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Spanish soccer still arguing despite pandemic

FBL-ESP-PRESSER

Spanish Royal Football Federation (RFEF) president Luis Rubiales gives a press conference on November 19, 2019 at Las Rozas football sports city near Madrid. - Luis Enrique will return as coach of Spain and replace Robert Moreno ahead of Euro 2020, the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) confirmed on November 19, 2019. Moreno took charge in June after Luis Enrique had resigned to take care of his daughter Xana, who died in August of bone cancer. “Today we can confirm Luis Enrique returns to his position of work,” said RFEF president Luis Rubiales, in a press conference at the national team’s training base in Las Rozas. (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP) (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

MADRID -- Not even the coronavirus pandemic has softened the power struggle between soccer organisations in Spain.

The outbreak has actually strained relationships between the Spanish soccer federation, the Spanish league and the Spanish players’ union even more.

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They have been at odds over a variety of subjects in recent years, and the disputes have continued during the pandemic despite their own calls for unity.

The last few weeks alone have seen several spats. The federation has accused the players’ union of having a “hidden agenda.” The players’ union, in turn, has said it’s under “attack” and accused the federation of leaking private conversations. Both the federation and the players’ union have criticized the league for not doing enough to protect Spanish clubs financially.

The latest clash involved discussions by a commission that monitors how COVID-19 has been affecting Spanish soccer. All three soccer bodies are part of the commission. The Spanish league runs the top two soccer divisions in the country, while the federation controls regulations and matches for professional and amateur games.

After the end of a meeting this week, the federation put out a statement saying it would not accept teams playing games less than 72 hours apart when competitions resume following the pandemic, and that it opposed an alleged agreement between the players’ union and the league to play matches 48 hours apart in order to complete the disrupted season.

Both the league and the players’ union denied the agreement existed. The union said it disliked the “tone of the meeting” and that it felt it was under “direct attack.”

A few days after the denials, the federation released an audio recording of the meeting in which the players’ union president, David Aganzo, suggested players would have to be more flexible regarding the time between games to help reduce the economic impact of the crisis.

The players’ union was upset at the release of the recordings and said it planned to sue the federation. The league also said it would consider its legal options.

The federation said it released the recordings but denied they were “leaked.” It said in a statement on Friday that it was clear from the first meeting of the commission that the conversations would be recorded, and that no one had opposed doing so.

It said it released the recordings to a local radio station that had requested them, with the federation saying it felt the need to “preserve the truth” and “correct” the misinformation allegedly released by the players’ union over what had happened in the meeting.

The federation also said the meeting was never meant to be considered a secret with “more than 20 people” taking part from different groups, and that the players’ union itself released information about what happened in the meeting.

“The federation solely clarified to the public what really happened,” it said in its statement, adding that it appeared the views of the players’ union president were going against those of Spanish players.

It said the request by the players’ union to keep the meetings of the commission secret “leads us to suspect that the association has a hidden agenda” and “intends to hide” its true views from the public and its members.

Federation president Luis Rubiales, a former players’ union president, has been an outspoken figure since taking over the federation in 2018. One of his first acts was to fire coach Julen Lopetegui from the Spanish national team just days before the World Cup in Russia because he took a job with Real Madrid without first telling federation officials.

Rubiales and league president Javier Tebas, another outspoken figure in Spanish soccer, have been at odds over a series of issues, including the rescheduling of a suspended “clásico” match between Real Madrid and Barcelona last year, and the league’s attempt to play a regular-season game in the United States.

Rubiales recently said Tebas should have done more to guarantee television rights for the league.

Aganzo also recently criticized the league for not securing Spanish clubs a bigger financial “cushion” for times of crisis like the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, something Tebas said would have been impossible to do for any sector.

Aganzo and Tebas also failed to reach an agreement over the amount of salary reductions needed for players in an attempt to reduce the economic impact of the pandemic.