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Competition watchdog probes RFEF’s Supercopa rights tender

SEVILLE, SPAIN - MAY 25: Dani Parejo celebrates with the trophy at the end of the Spanish Copa del Rey. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

The Comisión Nacional de los Mercados y la Competencia (CNMC), Spain’s competition watchdog, has criticised the Spanish Football Federation’s (RFEF) invitation to tender for the new rights cycle for the Spanish Supercopa tournament.

The CNMC said that the tender process, which covers the 2019-20 to 2021-22 period, violates the 2015 Royal Decree which governs the sale of broadcast rights in Spain.

The CNMC has asked the RFEF to clarify the award process and reform it for future tenders for the sake of “transparency, competition and non-discrimination”.

Several reasons were given by the watchdog for the RFEF’s rights tender as having violated the 2015 decree. These include the need to “define the powers” that have been granted to the RFEF and limiting them to the “the joint marketing of audiovisual rights falling within the scope of this royal decree-law”.

The CNMC also urges the RFEF to remove the “mention of ownership of rights that are not recognised” and not include “commercial opportunities and obligations relating to advertising that are not covered by the applicable legal rule, and which are unjustified and contrary to the principle of freedom of enterprise.”

In a similar vein to the recent Copa del Rey tender, the rights on offer include those in Spain, the European Union and international markets.

Spanish public-service broadcaster TVE acquired the rights for the Spanish Supercopa game between Barcelona and Sevilla in 2018 which was held in Tangier, Morocco.

The 2019-20 Supercopa will held in Saudi Arabia between January 8-12 with Atlético de Madrid, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Valencia competing. A lucrative three-year hosting agreement with the Saudi Arabian authorities was announced yesterday.

The CNMC has been at loggerheads with the RFEF for its processes around rights auctions, having previously taken aim at the award of Copa del Rey rights.

The RFEF announced late last week that Mediaset was awarded the Copa del Rey rights in Spain for the next three seasons. The rights have also been awarded in “part of Europe” and “part of the rest of the world” although the identity of the international rights buyers has not been revealed.

The RFEF said the total value of the domestic and international rights deal was around €80m ($88.2m), or an average of €26.7m per season. The federation added that it “hopes to exceed” a total of €100m over three years once the remaining international rights are sold.

Mediaset’s successful bid was accepted after multiple bidding rounds which saw rights agency Mediapro drop out and criticise RFEF president Luis Rubiales reserve price of €45m per season.

The RFEF previously only marketed rights to the final of the Copa del Rey, which it sold to TVE in separate deals over the last two seasons. The 2017 final  rights were sold to Mediaset through a wider deal which incorporated rights to the Supercopa and Spanish national team friendlies.