Dispute between La Liga, Spanish FA and players’ union

icon spain1 June ~ While there was widespread relief in early May when the threat of a Spanish players’ strike was lifted, it seems clear the next headache is just around the corner due to the bitter and long-running personality clash between La Liga (LFP) president Javier Tebas and Spanish FA (RFEF) chief Ángel María Villar.

The potential strike was announced – and backed by players including Lionel Messi, Iker Casillas and Xavi Hernandez – with the players’ union (AFE) and RFEF both saying they were unhappy with the smallprint in new TV rights distribution legislation. It looked like the final two rounds of La Liga could even be cancelled, until a preliminary decision from Spain’s Audiencia Nacional court allowed all involved to back down for the moment without losing too much face.

The initial strike move was a surprise given the new TV deal introduced by Spain’s secretary of state for sport Miguel Cardenal had been broadly welcomed by media commentators and those few club presidents who had been critical of the old arrangements. The objections from Villar and AFE chief Luis Rubiales seemed less to do with the details of the new legislation, and more about control of Spanish football’s purse strings. Similar rows have been rumbling for months, including in February when the RFEF stopped all amateur football in response to another law which mandates that all state funding received by sports bodies must be fully audited and accounted for.

Issues completely unrelated to finances have also been affected by personality differences. Villar refused to even attend crisis meetings called by Cardenal following the death of a Deportivo La Coruña ultra in a fight with Atlético Madrid supporters last November. The start of the 2015-16 season could now be the next collateral damage. The LFP are reportedly set to propose the first games are played on August 15 and 16, but the Madrid daily AS claim that “given the tensions between Tebas and Villar it would not be surprising if some type of conflict arose when the time comes to approve the calendar”.

Rubiales, a close ally of Villar, maintains he still wishes to do what he can to block the TV deal. The Audiencia Nacional court's final decision on his strike plans is due on June 17. Whatever way that ruling goes, more media posturing, at the very least, is guaranteed. The most recent AFE stoppage postponed the start of the 2011-12 season, although the issue then was a more understandable one of players being owed large sums in back wages. Should next August’s kick-off be affected, and the personal feuding continue into the new campaign, there will much less sympathy for all those involved. Dermot Corrigan