When I heard the that La Liga president Javier Tebas was being linked (via a report from the Times) with the job of replacing Richard Scudamore as Premier League executive chairman, my immediate reaction was that this was an absolutely terrible idea. The more I have thought about it, the worse an idea it has seemed, let me tell you why.
Remember a few years ago when Richard Scudamore proposed game 39 that was supposed to allow the game of the EPL to be taken overseas? Remember the reaction? The Football Supporters Federation blew up about it, the media hated it, managers came out against it, and even politicians in the UK spoke up. Well, Tebas does not want a Game 39, what he wanted was for clubs to give up home games they already had in order to play a game overseas.
This of course went over like a lead balloon. As brilliant as it might have been as a business idea, the passionate rejection of it by fans, media, and clubs ultimately led it to being shut down. I think the entire episode summarizes Tebas pretty well, I do not doubt his business acumen at all, but he struggles to blend that with an understanding of the football culture of the nation he has worked in his entire life, much less one he has no experience at all with.
I will keep this brief, because I hate the blending of politics and football, but Tebas has been openly supportive as recently as last month for right wing politics in Spain. His political tendencies seem to have a correlation with how he has handled the issue of Catalan independence, where he claimed that if it occurred, FC Barcelona and other clubs from the region would not be allowed to compete in La Liga.
Regardless of your thoughts on Spanish politics, is an openly political executive really what the Premier League needs?
Speaking of politics, let us talk football politics for a moment. Tebas has been openly and angrily critical of the ownership group at Manchester City, asserting that their affiliation with Sheikh Mansour and the UAE government creates an unfair competitive advantage for them in European competition. Again, you might agree with him about this, but if he became executive chairman of the Premier League he would immediately have friction with one of its most influential institutions, and this can only be complicated for the league as a whole.
During his time in La Liga, Tebas has openly admitted to being a fan of Real Madrid, and constant insinuations of favoritism have been the natural result, including when it has involved questions about doping for Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos and complaints about officiating by (who else) Gerard Pique.
The trending argument for supporting a Tebas hire seems to be the fact that La Liga, in his tenure, has not been nearly as top heavy as the English Premier League. No league sends a wider variety of teams to Europe than La Liga, and no league has as much success in Europe. The idea is that the middle tier of English clubs, Everton included, would greatly benefit by greater access to European’s top competitions than they have under the current “Big Six” oligarchy.
However, the variety that exists in Spanish football European participation is largely a matter of brand strength. Outside of Spain’s ‘Big Three’ clubs, far and away the most successful in recent years is Sevilla, who has several appearances in the Champions League (including ousting Manchester United last season) to go along with five Europa League titles. Sevilla ranked behind eleven Premier League teams in the 2019 Deloitte Football Money League. Their overall monetary power and brand strength is just not anywhere close to the top clubs in the English Premier League. Their record arrival is less than half of what Everton paid for Gylfi or Richarlison.
No other Spanish team besides the FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, or Sevilla was in the top 30. There is more fluidity in La Liga because the brands in the league are not as stable. This has nothing to do with Tebas, and it isn’t repeatable in the English Premier League. Everton would not benefit in any way from this appointment.
For all his strengths as a businessman, Javier Tebas brings a lot of baggage. He is petty, and is in no way the sort of level-headed and fair minded leader the Premier League needs. It would be a shocking mistake by the FA to make this appointment and I fully expect they will realize this in plenty of time to avoid making it.