Everything you need to know about the suspension of Spanish football
There are still 3 games to go in La Liga while the Copa del Rey final is also under threat
Spanish football will come to a standstill from 16 May due to a tussle between the Spanish football federation and the government regarding a new TV rights deal. The Spanish government approved a new law on collective bargaining for TV rights (similar to the EPL), but the law has not yet been passed.
In La Liga, Barcelona and Real Madrid are separated by just two points with only three games to go. The Copa del Rey final between Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao on 30 May is also now under serious threat. The suspension will affect the league and all lower level leagues in all age groups as the government and the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) fight what is basically a power struggle in Spain.
Even the National Professional Football League (LFP), which runs the top two tiers of Spanish football, supports the new law. They have now decided to take the legal route to ensure the suspension does not come into effect.
What is the issue?
Currently, Real Madrid and Barcelona earn a major chunk of the TV revenue because they are allowed to negotiate their own agreements. That is almost half the total TV revenue going to two clubs while the other clubs in the league get a tiny share of the rest of the revenue.
Both Real Madrid and Barcelona have also come to terms with the fact that this has to be changed for the sake of the league. The new law announced by the Spanish government is similar to that of the Premier League where all 20 clubs get an equal share of the TV revenue.
But the new law did not sit well with the RFEF who are unhappy because they feel they were not involved when the deal was being discussed. In their words, they called it “lack of respect”. And to show they mean business, they have decided to suspend all competitions in Spain.
"The LFP wishes to reiterate the importance of the royal decree approved by the Spanish government and emphasise its importance as an historic milestone for Spanish soccer." – LFP
Players' strike another concern
The Spanish players’ association (AFE) were also planning to strike because they, too, were unhappy with the new deal. Their argument was that the money was not divided well enough and that the lower-ranked clubs would suffer. Many Segunda Division clubs are in financial trouble and they feel this deal will not help them.
With the players from top clubs making a lot of money, the players from the lower division do not earn enough and their livelihoods are at stake. The wages earned by Spanish players are very low compared to their counterparts in the English Premier League and Championship where the equal distribution of TV revenue ensures clubs have a steady income no matter where they stand in the table.
What happens next?
The RFEF is counting on this action being recognized as the government interfering in football administration. FIFA takes governmental interference very seriously and if found guilty, Spain could be banned from taking part in any international competition.
To resolve the issue, all four parties – the government, the league (LFP), the football federation (RFEF) and the players (AFE) – must come to a consensus so the suspension can be lifted. The LFP themselves have called a meeting with all clubs next week to deliberate on the issue.
Although they can't end the season without crowning a champion, the delay in playing the fixtures could cause a problem, especially with South American players like Lionel Messi, Neymar and James Rodriguez having to go back home ahead of the Copa America (Luis Suarez is still banned and will miss the competition). The final fixture in Europe is usually the Champions League final and that is scheduled to be held on 6 June.