By Richard Martin
(Reuters) – Spanish broadcaster Movistar has purchased rights to show next month’s Super Cup in Saudi Arabia, the national soccer federation (RFEF) said on Thursday, after other major operators shunned the tournament over human rights concerns.
Movistar, a brand of Spain’s Telefonica group, already holds the rights to Spanish soccer’s top flight La Liga but has traditionally not broadcast the Super Cup or Copa del Rey, which have been shown on state broadcaster RTVE.
However, RTVE declined to bid for this year’s revamped competition, which was moved to Saudi Arabia, citing concerns over rights in the Gulf state. Commercial broadcasters Mediaset, Atresmedia and Mediapro took the same stance.
Movistar has bought the tournament rights for 2020 and the next two years, the RFEF said in a statement, without giving the price.
Many within the Spanish sports world criticised the move to Saudi Arabia for prioritising money and ignoring abuses in the Muslim kingdom where women’s rights lag and officials masterminded the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The RFEF has not released financial details of its deal to move the competition to Saudi Arabia for three years, though media estimate the deal will bring it up to 40 million euros annually ($44 million).
The soccer federation says income will be reinvested in amateur football and women’s football, aside from money granted to the four competing clubs.
Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Valencia will contest the upcoming edition in Jeddah from Jan. 8-12.
Saudi Arabia, which relaxed restrictions on women attending soccer matches two years ago, has not commented on criticism around hosting the Super Cup.
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)