the Guardian.

“It’s a total lack of respect, unfaithful and incomprehensible. This president demands a lot from others when his own behaviour frankly leaves a lot to be desired. We’ve not had even a single call. I haven’t seen the contract.

“Put bluntly, he’s rude,” Rubiales continued. “He has signed an agreement that it is not up to him to sign. What he has signed is worthless. It means nothing without our authorisation.”

Given the RFEF’s opposition to this idea, when it was announced that they had agreed that the 2019 Supercopa de Espana would be extended to a four-team affair, played in January of next year rather than August and moved to Saudi Arabia, La Liga were less than impressed.

As well as Copa del Rey winners Valencia and Liga champions Barcelona, Atletico Madrid will also participate in the competition, having finished second in the league, as will Real Madrid after finishing third.

Marca have reported that the RFEF could sign a six-year deal to make the upcoming 2019 set-up a recurring event too – in a deal worth around €30m (£27.5m/$33.5m).

La Liga have strongly opposed the decision, adding: “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.”

Mayo has made no secret of his ambition to have La Liga surpass the Premier League’s global brand.

But while the league and the RFEF continue to try and out-do each other, meaning we enter August without a confirmed season start date, that is impossible.

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