“I want Messi, Mourinho, Guardiola, Klopp, Cristiano… in LaLiga” – Tebas
The president of LaLiga was speaking at the World Football Summit and covered numerous topics including the imminent return of fans to Spanish stadiums.
LaLiga chief Javier Tebas was speaking on Thursday at the World Football Summit and gave some positive news about plans to get supporters back into Spanish stadiums, the situations being faced by Lionel Messi and FC Barcelona, and a variety of aspects of the money behind the game, among other important topics.
Javier Tebas at WFS
The first thing is to start working urgently on when it will be possible to play again. We were heavily criticised at that point. But we set up a working group which has met every day since then. There were 10 people in the group. Back then, the day-to-day routine was difficult because of the lack of knowledge. We didn’t know how it was transmitted or how it affected people. We had a working committee and got in touch with other European leagues and UEFA to work on possible calendars. Those meetings were weekly to coordinate everyone and to follow what was happening with the European Championships which were postponed. From the the very start we had a strategy with the testing, although it was criticised, which we made public so people knew our situation regarding making decisions. The difficult thing was managing the uncertainty and all things considered it was successful.
We had a lot of video meetings with the clubs. We had meetings every week until we got back playing in June. Every 15 days we met to discuss protocols and how to get back to training. There were also a lot of meetings regarding economic difficulties and contracts. In total we met with 9,000 people in order to be fully prepared regarding every aspect, not just returning to playing, but also on the economic front. I had four meetings with banks and funds that finance the clubs. There were 18 banks to reassure. We even managed to increase the financing to the clubs to avoid cash flow problems. There were no problems with not paying players or suppliers and we finished the league. In terms of broadcasts we had a lot of meetings with the operators. Our strategy was to sit down to negotiate with them at the end of the league.
In economic terms we were already providing a lot of support to amateur football and the Federation (RFEF), something more than 60 million euros a year. In the Viana Agreement we extended that by 20 million and some 30 million from the government. That’s not for the season, that’s forever. The main thing is to set out how things will be in the future. We weren’t bothered about the support being forever so long as measures were taken in terms of management and approach. For the other categories, such as women’s football or football sala, we’ve provided support with our know-how. The tests allow you to evaluate the situation. They don’t help you prevent the virus from attacking your squad. That’s something I don’t think has been well managed by the federation and in other categories. We’ve been clear about not using the dressing rooms. One infected individual is a problem, but it’s serious if it’s an outbreak. We’ve worked to make footballers aware, how to behave… That’s what’s been missing elsewhere. There’s LaLiga inspector per club to check that the rules are being followed and that there is alcohol handwash and masks where there should be. The tests provide information, but if you don’t take care of yourself at work and in your life you can go to training and provoke a massive infection. That’s what happened in Italy. And it usually happens in the dressing rooms.
The competition starts with the idea of playing 380 games in Primera. That’s the contract the teams have when they start the season. In other countries what they had were other types of problems. In Belgium there’s a court ruling forcing them to readmit a club that was relegated because of the decision. I can’t understand why in France they didn’t finish the league. it was difficult for the other big leagues, but we did it. Managing the pandemic is harder now than before. There are more infections now than when we came back to competition. There’s more risk of infection now. In the first test we did we only got five positives. But our protocol creates a bubble and we’re really strict. There are various disciplinary proceedings against clubs for not complying with the protocols.
We learnt from the Fuenlabrada case that the outbreak happened in the dressing room. We realised that was where the infection happened. The immediate reaction for those training to compete in the Champions League and Europa League was not to use the dressing rooms. Now in winter, we need to make the spaces bigger and we’ve placed portable dressing rooms in nearly all the stadiums. We’re constantly doing tests with the new ones. We’re doing a PCR and three antibody tests for each player. We’ll see the results. I hope we’ll be able to substitute the antibody test for a saliva test. It makes the player’s life easier.
It’s a difficult subject. As soon as the infection rate drops there are parts of Spain, such as the Canary Islands, the Balearic Islands or Madrid where we could have fans back in the grounds. The government wants it to be all of Spain at the same time, but we need to set it straight that it won’t be like that, it’s impossible. What’s more in terms of the economic impact. We want to start with 3,000 fans in the stadiums. That way the clubs can give something to the fans. By the end of January we’d hope to be able to have more fans. We won’t see the grounds 100% full till next season.”
I want Messi in LaLiga, just as I want Mourinho, Guardiola, Klopp, Cristiano… They all help you grow. It’s not essential. They’re not as important as people say. Neymar left. It’s necessary to have a strategy, a player can help you, but it’s not essential. We’ve got the deals done for the next four seasons in nearly all territories. It can affect sponsorships somewhat, but we’ve really worked hard on the league’s brand and we wouldn’t notice it. I hope that Messi, who’s the best player ever, finished his career here.
