Real Madrid hit back at Vigo mayor over postponed La Liga match
Real Madrid have said it was "inappropriate" and "totally inaccurate" for the mayor of Vigo to suggest they wanted to disregard security measures to allow Sunday's La Liga game at Celta Vigo to go ahead.
Vigo mayor Abel Caballero personally made the call to postpone the game after up to 140 kilometres an hour had dislodged pieces of the roof at Balaidos, which he said would have presented a risk of death had the fixture been played.
Spain's football authorities were slow to officially confirm that decision, with reporters close to Real Madrid putting forward a number of other possibilities -- including that the capital club could send experts to fix the roof in time or play the game at another venue -- as they were wished to avoid fixture congestion later in the season.
Speaking to many different media outlets on Monday, Caballero said he had been told that "some Madrid employees had told their fans to go to the stadium, knowing there was no game," to put pressure on authorities to play the game. He added: "If that happened, it is extremely serious, and a danger to public order and security. I want to believe it was only a rumour."
He added that the idea of Madrid sending experts to fix the roof in time was "crazy" and that he would have "laughed openly" had it been suggested.
Madrid reacted with an official club statement denying they had ever questioned the security measures at the stadium, and said Caballero was not giving a true picture of what had happened.
"Real Madrid C. F. regrets the unfortunate statements made by the mayor of Vigo, Abel Caballero, in which he states that this club disregarded the security measures required for the Real Club Celta de Vigo v Real Madrid C.F. fixture to go ahead," the statement said. "Not only are the mayor's comments inappropriate, they are also totally inaccurate, because at no point in time did Real Madrid C. F. question the security measures in place at Balaidos."
Madrid's statement admitted that the club had put forward three potential solutions to the problem, as they wanted the game to go ahead to avoid "massive financial losses" for La Liga's broadcast partners.
"Having learned of the possibility of the game being postponed more than 30 hours ahead of kick-off, the club proposed three alternatives to the Professional Football League: firstly, for consideration to be given to the possibility of repairing the damaged stadium roof; secondly, the possibility of the affected stand being closed; and thirdly, if the two aforementioned options were not possible, to look into staging the fixture at another nearby stadium.
"These proposals were made with a view to avoiding the postponement of the fixture from negatively impacting upon the four competitions, given the knock-on effect it would cause between them, as well as the massive financial losses suffered by television channels from around the world, which will have an impact on future tenders for the sale of broadcasting rights."
La Liga president Javier Tebas, meanwhile, told AS that anybody who doubted that Caballero had acted correctly should take him to court.
"I respect and accept his decision, which furthermore was backed up by technical reports," Tebas said. "There was risk for the public, and for the players. Abel Caballero said that to play was reckless and that's that. If anyone has doubts about the mayor's decision they can sue him for perversion of justice."
Tebas said he had been in contact with Madrid and Celta figures during Saturday's uncertainty, and that moving the game at short notice to another stadium was impossible.
"That is not so easy," he said. "How are you going to move, in less than a day, everything that is a game between Celta and Real Madrid?
"How do you move 30 or 40 thousand people so quickly? What happens about security, transport, infrastructure ... A La Liga game has a lot of obligations."
Should Madrid and Celta both progress in European competition, the next available date for the fixture will be in the final week of the La Liga season, but Tebas said it might not necessarily work out that way.
"Depending on how Madrid and Celta get on in Europe, we will see what fits," he said. "Statistically it is difficult for both to reach the European finals, and that opens more possibilities. The calendar is very tight, but it is not an unresolvable problem."
Caballero defended his position when speaking to Marca, saying Madrid had been "arrogant" in thinking they could push around a smaller club.
"It is something very serious that a club tries to force a decision that was taken for the safety of thousands of people," he said. "It is inappropriate, wrong, and arrogant. It was important to play the game, but it was impossible.
"I believe they did not think about what they were doing. It is a bit incredible that they said it could be fixed. It was very presumptuous on some parts. I want to believe that the Madrid board was not behind this. Florentino [Perez] is a great president, but if he has anything to do with this, he is not so good.
"If they thought they could do this because we [Celta] are not like them, well ... Celta is better than Madrid. We beat them already. They are not happy as we knocked them out of the Copa."
Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan