Trophy without sporting logic contested since the beginning of the season for results achieved during the previous exercise, the Spanish Super Cup did not fascinate the public. Economically it only yielded pipas: 120,000 euros. In 2018, the duel between FC Barcelona, author of the double, and Sevilla FC, finalist of the Copa del Rey, ended in a fiasco. The Palanganas demanded a “traditional” double showdown when the Culés, on a US tour, wanted a single game. Finally, Rubiales had decided on a single duel, contested in Tangier. Notably, this led to a radio gun pass that began on the Cope and was completed the same evening on the Cadena SER between Luis Rubiales and Pepe Castro, the president of Nervionense.
So how do you maximize the potential of a competition with no potential? Fortunately for the clubs and authorities of the Old Continent, the Gulf States have both the desire to host international events and the money. The Saudi listed company Sela, affiliated with the local royal family, finds a perfect intermediary to host the Spanish Super Cup: Kosmos Holdings, owned by Gerard Pique. The FC Barcelona defender’s company contributes to the deal with the Real Federación Española de Fútbol (RFEF) and to the total overhaul of the competition.
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Take out the popcorn and pour it into a silver bowl!
Thus the new generation of SuperCoupe was born: a Final 4 played in January in Saudi Arabia (Rubiales thought about Camp Nou for a while, probably to lure Pique) and a nice check for 240 million euros net from 6 years to share between the Federation, the participating clubs on a principle of overwhelming inequality (for the first edition: 8 million each for Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, 4 for Atlético and only 3 for Valencia CF despite winning the Copa). In comparison: the Italian Super Cup, which is also played in Saudi Arabia, yields 7 million per edition.
The first edition in 2020 has been a resounding sporting success since the final Real Madrid against Atlético, authors of the “Nadaplete” in 2018-2019: the colchonero club was invited as vice champion of Spain, while its rival merengue by virtue of its careful, it’s technical, from the Copa del Rey semi-finalist with the best record. Why this arrangement? Because the 40 million (30 for the competition and 10 for the training of technicians) is with the two cadors; only one is 35; none are 30. So for Betis, the second semi-final of the Cup, it’s ‘sorry, not sorry’. The same goes for respect for human rights. The same goes for the Spanish supporters who could only watch the matches in 2020 for free but through Movistar, without forgetting those who would have liked to go there to cheer on their team.
Pique judge and party?
In 2019, the intervention of Kosmos Holdings is generally known. It is clear that Gerard Pique’s company has established the link between the RFEF and the Saudi decision-makers. At that time, there was no conflict of interest with the still active player. However, three years later, WhatsApp audio messages between “Rubi” and “Geri” resurfaced in El Confidencial, after the RFEF fell victim to a cyberattack. At the center of the controversy is the commission, a “merit bonus” received by Kosmos Holdings: 24 million euros, or 10% of the total amount.
If Miami was interested (particularly because Real Madrid initially favored only the North American market), it was mainly Qatar that emerged as the main opponent of the Saudi candidacy. A pre-contract, published by El Confidencial, for a period of 6 years for 33 million per season with a 3% increase in “prize money” from the fourth year (which would have been 36 million in the last edition) was signed three times weeks before the formalization of the deal with Saudi Arabia. The format, the temporality, the always unequal distribution and in favor of Real Madrid and FC Barcelona (but only 6 million) were identical… but without financial penalty in the absence of the Merengaugranas and without the intervention of Kosmos Holdings, so without the commission of 24 million.
Since 2020, the Super Cup has been held twice in Saudi Arabia, with Real Madrid and Barça, worth 80 million euros. Should one of the two clubs be missing for the next editions (the joint absence is almost science fiction knowing that this happened only three times in 35 “classic” editions: 2000, 2002 and 2004), that would be a minimum total amount of €220 million. Far more than the €202 million guaranteed by the Qatari bid.
