Spanish league kickoff at risk over scheduling dispute
MADRID— New season, same old story.
The Spanish league and the Spanish football federation are at odds again, this time before the season has even started.
This week’s scheduled start of the league is in jeopardy because of a dispute between the two entities over whether matches can be played on Fridays and Mondays.
The league was set to begin with a match between Granada and Athletic Bilbao on Friday night, but the federation wants the game to be moved to the weekend because it opposes playing matches on Mondays and Fridays. It also wants Monday’s game between Alavés and Real Betis to be played on either Saturday or Sunday.
The federation and the league have long argued over whether matches can be played on Fridays and Mondays, with each side getting favorable rulings from different courts. The federation made concessions at the end of last season because of the coronavirus pandemic, allowing the league to schedule matches on those days to guarantee that the season could finish in time.
The federation had warned, though, that it maintains its stance against playing on Mondays and Fridays.
The league felt that it could still play on those days this season as matches will continue to take place without fans and under strict health protocols.
The federation’s stance against playing on Mondays and Friday is based in part on complaints by Spain’s players’ association. The league, meanwhile, argues that those days are important for its broadcasters who pay for the league’s television rights.
The league and the federation were expected to make their final arguments to a competition committee judge on Wednesday, with a ruling expected soon after to allow for eventual changes to be arranged in time. But the league didn’t see it as fair for a judge linked to the federation to be making the ruling.
Federation president Luis Rubiales and Spanish league president Javier Tebas have been at odds over several issues in recent years. A peace deal was struck earlier this year amid the pandemic, but it didn’t take long before the sides began disagreeing again.
Only seven of the 10 first-round matches will be played this week after the league postponed games involving the teams that played later into the season because of European competitions, including Barcelona, Sevilla, Atlético Madrid and defending champion Real Madrid.
The league had hoped to have fans back at the stadiums this season but matches will still be played without spectators as Spain battles a new surge in coronavirus cases.
Teams will still be allowed to make five substitutions in each match, as was the case when the league resumed after the pandemic.
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