Spanish soccer will go ahead for the remainder of the season after the country’s High Court ruled against the players’ union threat to strike and the Spanish federation’s plan to call off this weekend’s games. The measured had threatened to cancel the final two weeks of the season, leaving leagues unable to properly crown champions. The Copa del Rey final would have also gone unplayed.
The Association of Professional Footballers (AFE) had agreed to go on strike, effective this weekend, after the Spanish government passed legislation that changes how television revenue is distributed. It would have barred clubs from selling their own TV rights, which would have been a huge blow to Real Madrid and Barcelona, who sell theirs for considerably more money than any other clubs in the country. But it also would have given the players and the Spanish federation a pittance of the money generated from TV rights sales. Understandably, both the players and federation unhappy with the new arrangement.
The Professional Football League (LFP) asked the High Court to resolve the situation and order the players to play this weekend. Despite their unhappiness, the AFE and the Real Federación Española de Fútbol (RFEF) did agree to respect the High Court’s decision not appeal to the Supreme Court.
Had the strike gone ahead as planned, the final two weekends of the league seasons would have been canceled. That would have applied to every league in the country, most notably La Liga, where Real Madrid and Barcelona are in a title race. The strike would have also wiped out the Copa del Rey final, keeping Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao from playing for the country’s cup title.
Barcelona would have been the team hit hardest by the strike. Not only would it have potentially missed out on league and cup titles because of it, but it would have had serious trouble going into the Champions League final. Asking Barça to play for the biggest trophy in club soccer without having played a real match in more than three weeks would have presented a significant challenge. Barcelona could have gone from potential treble winners to having two competitions wiped out and being severely undermined in a third.
While there will no longer be a strike anymore, the issue remains unresolved. Talks about a new distribution of revenues are expected to resume this summer. The Spanish federation also as concerns about the government’s intervention in the operation of the sport, which violates FIFA rules.
TV rights and their revenues have long been an issue in Spain. They are hugely valuable, but most of the money goes to the top teams. That creates serious financial gaps that make it difficult for clubs to compete with the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Maybe the government’s intervention will push the leagues, clubs and players to come together on a more sustainable way to handle the ever-growing TV money. In the meantime, at least Spain will play out the remainder of its season. That’s good for everyone, especially Barcelona.