The news that La Liga television rights are to be sold collectively rather than individually puts an end, at long last, to a scandal that has besmirched Spanish football for years.
From 2016, clubs will no longer be permitted to negotiate their own television rights, as Barcelona and Real Madrid have done in the past, as The Guardian reported. The practice meant that last year the two clubs shared around €280 million between them, a figure that represented around a third of the money on offer from the broadcasters.
To put the matter into perspective, under the present system, last year Atletico Madrid—who finished champions of La Liga—earned €42 million from TV rights, as Peter Quinn of WorldSoccerTalk.com recorded. Cardiff City, who were relegated after finishing bottom of the Premier League, received €74.5 million, according to Nick Bidwell of WorldSoccer.com.
Getting here has been a long and tortuous road. It has required government intervention to put an end to this scandal that has shamed Spanish football for so long, simply because the various organisations involved were seemingly incapable, or unwilling, of sorting the matter out amongst themselves.
It’s interesting to note that while the English, German and American leagues were able to put their own houses in order, the Spanish league couldn’t. Although in fairness to them, they are not alone. Italy and France also needed the intervention of their legislative bodies to sort out the thorny issue of audiovisual money distribution.
Starting in 2016, when the legislation comes into effect, the rights will be auctioned and sold to the highest bidder.
Sports ministry spokesman Miguel Cardenal, announcing the decision, said diplomatically that the new legislation would permit Spanish football to “adapt to modern times,” per The Associated Press (via The Guardian).
That was as close as he came to saying what many think, that football in Spain is finally abandoning an archaic and unjust practise and joining the real world.
In many ways, the new law has come about despite, not because of, the efforts of the Spanish Football Federation, but also FIFA. FIFA only recently threatened sanctions, per Graham Wood of Reuters.com, should the government get involved with legislating on football matters.
There is, almost inevitably, an element of compromise in the final legislation. One of the clauses states that no club, as a result of the plan, should receive less than they are presently getting. That effectively ring-fences the €140 million that both Barcelona and Real Madrid are presently being paid, per Dermot Corrigan of ESPN.com.
Most importantly, the new deal will allow clubs, previously driven into bankruptcy by attempting to compete financially with the fat cats, the chance to regain an order, dignity and stability, thanks to the extra funds that will make their way into the clubs' coffers.
The fact it is going to go to auction means the exact amount of money that is going to be on the table is not known. Initial figures, according to El Mundo (in Spanish) could be in the €1.5 billion range.
El Mundo crunched the numbers by suggesting a total of between €700 million and €1 billion from domestic broadcasters, and between €400 and €500 million for those overseas.
Not surprisingly, longing glances have been made toward the Premier League, which managed to sell off its rights for an eye-watering €2.3 billion a year from 2016. If nothing else, it at least serves as a benchmark and as a weapon of negotiation, not to mention a figure well worth aspiring to.
Whatever the final figure, what will be of most interest is just how it will be apportioned.
Of the total, El Mundo reports that 92 percent will go to the clubs in the first and second division, 3.5 percent in parachute payments to relegated clubs, 2 percent to the Federation, 1 percent to the league, 0.5 percent for women’s football, second division B and the footballers' union, and 1 percent for Olympic sportsmen.
At last, Spanish football looks to have taken a step in the right direction, and in the long term, the new deal can only make what some consider the most exciting league in the world even better and more competitive. Bring it on.