MADRID: Javier Tebas, president of the Spanish league, has insisted that the clubs remained united in opposition to attempts by the federation and the players’ union to disrupt the domestic game writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

Last week the federation (RFEF), headed by long-serving FIFA and UEFA vice-president Angel Maria Villar, ordered a shutdown of all domestic football from Wednesday in anger at a new law endorsing the centralised sale of league TV rights.

Simultaneously the players union (AFE) ordered a strike by players, coaches and referees because it claimed the new deal favoured top division players compared with those in the second tier.

The league (Liga Nacional de Futbol Professional, LFP) has appealed to the national sports council against the federation’s shutdown order and to the courts against the players’ strike, seeking to have it postponed pending a full hearing.

The shutdown and/or strike would affect the last two rounds of league matches as well as the cup final between Barcelona and Bilbao. They would not affect Barcelona and Real Madrid’s ongoing Champions League commitments.

The league will challenge the players’ union in court on Wednesday, the same day the sports council is expected to rule on the league’s complaint against the federation.

Miguel Cardenal, the Secretary of State for Sport, is supporting the league. He said that the law dealt with all aspects of the commercialisation of league football and its provisions would also be financially beneficial for grassroots football.

Tebas emerged from an extraordinary general meeting of the league today to insist that the players strike would be “illegal”, to launch another attack on Villar but to state a readiness for further talks with all sides in the dispute.

Villar had waived to his right, as RFEF president, to attend the meeting.

Tebas said: “Villar is heaving like a feudal lord who believes this is his farm. We would urge the RFEF to stop being obstructive. We condemn its actions.”

Financial damage

He said that the shutdown would cause significant financial damage though he could not quantify the cost of a cancellation of the cup final “because the federation has never been transparent over its financial affairs.”

Barcelona’s delegation was headed by public affairs director Albert Soler while Real Madrid were represented by president Florentino Pérez and director general José Ángel Sánchez.

In a formal statement the league said its clubs were unanimous in expressing “unconditional support” for the new law;

believed it would benefit all of Spanish football;

considered the federation’s intervention a “flagrant breach” of its responsibility;

considered the players’ union as conniving with the federation in calling a strike which could only result in major economic damage; and

condemned Villar, as FEF president, in not respecting the TV agreements, saying that his behaviour, in tandem with that of the players’ union, was causing “serious damage to professional and amateur football.”

Villar, a Basque lawyer who played in the 1970s for Bilbao and Spain, is president of FIFA’s legal commission.

One of his concerns is that the imposition of the law represents government interference in domestic football contrary to the statutes of national and international federations.

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