Spain considers playing Super Cup in Saudi Arabia

In this file photo, Barcelona's Lionel Messi lifts the trophy as they celebrate winning the Spanish Super Cup. (Reuters)
Updated 24 April 2019
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Spain considers playing Super Cup in Saudi Arabia

  • Proposal will be made at the federation’s general assembly next week

MADRID: The Spanish soccer federation is looking into the possibility of playing the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia beginning next year.

Federation President Luis Rubiales said Wednesday playing in the Middle East is one of the options being considered for the tournament, as well as a “final four” format with the top finishers in the Spanish league and the Copa del Rey.

The competition has been played in a one-game final between the champions at the beginning of the season. The idea is to play the new Super Cup in January.

The proposal will be made during the federation’s general assembly next week.

Rubiales did not confirm reports the deal will be worth €30 million ($33 million) a year for six seasons, saying “it will be difficult” to reach that value.

The federation president, one of the main critics of the Spanish league’s idea to play a regular-season match in the US, said the decision would take into consideration the players’ health, noting that playing in Saudi Arabia would not affect them as much as if the game was played in the US or Asia, where travel time and time differences were greater. Last year’s final, won by Barcelona against Sevilla, was played in Tangier, Morocco.

This year’s Italian Super Cup was played in Saudi Arabia as part of a multi-year deal worth more than €20 million ($22 million).  The Spanish players’ association, which complained about the Spanish league’s attempt to play in the US, did not oppose the idea of playing in Saudi Arabia.

“We weren’t against playing in the United States, what we wanted at the time was to be consulted about the idea and to give our opinion,” association president David Aganzo said Wednesday at an event organized by Europa Press. “If the proposal for the Super Cup is good for the players, we won’t have a problem with it.”

The Spanish league had to scrap the game in Florida after Barcelona, which would have faced Girona, backed down because of the lack of consensus among the parties involved. The league said it will try playing abroad again next season.

There is also a plan by the federation to reduce the number of games in the Copa del Rey to help clear up the calendar and keep teams from playing too many matches. The competition would include single elimination matches in some rounds, instead of a two-leg series. The proposal is also expected to be presented in next week’s general assembly.

“The clubs and the players want less official matches in the calendar,” Rubiales said.


Greenhouse effect: Roland Garros unveils new look after years of legal wrangles

Updated 24 May 2019
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Greenhouse effect: Roland Garros unveils new look after years of legal wrangles

PARIS: After years of legal battles and threats to quit its historic home, Roland Garros will show off its new look next week, with a nod to the Eiffel Tower and a World War II resistance fighter while boasting enough plants and greenery to make even the most demanding environmentalist drool.

Ninety years after it was built, the French Open’s showpiece Court Philippe Chatrier was demolished soon after the 2018 event finished.

Fast forward 12 months and it has been almost completely rebuilt to accommodate the necessary strengthening required to support the retractable roof which will be in place for the 2020 edition of the sport’s only clay court Grand Slam.

The metal superstructure weighs half that of the Eiffel Tower, around 3,700 tons, said the French Tennis Federation’s director-general Jean-François Vilotte.

The roof will eventually allow for night sessions to be played even if Roland Garros still lags behind similar developments at the other three Slams.

The Australian Open has three covered courts already while Wimbledon and the US Open boast two retractable roofs apiece.

The 15,000-capacity Chatrier has expanded its shape and size, adding wooden seats to replace its aging green plastic.

Only the famous red clay of the court itself — where the likes of Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep will star from this weekend — has remained unchanged.

“We protected it, we put a concrete slab on it all the winter during the work,” said Gilles Jourdan, the head of the modernization project which is believed to cost an overall €350 million. “But the sweat of Mr.Lacoste is still there,” he added in reference to one of France’s greatest tennis icons, a three-time winner in Paris during the 1920s.

This year’s tournament will also see the debut of Court Simonne-Mathieu, a 5,000-seat arena named in honor of a World War II resistance hero and a former Roland Garros champion.

The semi-sunken arena was a controversial development inside the nearby Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil, one of the capital’s most beloved green spaces.

It was only last May that the French federation emerged successful after five bruising years of bitter legal battles with environmentalists and well-connected local residents worried over the impact such construction would have over the gardens’ 19th century greenhouses.

At one stage, exasperated Roland Garros chiefs toyed with the idea of upping sticks out of Paris to start afresh in the suburbs.

But the court has been built, enclosed by four greenhouses housing “the only plant ecosystem of its kind,” say organizers of hosting collections from South America, Africa, South-East Asia and Australia.

The 10,000-seater Court Suzanne Lenglen remains although Roland Garros’ Court One ‘bullring’ is earmarked for demolition once the 2019 tournament ends.

In other changes this year, the west of Suzanne Lenglen has also undergone a radical transformation with six new courts built to supplement Court 14 which was a fresh addition in 2018.