Is La Liga ending this weekend? At the moment, yes.
There is an absolute mess brewing in Spain over a new law regarding the sale and distribution of Spanish league TV rights that pits the Spanish professional players’ union (AFE) with Spain’s soccer federation (RFEF) on one side against the professional soccer league (LFP) and the government’s sports council on the other.
On Thursday, the AFE confirmed that the country’s top two soccer divisions would hold an indefinite strike beginning May 16, placing the last two rounds of games in La Liga as well as the Copa del Rey final in jeopardy after the RFEF had already indefinitely suspended all Spanish league and cup matches for the remainder of the season a day earlier.
Under Spanish law, the days affected by the strike are not recovered, meaning rounds 37 and 38 would not be fulfilled. Neither would the Copa del Rey final, which is supposed to be between Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao on May 30.
How did it come to this?
It starts with the new TV distribution law, which was approved on April 30. It says that Spain’s first and second divisions must now bargain collectively to sell TV rights, instead of individually -- a system that lopsidedly benefitted Barcelona and Real Madrid -- with 90 percent of the revenues gleaned from the sale of these rights going to the first division and ten percent going to the second division. The proposed law, which has yet to be approved by parliament, would go into effect in 2016.
According to the AFP, the Spanish sports council touted the law as “the biggest historical achievement in defending the interests of players and clubs,” while claiming that it would enable Spanish soccer to “reach levels of marketing, profitability and sustainability unthinkable so far.”
However, the AFE and RFEF say the new deal does not sufficiently compensate second and third division players. In Germany, for example, 79 percent of TV rights are redistributed to the top league while 21 percent goes to the second division. In France, the split is 81-19.
"We decided to strike not as a measure of force, but in defense against what we see as an attack on our rights," AFE president Luis Rubiales said during a press conference in which top Spanish players including Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos and Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta surrounded him
The RFEF, in solidarity with the players’ union, told the AP that the proposed legislation “has not resolved any of the problems gravely affecting soccer.”
In response, the LFP has called the AFE strike “illegal” while president Javier Tebas is accusing RFEF chief Angel Maria Villar of trying to blackmail the league into squeezing more money out of the deal. As a result, Tebas said the league is taking legal action against the RFEF and asking for economic compensation for the potential lost revenues from the last few weeks of the season.
So what happens next?
At the moment, it looks like La Liga will end this weekend unless the LFP and the sports council renegotiate a new law that improves the terms for second and third division teams.