By Ceyhun Pehlivan
Spain’s Football Federation has recently suspended the Spanish league and cup matches from this weekend onwards in protest of the recent law on the collective sale of television rights and the distribution of revenue, Royal Decree-Law 5/2015 on the commercialization of rights to exploit audiovisual content of professional football competitions (the “Act”). In addition, according to the press, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association backs this decision and threatens with further sanctions.
The Act regulates the collective sale of rights to exploit audiovisual content of professional football competitions, namely the Primera División (first division, currently sponsored as Liga BBVA), the second division (Liga Adelante), Copa del Rey (King’s Cup), and Supercopa de España (Spanish Super Cup).
In accordance with the Act, the ownership of the television rights belongs to the clubs or entities participating to these official professional football competitions. Participation in these competitions will necessarily trigger the assignment of the joint sale of the rights to the corresponding organising entity (i.e. Spanish Football League in case of the competitions of the first and second divisions, or Spanish Football Federation regarding the Copa del Rey and Supercopa de España).
Furthermore, the Act sets forth detailed criteria to distribute revenues generated from such joint sale of rights among the organisers and entities participating to the aforementioned competitions.
The Spanish Football Players’ Union, which believes the Act neglects to address some key issues, called a strike for the last two weekends of the season, starting on 16 May, although talks took place with the Spanish Football League, no progress was made. Unhappy with the revenue distribution, Spain’s Football Federation seconded this decision.
The case has now gone to Spain’s National High Court, and a decision on the legality of the strike against the new collective TV rights deal is expected to be made on 14 May 2015. If the strike does go ahead, at least the final two rounds of La Liga as well as the Copa del Rey final would be affected.