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October 2016
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Spain’s league to shut down! Oh no it isn’t.

By Tony Attwood

This morning on my way to work I voted in the UK’s general election for an MP to sit in Parliament for the town in which I live, and I also voted in the election for local councillors to serve in my part of town.

Unfortunately I couldn’t vote for Blacksheep, for although he is standing as a candidate for the party I support and voted for, I don’t live in the same part of Northamptonshire as he does, so I couldn’t do my bit to help him.

But goodluck Blacksheep.  I’m thinking of you.

However the UK’s wild and often odd election process is not really my concern today.  Rather I’ve been interested in the dispute in Spain over TV rights and the way Fifa likes to insist that it is totally, utterly and completely above the law.

I am totally a democrat, I believe in the democratic system, flawed though it often is in practice.  I don’t believe in clearly corrupt and bent self-perpetuating gangs of crooks who proclaim themselves the leaders and controllers of fascist dictatorships, or come to that world football.

Indeed it is often forgotten that Fifa demands that no government should ever interfere with the activities of a domestic or international football organisation, which when you come to think of it, is utterly bizarre.  I do my bit to elect my local councillors and my area’s MP and (when the time comes) MEP.  I don’t elect the FA and yet they bend the knee to Fifa, who proclaim themselves and the FA as above national control.

So I am starting to wonder what Fifa is going to do over the spat in Spain about TV rights.

Last week the Spanish government signed off a new law that in essence ensures that instead of Real Mad and Barcelona getting the lion’s share, of TV money, they get only a small lion’s share and the rest is shared out much more equitably.  The deal effectively stops the two big boys negotiating their own deals.

The Spanish Football League  (Liga de Futbol Profesional – LFP) is a strong advocate of this new approach because it will be good for its member clubs.

But the Royal Spanish Football Federation (the RFEF, the equivalent of the FA in England – and the organisation recently found guilty of colluding with Barcelona over the exploitation of children), and the players’ union (AFE), are against the new legislation.

So the RFEF and the AFE have come up with a plan of protest against the new law, in which professional football in Spain will stop on May 16.

Now, as it happens, I come from a left wing background, and as such just as I am always in favour of a democratically elected government behaving within the constitution to run the country, I am also in favour of workers having the right to strike if they object to the behaviour of their employer.  Even though these days I am an employer, rather than a member of staff.

But I begin to get a bit bemused as to where I stand on the issue of the Football Association of a country stopping all football because it doesn’t like a law.   That worries me a bit, because it feels somewhat like a bunch of massive businesses shutting shop because they don’t like the government, and saying “we are not producing any more food for the population until business tax is cut to 1%”.

Indeed given the behaviour of banks in the UK in the past 10 years I could imagine them saying,  “we don’t like having to pay fines every time we steal the odd billion pounds, so we are closing the banks, until you cancel that law.”

That does not sound like democracy to me, and anyway given half the chance I’d vote for the banks to be nationalised without compensation.

But I’m getting carried away.

Basically my thought is that the Spanish FA (RFEF) decision to stop football because it doesn’t like a law passed by an elected government is really not what I think is right.  But my fear is that Fifa, to which most governments bow down and grovel in the dirt, will say, “government interference in football” and go with RFEF.   Then the reform of the TV rights will be overthrown.  Fifa will rule Spain – at least as far as football goes.

Spanish law gives the Spanish League – the LFP – the right to organise professional football in Spain – including setting dates for games.  So for another body to come along and say “no, football is all off” is of course completely illegal.

On the other hand the RFEF accused the government of a “lack of respect” and complained it had not been consulted properly on the TV law.

And yes, special interest bodies should be consulted where a situation develops that involves them, but sometimes it is so clear that they are acting against the interests of the majority that consultation is pointless.   The elected bodies should take control.

For there is another important point here.  A lot of clubs that end up way down the league each season are in real trouble, and owe the government a huge amount of money in back tax.  A more equitable sharing of the funds from TV will help them survive.  Barcelona and Real Mad in the sort of utter arrogance that we have seen of late in terms of Barce’s policy over children and Real’s policy over land deals with the council, show how little regard either of them pay for anyone else.

If the suspension goes ahead then we won’t know who wins the Spanish league.  It might not affect the Champions League, but it might – which would cause more confusion.

