LaLiga have denied reports that the Premier League are targeting its president Javier Tebas to take over from Richard Scudamore as chief executive. The Premier League had lined up Susanna Dinnage for the role before she withdrew from the position a month after accepting the job. Tebas has been in charge of LFP (Professional Football League – the governing body that runs LaLiga) since 2013 but is growing increasingly unpopular with Spanish football fans for his attempts to globalise the league.
Originally from Costa Rica, Tebas started out with aspirations of a career in justice and studied law at the University of Zaragoza. He set up a law office called Tebas Coiduras in Huesca in 1987 and also represented Huesca as part of the far-right political group Fuerza Nueva. When asked whether Spain needed their own Marine Le Pen in 2016, Tebas replied: “Yes. On occasions, yes. Above all else, for the national identity of Spain, which is being defended weakly by the political parties.”
Last month, the 56-year-old voiced his support for Spain’s far-right nationalist party Vox, who are known for their anti-Islam and Eurosceptic stance. Despite Vox’s opposition to Catalonia independence, Tebas has stated that the likes of Barcelona, Espanyol and Girona would be allowed to continue playing in LaLiga if the region became independent.
Tebas worked his way up through the football world, becoming president of several Spanish clubs, starting at Huesca in 1993. Not only has Tebas tried to move Spanish football elsewhere, he has been severely criticised by fans for failing to take them into consideration when scheduling games. There have been mass protests in and outside stadiums against games kicking off on a Friday and Monday night. Tebas’s initial aims to make LaLiga more accessible to fans and to fill the grounds on match day are failing, big time.
Tebas is also against the idea of a European Super League: “The European Super League would be the end of LaLiga and also of the Champions League,” he told Goal in November. “The Superliga is the kind of project written up at a bar at five in the morning, a project of different club presidents.”
Tebas’s loyalty to LaLiga will likely see him turn down any possible move to the Premier League. He’s committed to an end goal of overtaking the English top flight as the best league in the world: “I would like to have all the best players and all the best managers. I would like to have Mourinho and [Pep] Guardiola for example,” he told the Daily Mail last year.
While the Premier League seem to work well alongside the FA, Tebas hasn’t exactly seen eye to eye with bosses of RFEF (Royal Spanish Federation of Football). Angel Maria Villar spent two decades in charge at RFEF while also holding senior roles at UEFA and FIFA. The former Athletic Club midfielder became acting president of UEFA in 2015, with Tebas saying he hoped Villar got the job full-time so he had to leave his role at RFEF.
Former Spain coach Javier Clemente, who played alongside Villar at Athletic in the 1970s, defended his former teammate when Tebas claimed he was “stuck in Medieval times”: “If [Villar] is stuck in Medieval times, then [Tebas is] stuck in the times of Hitler, as a boss of a concentration camp,” Clemente said on Twitter in 2015.
Current RFEF president Luis Rubiales has openly opposed Tebas’s attempts to play a LaLiga match in the United States: “I want to be very respectful, unlike LaLiga who did not respect RFEF,” he told the Daily Mail in 2018. “[Tebas] spoke to everyone except the people he should speak to.” He also accused Tebas of trying to “invade” the USA by playing a LaLiga game there.
The Premier League aren’t the only ones to have shown interest in Tebas during his tenure at LaLiga. Italy’s Serie A made an attempt to secure his services in 2018, only for him to stay in Spain on a more financially generous contract. As with most high-profile sportspeople in Spain, there are questions over tax fraud that have only partially been answered.
Time is running out for the Premier League to replace the outgoing Scudamore. If they do manage to steal Javier Tebas under the noses of LaLiga, expect to see Premier League matches every Friday, Monday and the inevitable break-up of the grouped 3:00pm kick-offs. Tebas wants to maximise profits and will take the Premier League further and further away from tradition, maybe even as far as the United States.