Pro-independence flags at the Clásico in Barcelona in May.
Clásico indecision

Clásico indecision

Unrest in Barcelona meant the Barça-Madrid game had to be postponed, but a dispute over the new date in December will have to be decided in court

Rob Palmer

Friday, 25 October 2019, 16:52

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Just when will the guardians of Spanish football learn? To become the best league in the world you need to be able to schedule and market the biggest club game in the world.

Over the years, uncertainty over El Clásico has led to us commentating from a car park adjacent to the stadium, failing to get on air and once broadcasting from a wardrobe - I kid you not.

This year's edition is shrouded in similar uncertainty. Barcelona versus Real Madrid should have been played this weekend, football tourists had organised plans, television schedules had been cleared, and hotel rates had been hiked.

When the Catalan political activists were jailed it led to civil unrest in the city of Barcelona and a decision needed to be made about whether the game should go ahead as planned.

Barça were very happy to stage the event but the powers in Madrid feared 90,000 Catalans flying the Estelada and Senyera flags would be a more spectacular own goal than any player could score.

So for once a decision was made, the clubs agreed on December 18th at the Camp Nou, it was ratified by the Spanish Football Federation's competition committee and all seemed happy. It meant fans could make plans, hotels and airlines could realign prices and there was some certainty.

I was suddenly feeling guilty for suggesting there was a 'mañana mentality' within Spanish football and almost conceded to the Madrid-based British journalist who was messaging me to tick me off for my attitude. But then, just as you can count on Lionel Messi to light up a stadium, La Liga's bosses cast us into an uncertain darkness.

"What about the audience in far flung corners of the world?" they chorused. They opposed the rescheduling and insisted on the date of December 4th which is apparently more appealing to the betting market of a partner in the Far East (or somewhere similar).

Compare this to the Premier League where we know who will be playing whom, where, when and how it can be seen all the way up to the New Year. It can be argued which is the best league but it can't be argued which is the best organised.

Sadly this isn't the first occasion of indecision. I'm not joking about commentating from a wardrobe. One year we found out late that they couldn't accommodate all of the foreign TV commentary teams at the Bernabéu so last-ditch plans had to be made. We had a studio back at base but no voice-over booth. Basically you need a television, desk and certain amount of sound-proofing. It was decided that the best space was in the Sky wardrobe department.

My co-commentator Gerry Armstrong and I ignored the suits and frocks around us and delivered an 'off-tube' commentary among the coat-hangers.

The next day our boss was most complimentary and praised our professionalism. "In fact," he added, "I don't see why we should send you to Spain again, we'll book the wardrobe for the return fixture." He was only half-joking.

So closets are booked around the world for December 18th or is it December 4th? All will be decided in court... mañana, or mañana after mañana!

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