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CAMPAIGN against Arms Trades (CAAT) called for the Spanish Football Association to “think long and hard” about legitimising the Saudi Arabian dictatorship.
Reports emerged over the past 48 hours of the Spanish FA exploring the the possibility of playing the Spanish Super Cup in the blood-stained Gulf state beginning next year.
Spain’s FA president Luis Rubiales said today that playing in the Middle East is one of the options being considered for the tournament, as well as a “final four” format with the top finishers in the Spanish league and the Copa del Rey.
The Italian FA received large amounts of criticism at the start of the year from politicians and human rights activists for playing their Super Cup in the King Abdullah Sports City stadium in Jeddah, citing the assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
And CAAT called on Rubiales and the rest of of the Spanish FA to reconsider.
Andrew Smith of CAAT told the Star: “The Saudi regime is one of the most brutal and authoritarian in the world. It has waged a terrible war against Yemen while inflicting decades of atrocities on Saudi people.
“Football associations and other influential institutions should think long and hard about doing anything that can be seen to endorse or legitimise the dictatorship.”
Any deal between Saudia Arabia and the Spanish FA is believed to be in the region of €30 million (£25.9m) over the course of five years, similar to the one struck up by the Italian FA and Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority.
At the time of the Italian cup final, Usigrai, the union of journalists at Italian State TV company Rai, slammed the decision, saying: “The Italian league, Juventus and Milan are giving this [a kick against human rights] with the decision to go out on the field in Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia, for the Italian Super Cup.
“And everyone who has chosen silence is giving this. Accomplices.
“We cannot one day be indignant for racist choirs in our stadiums and then the next day go to play in a country where human rights are violated every day.
“How perfectly you said, dear director, in an interview with Radio1Sport Rai: ‘Our football has bowed to the logic of business, because different companies are constantly looking for new income and move on to any kind of ethical issue.’
“And so the Lega Calcio has established that human rights are worth €7m: the sum that the Saudi regime will pay in its coffers for the Super Cup. Seven million for three years: more than €20m.
“The choice to close the eyes on the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi applies to the Football League.
“But if Italy has not interrupted diplomatic and commercial relations with Saudi Arabia why should football give up that contract?
“No contract, no profit can justify closing your eyes to human rights violations.
“This is why Italian football has a duty to reconsider: there is no way to go in [Saudi] Arabia.”
The Spanish FA’s proposal will be made during their general assembly next week.
Ironically, the federation president, one of the main critics of the Spanish league’s idea to play a regular-season match in the United States, said the decision would take into consideration the players’ health, noting that playing in Saudi Arabia would not affect them as much as if the game was played in the United States or Asia, where travel time and time differences were greater.
The Spanish players’ association, which also complained about the Spanish league’s attempt to play in the US, did not oppose the idea of playing in Saudi Arabia.
“We weren’t against playing in the United States, what we wanted at the time was to be consulted about the idea and to give our opinion,” association president David Aganzo said today. “If the proposal for the Super Cup is good for the players, we won’t have a problem with it.”
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