The president of the Spanish FA has called for a radical overhaul of La Liga including matches being played at neutral venues and others being staged outside of Spain.
Luis Rubiales believes the changes are necessary to “capture the attention of younger people” and insists that fewer matchdays and switching venues would benefit the league.
Three years ago, La Liga supremo Javier Tebas confirmed a 15-year agreement had been struck with American entertainment company Relevent to stage matches in the US.
That move had been opposed by Rubiales and the Spanish FA, but their stance now appears to have changed as they have backed proposals which would be ground-breaking – and hugely controversial – in football.
Rubiales was speaking at a breakfast briefing with Europa Press – the same setting where he announced a revamp of the Spanish Supercopa, expanding the competition from two clubs to four and exporting the matches to Saudi Arabia.
The organisation has also implemented format changes to the Copa del Rey – the main cup competition in Spanish football – by reducing ties from two-legged games to one-off matches and streamlining the tournament.
La Liga and the Spanish FA are the two powerful institutions in Spanish football, but they have often been at loggerheads over multiple bureaucratic issues.
A disagreement between the two over La Liga’s attempts to stage matches on Friday and Monday nights was taken to a Spanish court earlier this year.
The Spanish FA are now publicly calling for radical changes to the league format including staging matches at neutral venues which then open the door to matches being exported outside of Spain.
The calls come amid a decline of economic power in the league compared to the Premier League and other leading clubs in European football.
These issues have led to both clubs slimming their squads and being unable to fund transfers for potential targets.
This summer, long-serving Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos – who has subsequently joined Paris Saint-Germain – ended his 16-year stay at the club after refusing to negotiate a pay cut on his contract.
Barcelona have so far been unable to register new signings Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay and Eric Garcia (all free transfers) as they are operating above their salary budget, which is capped by La Liga.
The club’s desperate financial situation also means that Lionel Messi’s new contract cannot be registered by the league and he has technically been a free agent for two weeks since his contract expired on 30 June.
“In the next few days, I will talk to Javier Tebas to try to change the current format of La Liga,” Rubiales told reporters on Wednesday, in quotes carried by Marca.
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“We have already changed the format of other competitions with the positive results clear, and we will propose a new format to La Liga.
“So far, the league has not been flexible.
“We hope they sit down with us and hear our proposals of having fewer matchdays and bigger spectacles to capture the attention of younger people with more excitement.
“If we want to change the format, it has to be done unanimously.
“We are going to propose for games to be played at neutral venues – there would be fewer matchdays but those would generate more money.
“We could look at hosting a game outside of Spain. Why not? It’s not viable now because teams play home and away but we could look into it.”
However, the league has swiftly rebuffed these proposals – stating that there will be no alterations to their structure.
La Liga has pointed to the increase of fans in stadiums and of increased audiovisual rights across the division, propelled by a new TV deal in the US with ESPN.
Interestingly, the league also appears to have significantly backed down on their previous stance of exporting matches abroad.
A league statement on Wednesday read: “La Liga will not consider a change in the competition format of any of its categories. The current model, its structure, its days of competition, its schedules, etc., have been a success in recent years.
“Among many other achievements: an increase in spectators in stadiums by more than 20 percent; an exponential growth of our national and international audiovisual rights, among which the latest agreement with ESPN in the United States stands out; an economic stability that has allowed us to be the only major league competition with a positive net result in the first season of COVID; etc.
“Therefore, any modification of the current format or its mere approach would be irresponsible. And it would also generate uncertainty about other sports and non-professional football, to which La Liga contributes €125million per season.
“La Liga are willing to dialogue with the Spanish FA on various issues to improve football such as the improvement of the VAR, which we have already proposed days ago, coordination with the new top level of the Spanish FA (the regionalised third tier of Spanish football), a common strategy against the Superliga European, etc.”