KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Tensions in Spanish football’s civil war escalated today as the league prepared a legal challenge to the federation’s suspension of all football from the start of next week.
Javier Tebas, president of the Liga Nacional de Futbol Professional, also launched a furious personal attack on long-serving federation president Angel Maria Villar Llona.
Villar, a Basque lawyer who is also a vice-president of world federation FIFA and European association UEFA, is facing the most serious crisis of his 27 years at the head of the Spanish game.
Last week a royal decree endorsed a new law enforcing the centralised sale of television rights to Spanish league matches from 2016. The federation objected on the grounds that this represented government interference in the game, which is barred by national and international football statutes.
However Villar was also angered by the comparatively minimal percentage of revenues being channelled to the federation.
The Spanish players’ union has also lined up with Villar, complaining that the terms of revenue distribution would reward players in the top division excessively compared with those in the second division.
Hence the federation board announced Wednesday night that the last two rounds of league matches – May 16/17 and 23/24 – plus the subsequent cup final between Barcelona and Bilbao should be scrapped unless the law and its terms were amended.
The order affects 17 regional federations comprising 30,000 matches and 600,000 players across the country.
League president Tebas responded by warning that the damage from such a prohibition would be “terrible and heavy” and described the order as “crazy, outrageous and irresponsible.”
He also insisted that the government should not give in “to irresponsible blackmail” nor change “one iota of royal decree.” An extraordinary meeting of the clubs is being summoned on Monday.
Tebas said: “This is a crazy, outrageous and irresponsible act from the body led by Angel Maria Villar who has no idea about the direction professional football and amateur football need to take. It’s a challenge to La Liga undertaken only out of personal interest.”
He added that sponsors and contracted foreign television channels – as far away as China – had expressed concerns about “the implications this may have.”
Tebas said: “I ask the government not to touch even a comma of the royal decree. If the federation suspends all competition we can go on holiday early. Certainly we will not submit to the federation’s blackmail. If the government submits to this irresponsible blackmail it would represent a step backwards in the regeneration of Spanish football.”
Villar, a former Spain and Bilbao midfielder, was “a bad manager and a bad president,” added Tebas.
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 enriching themselves by a ratio of 7:1 compared with the rest of the clubs.
Madrid have been No1 in the Deloitte clubs ‘rich list’ for the past 10 years while Barcelona, in February, signed a one-year €140m TV deal for Telefonica to screen all their home league games next season.
The total worth of Spanish league TV deals this season is just under £500m by comparison with the English Premier League.
Sports Minister Ignacio Wert has estimated that central marketing of TV rights could double overall revenues, enabling 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 law would allow the country to “adapt to modern times.”
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