Attempts to control “Geri”
Is Gerard Pique at the heart of a conflict of interest? He defends himself. On the one hand there is Piqué the player and on the other hand Piqué the entrepreneur. Sunday night, just after his side was overthrown by Cádiz at the Camp Nou, he explained on Twitch, which featured as many as 35 guest journalists. Always a bit provocative, the Catalan admitted “It’s unusual to see players in this sort of thing. I like it. I’m not going to apologize. That’s why I’ve been doing it for years.”† And to add: “I didn’t participate for the money. I could sit on a couch all my life and do nothing. In this society, making money means success and I enjoy being successful in what I do. With these 40 million, the participating clubs get a lot of money, but also those at the bottom”†
Where the pinch is that we hear him talking to “Rubi” about the amounts at stake for the clubs and we seriously get the impression that he is the one setting the amounts. In addition, he is “moneying” his support and that of Lionel Messi for the candidacy of David Aganzo, president of the players’ union and successor to Rubiales in this position, against his approval of the new format of the SuperCoupe.
Even defending himself for trying to take advantage of his privileged role, according to El Confidencial’s audio, Pique has tried at least twice to convince Rubiales, even to put pressure on him. Each time without success. Indeed, the Catalan has expressed a desire to participate in the Tokyo Olympics and has asked the president of the RFEF to inform Luis de la Fuente, Rojita’s coach, of his candidacy.
He also advocated territorial preferential treatment for Andorra FC, the club he owns, which went straight from the 5th to the 3rd division after the bankruptcy of CF Reus and after appealing offers that people were already wary of. Let’s skip the administrative details: Piqué wanted to avoid getting into a very difficult group, made up of many Catalan clubs, while the Principality’s clubs are administratively linked to the Catalan federation. Ultimately, the club missed the Segunda climb in the play-off final and is currently in pole position to achieve it this time.
Ruby on nail
The one who got a lot of money in his personal pockets is Luis Rubiales. A week before the publication of the soberly titled “SuperCopa Files”, El Confidencial unveiled the emoluments of the President of the RFEF in 2021 (excluding the 250,000 euros received annually as UEFA Vice-President): 634,518.19 euros gross , or 339,237.12 net. The distribution is as follows: 160,000 fixed, the rest variable in relation to sponsorship and earned income. In other words, if Real Madrid and FC Barcelona participate in the Spanish Super Cup, their rates will be increased. It is 7 times more than Pedro Sánchez, the head of the Spanish government. It is also 4 times what his predecessor Ángel María Villar received, fired after 29 years of undisputed rule after being involved in Soule’s corruption affair.
However, his fee takes into account the financial results of the RFEF. And according to Miquel Iceta, the Minister of Culture and Sports, the Federación is “the only one that finances itself and receives no subsidy”. In addition, the agency’s budget for 2022 is more than 400 million, a record.
Hypocrisy on all levels
A deep sense of hypocrisy emerges from all this. On the part of Gerard Piqué and Luis Rubiales who do not see the problem that, if not legal, is at least moral in terms of the chosen place and the modalities: Rubiales nevertheless vetoed a report of the Ethics Committee of the RFEF who opposed Saudi Arabia’s choice.
From opponents of the RFEF president, starting with Miguel Galán who monitored the position exactly in 2018 and has already taken the matter to court. From Miquel Iceta stating that a Spanish league should be played on Spanish territory while the contract with Saudi Arabia frees up money for other federations. From rival clubs and their representatives, starting with Diego Simeone who lately has a nasty tendency to look for a lot of excuses. From the press, suddenly defender of the “18 otros” while the debate has always been ultra polarized about the contradiction Real Madrid-FC Barcelona through a chauvinistic “periodismo de bufanda” (scarf journalism in French version), cockardier and salesman. The same press that was not interested in the old version of the Spanish Super Cup and would not be interested in the new version in the absence of the two top names.
In addition, there is a Copa del Rey final on Saturday night, without Real Madrid or Barça. We hope for such strong media attention for this Real Betis-Valencia CF as well as for the next edition of the SuperCoupe, especially if FC Barcelona does not participate. You don’t have to bet, we already know the answer.
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