May 19 (Reuters) - The fight over Monday night matches escalated a bitter dispute between Spain’s two main football bodies last year but the contentious time slot is set to return as organisers scramble to complete a season paralysed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Spanish soccer federation president Luis Rubiales led a successful campaign to do away with fixtures on Mondays, delighting an army of fans who say the time slot prevents families or those who work late from attending matches.
A commercial court’s ruling to ban Monday matches deepened tensions between Rubiales and La Liga chief Javier Tebas, who claims that a variety of time slots makes the league more attractive to broadcasters.
But if the two institutions were deeply divided by their opinions on scheduling, they have been united by a desire to complete the final 11 rounds of matches without spectators and avoid potentially catastrophic losses of one billion euros ($1.09 billion).
“I hope there will be matches on Mondays and that the federation shows some sensitivity. The situation with spectators isn’t a problem any more,” Tebas said on Sunday.
Tebas has targeted resuming matches from June 12 and promised matches every day for five weeks to complete the season as soon as possible, although the latter plan hinges on the federation agreeing to lift the ban on Monday games.
But while Rubiales said in February there would be no Monday fixtures on his watch, a federation source said that after holding an eight-hour meeting with Tebas and sports minister Irene Lozano last month, he was ready to soften his stance as a goodwill gesture in the national interest.
While Monday Night Football is one of the Premier League’s top television slots, many in Spain have long been hostile to the idea since it was introduced in 2010.
“Mondays are for hangovers and work, not football”, said a flag by Rayo Vallecano fans in 2012, while Alaves supporters boycotted the start of a Monday fixture against Levante last year, unfurling a banner saying “RIP Football”.
But while last year’s court case appeared to spell the death of football on Monday nights, the divisive time slot could now hold the key to Spanish soccer’s survival. ($1 = 0.9141 euros) (Reporting by Richard Martin Editing by Christian Radnedge)