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Another bidding round for Copa del Rey domestic and international rights

(Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has initiated new rounds of bidding for both the domestic and international rights to the Copa del Rey tournament during the 2019-20 to 2021-22 cycle.

An invitation to tender for the domestic rights was launched at the end of August but first-round bids were below the RFEF’s asking price, prompting a fresh round of bidding. The RFEF has now announced the latest delay to the process, issuing a new deadline of October 25.

The same deadline has been set for new bids in the international rights sales process, following the issuing last month of two separate invitations to tenders in the European Union and the rest of the world.

First-round bids for the domestic rights were reported to have been received from the Mediapro agency, commercial broadcaster Mediaset and an alliance between public broadcaster TVE and telecoms operator Telefónica. The RFEF is thought to have targeted as much as €45m ($50m) per year for the rights.

The domestic rights inventory comprised exclusive live rights to up to 117 matches covering the main competition’s six qualifying rounds and the final. The successful bidder must broadcast at least 65 matches each season. The semi-finals and final are required to be broadcast free-to-air and in HD quality.

Upon launching the tender process, the RFEF specified that it would be responsible for producing all matches, although the successful bidder would bear the costs, which vary from as low as €12,000 per match for the lowest profile matches to as high as €170,000 for the final.

The RFEF, under the leadership of outspoken president Luis Rubiales, had included criteria in the initial invitation to tender document that appeared to preclude Mediapro from bidding. However, following analysis by the RFEF’s evaluation commission, the way is now apparently open for the agency to bid for the rights.

Last month, the Spanish competition regulator (CNMC) called on the RFEF to review several aspects of its invitation to tender process.

The RFEF previously only marketed the broadcast rights to the Copa Del Rey final, which it sold to TVE in separate deals over the last two seasons. It sold the rights to the 2017 final to Mediaset as part of a wider deal including rights to the Supercopa and friendly matches of the Spanish national team.

Mediapro held the rights in the 2016-19 cycle to the remainder of competition, which it acquired from the then rights-holder LaLiga, the body that governs the top two tiers of Spanish league football. RFEF initially excluded Mediapro from last year’s bidding process for the Copa Del Rey final, before a judge ruled the exclusion unlawful.

Centralised international rights

The RFEF kicked off its new international rights sales process in September by calling for bids in the EU and issuing a deadline of October 1.

The process offered centralised rights (from 2019-20 to 2021-22) from the round of 32 onwards. The move also marked a departure from the RFEF’s previous strategy of selling international rights to just the Copa del Rey final, along with the Spanish Super Cup, the match that pits the reigning cup holders against the LaLiga champions.

Referencing the move to sell centralised rights to Spain’s knockout clubs competition, the RFEF cited the 2015 Royal Decree, which governs sports broadcast rights sales in Spain.

The B4 Capital agency previously held the international rights to the Copa del Rey final (and Spanish Super Cup) from 2014-15 to 2017-18.

In May, the RFEF invited bids for the European broadcast rights to the 2018-19 Copa del Rey final, working in an advisory capacity on the rights auction with the Sportradar agency and For Media Sports Management, the Dubai-based consultancy headed by Emanuele Villari, B4’s former head of rights sales and acquisitions in Europe.

The RFEF, which is being advised on its international rights sales processes by Sportradar, issued the invitation to tender in the rest of the world in the middle of September. A first-round bid deadline of October 7 was set.

The rights package in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) excluded Saudi Arabia, where the rights are being sold separately. Qatar-based beIN Sports, which holds LaLiga rights in the Mena region until 2024, has been blocked from operating in Saudi Arabia as it continues to battle the Saudi-based beoutQ pirate operation.