KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS —- The Spanish football federation, led by FIFA vice-president Angel Maria Villar, has gone to war with the Spanish league over a new law underpinning the centralised sale of television rights to La Liga.

The storm which has erupted over the past week threatens to cancel the last two rounds of the Liga season starting May 16 and entangle the world federation and the European governing body UEFA.

The FEF's veteran president Angel Maria Villar

This is because the statutes of FIFA and UEFA and every national association prohibit government interference in the running of domestic football, beyond standard laws of the land.

A meeting of the RFEF board generated a statement opposing the law and ordering the suspension of the final two rounds in La Liga and the King’s Cup final between Barcelona and Bilbao at the end of the month pending a resolution.

Some 17 regional federations would be hit by the halt, computed by observers as involving 30,000 matches and 600,000 players.

Central marketing

The row will baffle other major European leagues – such as England, France, Germany, Holland and Italy – which have long accepted centralised marketing of league TV rights as not only fair practice but in line with European Union commercial law.

In Spain, instead, the law of the jungle exists with clubs responsible for their own TV sales. This has led to Real Madrid and Barcelona being enriched compared with the rest of the clubs by a ratio of 7:1.

The federation, whose stance is supported by the Spanish players’ association, derided the law signed off last Thursday as demonstrating a “lack of respect.”

Villar, a Basque lawyer who played for Bilbao and Spain in the 1970s, has been president of the federation for more than 25 years. He is considered a member of the conservative ‘old guard’ within the executive committees of both FIFA and UEFA and a strong supporter of long-serving world federation president Sepp Blatter.

He was infuriated when the clubs and their go-ahead league president, Javier Tebas, insisted a legal framework was essential to avert secret broadcasting deals amid uncertainty over whether Madrid and Barcelona might find their world-record spending style inhibited.

Madrid have been No1 in the Deloitte clubs ‘rich list’ for the past 10 years.

Mario Bayarri, a senior executive of MediaPro which negotiates rights deals for the Liga Nacional de Futbol Professional, told a Soccerex conference earlier this week that the big clubs would have to “work much harder” to maintain their financial power.

Doubling the money

However Sports Minister Ignacio Wert has estimated that overall revenues could double from the present €755m-a-year. This would enable clubs to put their finances on a sound footing while also wiping out debts to the tax and social security authorities in line with UEFA’s financial fair play strictures.

Almost half the revenues would be distributed equally between all the clubs, with 25pc being awarded on the basis of leagues position and a further 25pc on ‘social’ grounds. The terms of the law guarantee that none of the clubs should end up receiving less than they do now.

Miguel Cardenal, the head of Spain’s sports council, has said the changes will allow the country to “adapt to modern times.”

He ridiculed the fact that “the club who came last in the English Premier League earned more from television than [Spanish champions] Atletico Madrid.”

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