MADRID (Reuters) - Spanish state broadcaster RTVE said on Thursday it would not bid to broadcast the upcoming Spanish Super Cup soccer tournament in Saudi Arabia due to human rights concerns.
Spain’s soccer federation (RFEF) announced a three-year deal to play the revamped tournament in Saudi Arabia, with Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Valencia due to contest the first edition in Jeddah in January 2020.
That has brought criticism from some in the sports world that the federation has prioritized money and ignored abuses in the conservative Muslim kingdom where women’s rights lag and officials masterminded the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“RTVE will not join the bidding to buy the rights to broadcast the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia because this country violates human rights, especially women’s rights in the area of sport,” RTVE’s head of sport Jesus Alvarez said.
“It’s a country where until very recently women couldn’t go to watch football. Human rights are fundamental to this corporation, which has made a big push for women’s sport in the last few years,” he added, speaking on the channel.
Neither the Spanish soccer federation nor Saudi authorities could be immediately reached for comment.
Speaking at the announcement of Saudi Arabia as hosts for the tournament on Monday, RFEF president Luis Rubiales said he could guarantee women would be able to attend without restrictions.
“Our idea is that football can be a tool of social change,” he said. “There will be people who are for and against this decision, but we are certain we have made the right move.”
The federation has not said how much the deal was worth, but said all income earned would be reinvested in amateur football and women’s football, aside from money granted to the four competing clubs.
Spanish newspaper ABC said the federation would earn between 35-40 million euros ($39-$44 million) per year from the deal.
Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Andrew Cawthorne