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La Liga ‘can end racism in six months’, claims president Javier Tebas

The president of the Spanish football league ‘La Liga’ Javier Tebas gestures as he gives a press conference in Madrid on May 25, 2023 amid an international outcry after racist abuse was hurled at Real Madrid’s Brazilian forward Vinicius Junior during a Spanish league match – Getty Images/Oscar Del Pozo

Racism in the Spanish top tier can be reduced to “zero” in six months, according to La Liga’s outspoken president in a plea for extra powers.

Javier Tebas is making representations to his government on Friday as he scrambles to patch up the competition’s reputation after a damaging week.

Racism has been rife in Spanish football for decades but a row around failures to tackle the issue has been reignited by the furore surrounding Real Madrid’s Vinicius Junior.

The Brazilian hit out at key figures in the sport, including Tebas, after he had been abused at Valencia. Spain is a racist country because of “continuous episodes across several cities”, Vinicius has said, as his club filed a hate crime complaint with the Spanish State Attorney General’s Office.

Vinicius’s comments initially prompted a tetchy response on social media from Tebas, for which he subsequently apologized.

However, in a specially arranged press conference, Tebas declared that he can quickly eliminate discrimination. “What we want is the power to do more things – with the power we are convinced within months this would be solved,” he said. “We are going along the legal route and I think in six months’ time this will be at zero and we will be the best league in the world. The competencies we want are for those intolerable behaviors – racism, homophobia.”

Vinicius has been the target of racist abuse a number of times this season and the latest incident has prompted widespread support from the football world.

As part of its response, La Liga is requesting that two laws are amended to give it the authority to impose sanctions such as the total or partial closure of stadiums, bans for supporters and financial penalties.

When challenged on his six-month solution claim, Tebas added: “We have been able to have economic control to stop our clubs going bankrupt so if we are given the competencies we can put an end to this because it is easier to stop than financial control. Tomorrow, a communique will go to the head of government and political parties requesting the law is urgently modified against racism, xenophobia and intolerance and requesting the (Spanish Football) Federation and LaLiga to have competencies.”

Asked why LaLiga had not made such a request before, Tebas said: “That was probably a mistake of ours too but we thought we were making progress in the courts when we made complaints directly.”

Amid pressure, La Liga has set up dedicated reporting channels, via email and its website, in order to speed up the identification of people who engage in racist behavior but since the creation of an integrity and security department in 2015, there have only been, according to documentation, around a dozen racist incidents linked to matches were reported.

However, La Liga also lists nine separate incidents relating to Vinicius since December 2020, four of which have been resolved but with only two found to have featured racism, with the clubs involved allowed to issue sanctions themselves. Tebas denied Spain was a racist country but admitted he was concerned about the league’s global image in the light of the latest accusations, although he did not think it would deter black players from signing for LaLiga clubs. “If I weren’t concerned I’d be crazy,” he added.

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