Never one to shy away from giving his opinion, if there is controversy in the Spanish game, Javier Tebas is normally close to it. Whether it is appearing on banners in Vallecas complaining about Monday night games or arguing with football Presidents, most notably Enrique Cerezo, Tebas never ducks from a fight. So who is the man in charge of the LFP and how successful has he been since taking over the League’s top job?
Tebas, 52, was born in Costa Rica but moved to Spain where he got his law degree in Zaragoza. He first got involved in football in 1993 at Sociedad Deportiva Huesca where he had a Presidential role. He stayed for five years and he is given credit for the club winning promotion and also for bringing the club up to scratch professionally.
He later played a role at Badajoz, where he helped to find a possible investor for the club and his role there helped him to enter the politics of football. He was elected vice-President of the LFP in 2001 and in 2003 he was the head of the G30, a group of the biggest clubs in the Spanish first and second divisions.
After leaving the LFP Tebas had various roles at other clubs before returning as vice-President and then in 2013, he finally took the top job. He was the only candidate to stand in the election and he had the backing of 32 of the 42 clubs involved in the process.
Before Tebas took the job he promised to clean up the Spanish game. He announced that he had been told of numerous games that had been fixed and he promised that justice would be done. He also announced that he would make third-party ownership more transparent and that he would make the League more attractive.
Whilst La Liga claims it is the best League in the world, there is no denying that it lags behind the Premier League when it comes to financial gains. The money received for the overseas broadcasting rights of the English League have long been a thing of envy in Spain and so Tebas was determined to make sure that Spain got more money too. He also promised to address the issue of rights distribution but for many these were election promises that had been heard before but never delivered. How would Tebas be different?
The allegations of match-fixing have been investigated and a trial involving Real Zaragoza and Levante is ongoing. Tebas never mentioned third-party ownership again but FIFA have now gotten involved and so Spain will have to follow whatever rules they make.
Tebas opened up the fixture list more. We now have games on Friday and Monday, something that hasn’t gone down well with fans, as Tebas tries to make Spanish football an attractive package with games almost daily. It has long been complained about by fans that kick-off times are only announced a week in advance, making away travel almost impossible. In the past 18 months the LFP have addressed this and now kick off times are available almost a month in advance.
In regards to the TV rights issue, negotiations took place last summer. It is well known that Real Madrid and Barcelona take the biggest piece of the pie as they negotiate individual rights but as the competitive side of La Liga has suffered, collective TV rights agreements were mentioned and not shot down with some media outlets suggesting that Barcelona would be on board. But that was months ago and at the moment things have gone a little quiet. But Tebas hasn’t been.
Events at the end of 2014 saw one football fan lose his life. Once again La Liga’s image was tarnished. After years of ignoring violence and racial abuse at grounds, finally something was done. A tough new stance that may see Ultra groups kicked out of grounds was passed this week in court.
But Tebas hasn’t stopped just there. Various clubs have been reported since December for offensive chants. For many, the LFP have gone a little too far. Whilst most agree that racial and homophobic abuse has to be stamped out, even insulting a referee by slighting his mother may land a club in hot water. With this sudden action, some are asking whether Tebas has his eye elsewhere and many believe he is eyeing the top job in Spanish football.
Angel Maria Villar is the current President of the Spanish FA but he has become an easy target for ridicule. According to Tebas he has yet to meet him, even though the Costa Rican has been in his position for 18 months. Villar remained silent after the events at the Vicente Calderon and in the laws that were passed this week in Spain against Ultras, the RFEF did not attend.
It has been reported that Villar sees Tebas as a threat and feels that the LFP President has his sights set on taking over at the FA and more. If this is true, it would see mixed responses.
Whilst Tebas himself is no stranger to making mistakes and causing controversy, after the string of gaffes made by Villar this year, he would be seen as an improvement at the FA. But, would he be willing to the leave the LFP without completing the work he set out to do? The simple answer is that he would have more power and it would be easier to complete his promises.
Tebas loves the limelight and he might not be everyone’s cup of tea but many now feel he is the better of two bad options. Playing highly in his favour is the quick way he responded to the violence at the Calderon and the fact that he opened the possibility of collective TV rights.
He hasn’t said whether he would like the FA’s top job but as time has shown he is an ambitious man and one wouldn’t rule out that he may have ambitions further afield than Spain. Look out Sepp Blatter…