Spanish TV will not bid for Super Cup rights due to Saudi rights record

Madrid (AFP) –


Spain's public broadcaster RTVE said Thursday it will not bid for the rights to the Spanish Super Cup being held in Saudi Arabia because "human rights are not respected" in the country.

The Spanish football association (RFEF) announced Monday that the four-team tournament will be held in Saudi Arabia for the first time and moved to the European winter for the next three years.

Jeddah's King-Abdullah stadium will host the four-team tournament in early January as opposed to its traditional pre-season date in August.

La Liga winners Barcelona will face Atletico Madrid and Copa del Rey champions Valencia will play Real Madrid before the final on January 12.

"We feel we should not bid for a Super Cup which will be played in a place where human rights are not respected," a RTVE source told AFP, adding there was particular concern over the rights of women.

The tender for the sale of the media rights for the competition opened on Tuesday. The Spanish football association is expected to earn 30 million euros ($33 million) per year from the sale of the rights to the event.

RFEF president Luis Rubiales said women would be allowed into the ground for the matches and the governing body would subsequently help the Saudi Arabian football federation to organise a local league for women.

De facto Saudi leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has recently introduced reforms including allowing concerts, reopening cinemas, and lifting a prohibition on women driving.

But rights groups complain that one year after the brutal murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi by a Saudi hit squad sent to Istanbul, there has been next to no accountability.

They have also voiced concern over at alleged torture, unlawful detentions and unfair trials of critics, including women activists and journalists, in Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom has regularly denied allegations of torture and unfair detention.

The RFEF has come under fire over the decision to move the tournament to Saudi Arabia, especially from female football players.

Spanish footballer Eli Sarasola who plays for Dutch side Ajax said in a tweet accompanied by dollar symbols that the decision "does not make much sense".

Veronica Boquete, who plays as a forward in the United States for the Utah Royals called the deal "a serious mistake".

"The message it sends is that everything goes and personally, I think not everything goes," she added.