Big changes for the Spanish Super Cup
In a break from tradition, this season's Spanish Super Cup will be played over one game in Tangier, Morocco. Since it was reintroduced in 1982, the match has been played over two legs with the league and cup winners hosting one match each. The rules have been tweaked before. In 1988/89, there was no Super Cup because Real Madrid won the league/cup double. Consequently, the RFEF missed out on a payday. When Barcelona did the same last season, the rules allowed the cup runners-up a second crack at the Blaugrana in the Super Cup. Even so, it's always been a home and home affair.
The change received varied responses from observers.
Many are pleased the game is a one-off tie. It's one less match on the calendar for overworked players. Curtain-raising games are treated as a final preseason tuneup, nowadays. Dragging it out for 180 minutes is ridiculous. A single match continues the tradition without impacting too heavily on the early season.
The unpopular decision was going international, especially with Tangier the chosen destination. Football is a culture to fans but for administrators, it's becoming increasingly a profitable business. Little regard is paid to match-going fans with this decision. Some let their voices be heard. Sevilla fan groups, Biris Norte and the Federacion de Penas Sevillistas San Fernando, will boycott the game.
Geographically, Tangier isn't such a bad destination, particularly for Sevilla. It's a short trip across the Strait of Gibraltar from Andalusia, less than a quarter the distance to Barcelona. The perceived problems are twofold.
First, Morocco and Spain are not the best neighbours. Tensions eased in recent times but Spaniards still resent the Moorish conquest in 711 that lasted until 1492, the year Christopher Columbus stumbled onto the Americas while seeking a western trade route to the Orient.
Second, taking the game to Morocco is regarded as a test run for playing it further afield in the future. Playing Super Cups abroad is not a new idea. Italian teams have played their equivalent in the USA, China and Qatar. This year's contest takes place in Saudi Arabia. The French version played last weekend in China and previously in Montreal. La Liga appears interested in following suit. It's already common for the top clubs to play on Saturday afternoons to accommodate Asian viewers.
For now, it's fans who are opposing the new format. When the match ventures further afield, managers concerned about travel and rested players will join the hue and cry. It's difficult to sympathise with club interests, however. When it's their pockets being lined rather than the RFEF, there's no issue with junkets to America, Australia or China.
La Liga views international Super Cups as more than a good gate. It's an opportunity to promote their product to a wider audience. In the long term, clubs benefit financially even though local fans are forced to miss the occasion or pay through the nose to attend. That's how the game works. Supporters want their club to win for the glory but the more successful the team becomes, the less it belongs to the fans.