Luis Rubiales, president of Spain’s footballing governing body RFEF, revealed on Tuesday his plans to renovate the curtain-raising SuperCopa from next season. He is proposing a four-team tournament made up of semi-finals and a final to replace the original format of a single final. The participants will be the champions and runners up of both La Liga and the Copa del Rey and will be played overseas.
The initial news was met with some skepticism but, on reflection, is it such a bad thing? Spain’s SuperCopa has seen some historic moments, particularly during the Guardiola-Mourinho rivalry that made every Clasico extra special. However, recent years have seen a fall in popularity in the traditional season opener and RFEF have long considered tinkering with it. The original two-legged tie was replaced just last year with a one-off final between Barcelona and Sevilla in Morocco, becoming the first SuperCopa to be played outside Spain.
The SuperCopa should undoubtedly be played in Spain but the commercial lure of playing it abroad seems to outweigh any sort of tradition. Italy have played their Supercoppa in Qatar, China and Saudi Arabia at different times of the year, with the most recent edition coming at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah in January. The idea does give foreign supporters a chance to see their team play for something important, rather than a pre-season friendly.
A combination of clubs, players and supporters managed to prevent Girona’s league fixture with Barcelona being played in Miami. Rubiales condoned Javier Tebas’s attempts to take La Liga to the States but seems open to the idea of playing the SuperCopa elsewhere.
The new final-four format would give a greater chance to Spain’s less successful clubs of winning a meaningful trophy. Real Betis last won domestic silverware in 2005 while Valencia’s 2008 Copa del Rey triumph was their last major title. These two will play their Copa del Rey semi-final second leg next week and one of them will feature in the final against either Barcelona or Real Madrid. The losing finalist will get another shot of silverware in the SuperCopa the following August.
The same goes for the likes of Sevilla, Alaves and Athletic Club – all recent Copa del Rey runners up. Although Athletic did take their chance in 2015 under a certain Ernesto Valverede when they defeated treble winners Barcelona in the SuperCopa. This sort of opportunity could put more emphasis on the SuperCopa, underlining its worth as a major honour, which seems to have been lost in modern times.
For those saying that the addition of a semi-final, and thus an extra game, is needless at the start of the season, the original SuperCopa has always been played over two legs. So, in theory, this semi-final should add to the excitement rather than detract from it. Spain’s SuperCopa rethink may not be massively pioneering, but don’t be surprised to see Europe’s other major nations take similar first steps in years to come.