Football: ‘Nonsensical’ power struggle leaves Spanish clubs unsure if weekend La Liga games will be staged

Football: ‘Nonsensical’ power struggle leaves Spanish clubs unsure if weekend La Liga games will be staged

MADRID (Reuters) – A week after the start of the La Liga season was held up because of a conflict over scheduling, clubs in Spain’s top flight still do not know when this week’s matches will be played due a power struggle between the sports’ leading institutions.

Getafe are scheduled to face Osasuna on Friday (Sept 18), but the match is in danger of being postponed due to the Spanish soccer federation’s ban on Fridays and Mondays, which also threatens Real Betis’ game with Real Valladolid, scheduled for Monday.

Organising body La Liga, responsible for compiling the fixtures, chose to ignore the ban when compiling the first two rounds of fixtures for the new season, scheduling Granada’s game with Athletic Bilbao as the season opener last Friday.

But less than 48 hours before that match was due to be played, a federation judge ruled it could not take place on Friday and it was pushed back by a day to Saturday, wrecking Athletic’s travel plans and harming both teams’ preparations.

“It’s surprising that less than 48 hours before we didn’t know when we were playing,” said Granada coach Diego Martinez, whose side went on to win 2-0.

“It conditions your planning for the match, how you distribute training the week before and the week after.”

La Liga called the federation’s stance “nonsensical” but rather than moving the matches to Saturday and Sunday for the second round of fixtures, they lodged an appeal to the government’s department for sport, with a decision expected late on Wednesday.

Osasuna are unable to book a hotel for the match at Getafe as they are unsure whether it will be on Friday or Saturday.

“It’s incomprehensible that we do not know with any security when the game will be played,” said a club spokesman.

LONG-RUNNING BATTLE

Real Betis coach Manuel Pellegrini, who had his side’s first game with Alaves moved forward by a day and is still unsure when they will play Valladolid, also hit out at the shambles.

“We don’t know when we are playing our second game. A league with the prestige of La Liga needs far better organisation,” he told a news conference.

“I find it very strange that the day of a match can be changed three days before, as it means you have to completely change how you work during the week. It’s awful that a league as prestigious as Spain’s can change things a few days before.

“I wish we had a stable calendar, that would be the best thing for everyone involved.”

La Liga and the federation both declined to comment.

The squabbling over the scheduling of matches is one of several battlegrounds in a long-running war between La Liga president Javier Tebas and federation chief Luis Rubiales.

Tebas has repeatedly spoken of the need to play matches on Fridays and Mondays in order to satisfy broadcasters, while Rubiales has said holding matches on working days are unfair on supporters wishing to attend games.

The federation walked back on its previous stance in June when the competition resumed after the coronavirus stoppage, as all matches were played behind closed doors for safety reasons.

Even though spectators are still barred from games this season, the federation insists matches cannot be played on Mondays or Friday until a commercial court rules on the matter on Oct 6.

While the two organisations continue their war of attrition, others are losing patience.

“If they cannot agree a peace, they will have to consider whether they are providing a good service to football or not,” secretary of state for sport Irene Lozano told radio station Cadena Ser. “A lot of energy is wasted on absurd battles.”