The personal conflict between La Liga president Javier Tebas and Real Murcia owner Jesus Samper may have far wider implications than just the relegation (or not) of one team. It has brought to the fore a whole host of issues facing La Liga; mismanagement and cronyism at best, running a dictatorship and being in contempt of court at worst.
The individual case of Real Murcia bears little scrutiny. Tebas and Samper are sworn enemies for more than a decade. It seems that Tebas considered this summer the perfect opportunity of take Samper down (Real Murcia being the unfortunate victim). Samper’s infamous timing giving Tebas what seemed the appropriate situation. Paperwork wasn’t in order, and no agreement on debt payment had been reached with Hacienda (Spain’s inland revenue). The various commissions and arbitrators (all part of the Liga’s own justice system) condemned Real Murcia to Segunda B on August 7, just 16 days before the season was to begin.
Tebas stated on the day (without any sign of irony) that “it’s important to give priority to the integrity of the competition, and try to make clubs as equal as possible in terms of economy. There is pressure on football to have financial control, so that the competition be true on an economic level”. All sounds very correct. Until you remember that he oversees and approves of the outrageous way TV revenue is split up in Spain. Evidently he means all teams should have control and compete, except Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, who seem to be on another planet. See these 2 graphs that compare how TV money is distributed in different European leagues.
1. Madrid and Barcelona dwarf all other teams TV revenue.
2.Ratio between highest and lowest income from TV. Plain crazy.
I wonder how much longer the Premier league will accept Real Madrid and Barcelona taking the Premier’s best players (last 2 seasons, Bale and Suarez) and winning the Champions league whilst benefitting from an unfair system. There will need to be a fairer distribution; maybe even a UEFA-wide criteria for splitting the available money in each league. The effect on the rest of Spanish football is clear. Empty stadiums anywhere expect where Madrid and Barcelona play are testament. Not just the TV share is unjust. Madrid and Barcelona are amongst the biggest debtors to Spain's IR, owing probably hundreds of millions. I wonder how much Chelsea, City, Arsenal and Man Utd owe the UK taxman? Probably a big fat ZERO, as it's totally unacceptable.
Gabilondo (of sports paper AS) went as far as to tweet last week that "How do you explain to a child in Murcia that their team is relegated because of those that rule the game? We are moving towards a simple choice between Madrid and Barcelona".
But back to the Real Murcia case. Tebas also stated on the 7 August, that “other teams have reached agreement with hacienda. The case of Real Murcia is that they were being asked to find 13 million euros in 24 hours”. Clearly stating that Hacienda had been the catalyst to Real’s relegation. Tebas’s plan all seemed to be going to plan, until it started to leak. Hacienda released a statement shorty after that made it clear that “the ministry wants to make clear that if a team is relegated, it is only because of the Liga’s internal rules, and in no case due to the grade of completion on any payment obligations to the Inland Revenue”. Seems there is some confusion. Tebas claims hacienda obliged Murcia to find 13 million, hacienda say relegation is purely internal Liga business.
After this, Real Murcia had one last straw to grasp at; the ordinary justice system (not the Liga’s own internal version). Thankfully sense was seen, and the number 7 court in Madrid ordered on 12 August, the “immediate inscription and affiliation of Real Murcia FC to the National League of Football professional for season 2014/2015”. Against this higher judge no possible recourse is available. The Liga are obliged to reinstate Real Murcia. However, they had already confirmed Mirandés would take Murcia’s place, so another team are dragged into the scenario.
Far from accepting the judge’s instruction (“immediate inscription”) Tebas and the Liga have dragged their feet, preferring to hold a meeting on Monday, a full 6 days after the judge ruled. Disobedience of a judge is a serious issue, and Tebas may find himself in some hot water very quickly. But then his performance is fairly typical of a totalitarian ruler; never admitting he’s wrong, and thinking himself even to be above the law.
The meeting on Monday will discuss what is to happen – for the moment the start of Segunda has been delayed. I have to ask, how difficult can it be to rearrange fixtures? Any learner on Excel could probably come up with something in a question of minutes.
Real Murcia president Samper held a press conference after the ruling, making the allegation that Tebas had made Real Murcia a scapegoat. A “made to measure suit” he called it (“un traje a medida”). If we look at the facts, it seems he has a case. Real Murcia’s debt is far from the worst in total, even less so in terms of debt to Inland Revenue. Overall debt to IR has reduced for 600m to 475m in a year. A reduction of 21%. In the same timespan Real Murcia have reduced from 18m to 13m, a reduction of 28%. What reason to stop this progress other than personal vendetta?
Since the ruling, Tebas has put his publicity machine in full motion. Cronies in the press have been used, but some have broken ranks. An article by Antonio Millán in “Diario de Jerez” supported Tebas’ position. Investigation revealed Millán to be a close associate. Said article was sent by Tebas via whatsapp to other journalists to create anti Real Murcia feeling. Sports “newspaper” Marca, rather predictably, front paged with “The League in Flames” blaming Real Murcia for stopping the start of play. Valladolid chairman Carlos Suarez also came out in support of Tebas and the Liga. Another Tebas crony. And extremely rich coming from the chairman of a club whose debt to hacienda (40m) dwarfs Real Murcia’s. All this just looks to me like a dictator in the desperate death throws of his corrupt regime.
I think we all agree on the need for financial control, and this needs to be overseen by the league. But the rules must be the same for all, and no punishments can be handed out because of personal conflict.
Fans of all teams (expect of course the two untouchables) should be behind Real Murcia in this battle. The need for regime change at the Liga is clear. If it doesn’t happen, they could be next on Tebas’s list.
I believe Tebas’ house of cards could be about to fall. Dissent is growing. Independent legal experts say the Liga’s position isn’t defendable and is legally shaky. Articles are being published openly critical of Tebas. Interesting week ahead.