sport news and Barcelona face a furious backlash over Spanish Super Cup in ...

and Barcelona are facing a huge backlash over their £102million jaunt to Saudi Arabia as they ignore criticism over taking money from a nation long-condemned for its appalling human rights record. 

The two clubs - perhaps the biggest in world football - are in the Middle East this week to take part in a revamped Spanish Super Cup, alongside both Valencia and Atletico Madrid.

But the country's foray to Saudi Arabia has raised more than a few eyebrows, with Amnesty International claiming the clubs and Spanish FA are turned a blind eye to the 'heinous human rights record' in the country.

Lionel Messi walks through the airport after Barcelona touched down in Saudi Arabia

Lionel Messi walks through the airport after Barcelona touched down in Saudi Arabia

Barcelona and Real Madrid are staying silent in the face of a huge backlash over the Super Cup

Barcelona and are staying silent in the face of a huge backlash over the Super Cup

Of course, money talks in football, and Saudi Arabia are paying £102m for the privilege of hosting the tournament in Jeddah over the coming days. 

That works out at £34m a year on a three-year deal, with Barcelona and expected to receive £8.5m each for a week's work if they reach the final on Sunday.

It is not just high-profile charities who have condemned the decision, with tickets having sold at a disastrously slow rate too; less than nine per cent of the club's fans have bought tickets to travel to the matches.

Spanish papers have also hit hard with their criticism, claiming that 'nobody wants to go'... and the fact that just 1,075 tickets have been sold - mainly to Middle East-based fans - is testament to that.

The clubs have already arrived in Saudi Arabia, more than 4,000 miles from home, but fewer television cameras will also be on them when they take to the field, with the first match between Valencia and being played tonight.

Spain's public broadcaster TVE have taken a stand by declining to televise the games, in protest to the tournament being held in Saudi Arabia.

Zinedine Zidane's Real Madrid are taking part but not many of their fans have made the trip

Zidane speaks at a press conference on the eve of Real Madrid's Super Cup semi-final clash

Zinedine Zidane's are taking part but not many of their fans have made the trip

Both Real and Barca have stayed quiet on questions over their participation in the tournament. The only real gripe raised has been Valencia – although they took issue with the amount of television money they were receiving compared to the big two, rather than the Super Cup’s new location.

La Liga president Javier Tebas has also been forthright in his criticism, warning that the country have been 'pirating' Spanish football for a long time.

He argues that Saudi pirate television operation beoutQ has been systematically stealing European football matches for more than two years, retransmitting beIN SPORTS coverage to millions of viewers across the country.

Tebas has condemned the decision to move the Super Cup to the Middle East and said it undermines La Liga's rights deal with beIN SPORTS.    

'I don't think it's the best moment to play in Saudi Arabia,' he said. 'It's a country that has been pirating us, pirating European soccer.

'It was the better offer [for the Super Cup] because it will be paid with money taken from European soccer.'

MAJOR SPORTS EVENTS SHIPPED TO SAUDI

The Spanish Super Cup is just the latest in a string of major sporting events that Saudi Arabia has snapped up in recent years:

Joshua v Ruiz II - Anthony Joshua reclaimed his IBF, WBA and WBO world heavyweight titles in the 'Clash on the Dunes' last month.

Anthony Joshua reclaimed his world titles in the 'Clash of the Dunes' with Andy Ruiz

Anthony Joshua reclaimed his world titles in the 'Clash of the Dunes' with Andy Ruiz

Saudi International - European Tour -Rory McIlroy has ruled out competing in golf's visit to Saudi this year, confirming there was a 'morality' behind his decision as he turned down a £1.9m appearance fee.

Khan v Dib - Before the 'Clash on the Dunes', Saudi Arabia had fronted Amir Khan's WBC international welterweight title fight against Billy Dib during July 2019. Khan side-stepped Amnesty International's criticism of the fight and claimed Saudi was undergoing social change. He took home a £7m purse.

WWE's 'Crown Jewel' - Tyson Fury made his WWE debut in Saudi Arabia last year, flooring Braun Strowman to 'win' by count-out at the King Saud University Stadium. Amnesty were again critical of the hosts' 'abysmal human rights record'. 

Supercoppa Italiana - The Spanish FA are not the first to take their equivalent of the Community Shield to Saudi. have hosted their version there for the last two seasons. Cristiano Ronaldo scored the winner for Juventus this time last year.

Cristiano Ronaldo holds the Italian Super Cup after Juventus' win in January last year

Cristiano Ronaldo holds the Italian Super Cup after Juventus' win in January last year

Saudi Cup - The world's richest horse race will be held in Saudi Arabia during February 2020. The £15.2m Saudi Cup will be run over nine furlongs on dirt at Riyadh's King Abdulaziz Racetrack. 

Saudi Arabia Snooker Masters - Even snooker is getting in on the act now. October will see the first edition of a 10-year partnership of tournaments with a top prize of £500,000 matching that of the World Championship.

Luis Rubiales, meanwhile, is of a different opinion. President of the Spanish FA, it was his decision to up sticks to the Middle East and he argues that the money earned will be put into the women's game and Spain's lower leagues.

'The Super Cup was doomed to death,' he said in November.

'The money we will get is not for building a villa. It will go to women's football and the clubs in Segunda B and Tercera. Of course money is important, who can deny that? Money is very important but the money will go where it is needed.'

But is the money enough to turn a blind eye to the 'sportswashing' accused of Saudi Arabia?

Spanish football is not the first organisation, nor will it be the last, to head to where the money is at its most free-flowing.

Real Madrid's players train at King Abdullah Sports City, where the games will be played

's players train at King Abdullah Sports City, where the games will be played

A number of Real Madrid players have been left at home, through a mixture of illness and injury

A number of players have been left at home, through a mixture of illness and injury

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