José Mourinho defined the Super Cup as the biggest trophy of the summer and the smallest of the season proper. In a bid to raise its prestige, RFEF head Luis Rubiales has concocted a revamped format, which debuts today. It has attracted criticism because of the country paying to host it, Saudi Arabia. It's an understandable reaction, but it has only come about when football has been taken there. Spain has a Saudi embassy, we sell them weapons, former king Juan Carlos always boasted of his friendships there, Felipe VI visited not so long ago, a Spanish consortium built the high-speed train to Mecca, the Dakar rally is held there, with Alonso and Sainz taking part... TVE, our state broadcaster, does air that one.
But alarm bells have only started ringing now Saudi Arabia is to be the setting for the football, which as an industry has its own cause for complaint: the Saudis are guilty of pirating television coverage of elite soccer, avoiding paying for the Premier League, LaLiga, the Champions League and a host of other top-level competitions. The revenue lost through this bootlegging of the beautiful game is said to be about 55 million euros a year, more than enough to pay for this Super Cup and line the pockets of the four participants, the RFEF and the troop of opportunists who always go with these deals. If the event at least serves to open the country up to good influences, as Rubiales says it will, then that's most welcome.
New Super Cup an improvement on former guise
Leaving all that to one side, what we do have is an improvement on the old Super Cup, which rather got in the way in a packed August schedule. In Jeddah, the traditional Red Sea gateway to Mecca, the best of Spanish football will be on show, and after the Christmas break, it'll certainly be a welcome presence on our TV screens - because that's how we're going to follow it, save for a few hardy souls. Match tickets have been partly funded by the clubs, but the travel isn't cheap and, though perhaps I shouldn't say this, the lack of beer over there will be a dampener. But despite everything that goes with them, we've some good games in store. And here's hoping they do serve for good, as Rubiales claims they will.