But now here is another twist.  As I read the situation the law has not yet been formally approved by parliament.  And also many players who work for clubs outside the elite are upset that the deal doesn’t go nearly far enough towards an equal distribution of TV money.

Oh yes, and while we are at it there are protests about the “continuing interference” in football the Sports Council (the CSD).  They said that  the new law was an “historic achievement” and guaranteed “that Spanish soccer can reach levels of exploitation, profitability and sustainability that were unthinkable up to now”.

It’s a bit of a muddle isn’t it.

The books

14 comments to Spain’s league to shut down! Oh no it isn’t.

  • Nonny

    It is a well known fact that Barca and Madrid would like the TV deals to be as it was as this gives them undue advantage over other clubs in the league and allows them to compete favourably in Europe to the detriment of other clubs. The TV deals in their favor has always ensured that they both finish 1 & 2 with an odd intrusion once in a while. The question is this. Is this good for Spanish football, the answer is NO.

    I am in total agreement of the new legislation and see the strike action as a cheap blackmail by RFEF and AFE which they are only protesting because of gains that they get in the background.

    Its unfortunate that something like this is still happening and I hope the Spanish government do not allow this cheap blackmail to succeed even if FIFA joins them with sanctions. What the government is doing is good for football and UEFA should support them. Let the parliament not waste time in passing it into law.

  • Andy Mack

    If the closure/strike goes on too long then we could have an awful lot of La Liga players calling AW and asking for a job!

  • esxste

    “Andy Mack
    May 7, 2015 at 4:44 pm
    If the closure/strike goes on too long then we could have an awful lot of La Liga players calling AW and asking for a job!”

    Where would we fit Messi in?

  • Andy Mack

    Messi would have to take place on the bench alongside Ronaldo, James, Isco etc etc if they could get in the 1st team squad!

  • para

    I suppose people fight for what they perceive as their right in any way possible.

    But Tony, are you really still believing we are in a democracy? It is that only by name me thinks. 🙁

  • para

    How come transfers are being agreed and finalised already and the transfer window is not even open yet? It defeats the reason for a transfer window, does it not? Might as well do away with it already.

  • Josif

    Mr Attwood, with all due respect to your affection for democracy, I believe that even the most democratic countries in the world have what I call (and reserve my right to the expression) “intercepted democracy” where those that were ellected by the people don’t answer to those who elected them but to “middle men”, those who finance their campaigns or “stimulate”/direct their decisions.

    The whole thing with Spanish league suggests that they need Rangers-esque disaster to one (or possibly both) El Clasico-giants for their own good.

  • John L

    @ para,

    the transfer window is in essence a registration window. theres nothing against signing players mid-season you just cant register them to play until the windows.

    i think we will see more of this as is gives the selling team more time to replace and the buying team might be able to buy before other clubs bid.

  • John L

    i thought the AFE was protesting because there is no provision in the new deal that stipulates player compensation. where as the new premier league deal had a 1% clause going to players?

    i was under the impression that the protest was not in regards to the clubs sharing the money but more centered around player compensation…

  • Jammy J

    Just to echo whats already been said; democracy is a myth! Sorry, i know thats contributing nothing, but i feel pretty strongly about it so felt the need to shout it out haha.

  • Menace

    @Tony – left wing? at your age you should be defensive midfield 😉 😉

    I’m with you on the banks. I’m surprised that FIFA is not on the US agenda of democratic change – only joking. The US love corrupt dictators – it’s the way of the West. The day the FA becomes transparent will be the most beautiful day for football, because the PGMO might be disbanded.

  • para

    Thanks John L.
    So we can sign who we want anytime, just have to register them in the window?
    Has it always been like this? Man i must have been somewhere else for a long time.

    Just seen the full record/stats of that masterful player of ours on Dennis “a football god” Bergkamp.

  • colario

    Alan Smith was bought from Leicester in the early part of the year by George Graham. Alan finished the season with Leicester and started for Arsenal in the new season beginning August.

    Buying in advance is not a new idea.

  • nicky

    To those who question whether or not we live in a democracy, I would remind them of 70 years ago this week.
    We were celebrating victory over Germany in WW2, led by Winston Churchill
    (probably the only British politician at the time, capable of uniting the nation on a war footing).
    Within a few months of victory, in a General Election, he was ousted from Office.
    Now THAT’S democracy!