Is Postponing El Clasico The Right Decision7 min read
Although it had been mooted for a few days, it’s doubtful that anyone truly believed that El Clasico was going to be moved or postponed.
But just eight days before the first Barcelona v Real Madrid game of the 2019/20 season was due to be played, that’s exactly what’s happened.
The biggest club game in Spain, some would say in the world, and with a TV audience in the billions, will have to wait.
Early suggestions are that it could be mid-December before there’s a gap in the calendar and both teams can play it, and the postponement does raise an awful lot of questions of course.
As always seems to happen in such unfortunate eventualities, even though this one seems to have no precedent, it’s the supporters who get the thin end of the wedge.
The majority of the crowd may well be local, from Barcelona itself or the surrounding cities, but many thousands will come from across Europe or other far-flung nations to experience the fervour for themselves.
At this late stage, having to re-book flights and accommodation isn’t so much a logistical nightmare as a financial one. The match ticket alone was bordering on two hundred euros.
The phrase ‘costing an arm and a leg’ can never have been more apt, surely.
It’s important to note that neither Barca or Real wanted the match moved either. Both were perfectly happy with the original arrangements.
Rising tensions in Catalonia
However, rising tensions in Catalonia, thanks to the provocation from the Spanish Police in their attempts to restore law and order to the region, have ignited things in the locale in the same way as the aftermath of the 2017 vote for independence.
Sentencing the politicians and activists involved in that vote to long term prison sentences was always likely to cause unrest, but that’s been exacerbated by what can only be described as the legalised violence from the Spanish Police, for which they have the full support of the Spanish Government.
With the EU and their member states turning a blind eye, the Catalan people have taken it upon themselves to make their voices heard, for want of a better term.
Peaceful people by nature, the most recent events have really tested their patience and resolve, and even though the local Catalan Police have guaranteed safety in the areas around the Camp Nou and generally, the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) have taken any decision regarding El Clasico out of their hands.
But is it the correct one?
Hasn’t it always been said that sport and politics shouldn’t mix? Of course, El Clasico as a fixture has always had politics as a backdrop, but rarely can they have been such close bedfellows as currently.
Given that any (peaceful) demonstrations from the Catalans are purely to highlight their plight and the injustices they feel have been bestowed on those now serving time behind bars, one has to question whether there’ll not be more protests on any revised date.
After all, with such a large TV audience, there’s some credibility to the notion that any disruption could start up again once Real Madrid are coming to town – purely to highlight the message and concerns to a bigger, worldwide football-watching public.
Another issue that hasn’t really been explored at this point is what happens with suspensions that need to be served.
Ousmane Dembele, for example, was the subject of a two game ban after telling referee Mateu Lahoz that he was “Muy mallo” or “very bad.” Hardly the crime of the century but the player was sent off for it and the Competition Committee upheld a two-game suspension.
That meant he would miss the games against Eibar and Real Madrid. Does it now mean that he will have served that ban well before any proposed rearranged date, thereby handing Barcelona an unexpected advantage?
When might El Clasico be?
At the time of writing, the two dates being considered for the game to be played are December 7 and 18.
The latter is a midweek, meaning the game would fall on a Wednesday night which isn’t really ideal for a game of this magnitude and, because we all know it’s important to La Liga as an organisation, would affect the visibility of the ‘product.’
The alternative isn’t really too much better either, and indeed, some would even say it was worse.
Because on that weekend, Barcelona are already scheduled to meet Real Mallorca and Real Madrid are supposed to be at home to Espanyol.
Any change of date on that particular weekend, would then also need the permission of those two clubs.
Clearly, supporter safety is paramount in such a remarkable scenario, and in some respects the RFEF are damned if they do and damned if they don’t, in terms of deciding on what course of action is best.
However, this move has set a dangerous precedent and one that could well come back to bite them in the future.