Spanish soccer could come to a halt on May 16. We’re talking no La Liga matches, nor will any other level of professional soccer in the country as the Spanish Soccer Federation (RFEF) prepares to boycott government intervention in the distribution of TV rights.
The Spanish government passed a law last week that requires La Liga to sell its TV rights collectively, instead of letting each club to sell them individually. The sale of TV rights has been a contentious topic in Spain for years because the current set-up allows Barcelona and Real Madrid to earn tens of millions more than the rest of the teams in the country, making it nearly impossible for other clubs to compete.
The government’s new law would bring that to a halt, certainly pleasing some, but it has set the RFEF off, which feels that the government has no place in soccer. And FIFA rules back it up, as they do not allow for government intervention in the administration of the sport.
RFEF will allow matches to go forward this upcoming weekend, but the following week, they will not play. The La Liga players’ association had previously threatened a strike in protest of the new law, but the RFEF has gone ahead and taken care of it for them.
On top of the negotiation of TV rights, the RFEF is concerned with how much of the revenue it gets to keep. The recently-passed legislation would limit it to 4.55 percent, which it is not happy with. And at some point, the players may demand a percentage of revenue too, because they currently do not get any. The Premier League’s deal gives 1.5 percent of TV revenue to the players.
If the RFEF goes forward with the soccer shutdown, the final two weeks of the La Liga season will not be played. That puts a huge wrench in a tight title race between Barcelona and Real Madrid. Even if the mess is sorted out later, there won’t be much time to make up the matches in June. There are internationals to be played, including the Copa América, which will snag Lionel Messi, Neymar, Javier Mascherano, Marcelo, and others away from their clubs. On top of all that, the Copa del Rey final between between Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao would be called off. That’s a trophy that won’t be handed out, in addition to a ruined close to a league season.
So what the hell is going to happen now? It’s still unclear.
The RFEF appears committed to its planned shutdown. With TV rights bringing in more money than any other venue, it can’t afford to capitulate on the subject. And it, along with the players, has a common enemy in the Spanish government right now. That could ruin the end of the La Liga season, as well as the Copa del Rey final. The heat’s not just on the RFEF, it’s also on the government, which will face considerable protest if its unwanted legislation ruins the end of the soccer season.
So who gives in? Or will the clubs, players and fans get screwed out of the most exciting part of the season?