Griezmann is one of the biggest transfers ever in Spain and PSG and clubs in the Premier were after him. Coutinho hasn’t clicked yet nor Dembélé. Madrid have Benzema, one of the biggest stars in Europe. We’ll see where Haaland ends up next season. And now there are other besides Madrid and Barcelona. A league that is managed around bringing in a player is making a mistake. The Bundesliga has fallen 50% in its international markets and has Haaland. You need to work really hard on [promoting] a league. We’ve got Wu Lei and in China the audiences are amazing and he’s in the Segunda División. The stars can help you in certain regions. Not to be so global. To be global you need a good brand and a good product. We’re in 18 languages. You don’t create a league overnight.
Our strategy is for all the clubs to be strong. LaLiga will come out of this as the most strengthened economically. We’ll come out as the strongest. Barcelona, like Madrid or Juventus, is among the worst affected. The big clubs are the worst affected because of tickets, VIP boxes, shops, museums… That all affects the club more than a middle-sized club. Barcelona always spent more on salaries, because nobody knew a pandemic was coming. We need to differentiate cash flow from the excesses there might have been. We’re the most transparent league. We knew that to sort the cash flow they need 400 million euros. They’re going to reduce salaries and finance the rest. We provide the data to raise awareness. How can you sign if we’ve no income. If you have competitions hit by covid and you make signings like the previous year… I don’t know where the genius to do that comes from. I want to see how other leagues are in a year’s time.
At any given moment, certain clubs might be, but in general none of them. A lot of clubs are profitable. And will be next year due to the financial controls. Barcelona can’t reduce the budget by 200 million so easily because they have four year contracts. LaLiga says to them they can’t bring players in, or players have to leave. Fourteen clubs have spent more than they can, but that will be fixed in January. Barcelona will fix it, no doubt. If any club doesn’t get its salary spending under the cap, they’ll have to spend less the next season.
The clubs have reached agreements with the players. There are a lot of types of agreements. We’ve given them our opinion. Before you’d end up with bankruptcy proceeding and the money would go to the players. We’re asking for maximum collaboration on this topic.
It was not the right time. It should have been regulated, not prohibited. It’s true it was the wild west, but it should have been regulated. When we watch games in other leagues we see adverts for bookies. It’s detrimental to our clubs. It wasn’t the right thing, or the right moment.
We’ll never ask for public money. This year we needed to spend less and when things get back to normal, we’ll have more money. We need to get back to normal. That’s it.
We’ll have a Game Pass. Of course. It’s a model that is spot on for how to grow the league. We’re working on it and in a few weeks we’ll have the LaLiga Pass. It’s a product you can offer to the whole world, but a local operator will only provide one game. LaLiga Pass will have a special section for Griezmann in France, Modric in Croatia. That helps the international operator. It’s necessary to differentiate from OTT (Over the Top i.e. tv through internet). LaLiga Sport TV is an OTT service. You’ve got a product and collect the date from the users. We learn from them. We should know their behaviour. To know all about audience and telemetry. You can also use segmentation: we know if they are Madrid, Barcelona or Real Sociedad fans, if they watch pétanque, table-tennis, rowing… We’ve learned the various behaviours and we know how to get people to open the mails we send them.
Nobody has talked any more about the clandestine Super League apart from the 30 seconds from Bartomeu. It’s impossible to get so much money, you’d need a team from Mars playing… it shows a major lack of understanding. There are maybe two or three presidents, they like it, and they talk about how we’re stealing the their money… With the pandemic, both UEFA and the leagues, have discovered we’ve got a strong relationship and a lot in common. We reached an agreement and UEFA were very generous. What we get in 2024 all be the product of a lot of hard work and well thought out. With intelligence and respecting the independence of the national leagues. Respecting the custom of classification from national leagues to continental competitions. We’d wreck the football ecosystem. We’d economically hurt the big clubs too. We can’t bow down to the big clubs. You have to do what’s best for the football ecosystem. This pandemic has allowed us to get to know each other better.
We’re going to see what happens with the World Cup in Qatar. We’re going to see what impact it has on the market stopping for two months. It could create labour issues for the players. We’ve been working for 10 years in LaLiga. The better each competition is, the better for everyone. We don’t want competitions that fall to pieces. It’s good for the industry if we all move forward. If the industry grows, the rest of sports and grassroots football benefit.
I’m seeing an exciting season, within what was expected. The big clubs have been hard hit. There are three international breaks, meaning the players come back tired. All the clubs in Europe, except for certain ones that more like state-clubs and do what they want, need to make a sporting transition. It’s clear that Real Madrid and Barcelona will be fighting for the title with Real Sociedad, Villarreal, Atlético Madrid…
Working as a team. There are 240 people involved in the day to day work. Without that teamwork we wouldn’t be playing. Everything is much more complicated now.