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Government backs RFEF’s sale of futsal, women’s football and third-tier rights

FC Barcelona face Inter Movistar in Spanish Futsal League (Photo by Joan Valls/Urbanandsport /NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Spain’s National Sports Council (CSD) has ratified the sale of centralised rights by the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) for futsal, women’s competitions and the Segunda División B, the third tier of club football in the country.

A royal decree law passed in 2015 has been expanded to cover other state-level football competitions, with the ruling having hitherto only regulated the centralised sale of rights to LaLiga.

Article 8 of the legislation has been widened to include the “rest of state-level competitions organised by the Royal Spanish Football Federation”. The new draft legislation states that the RFEF will be able to market the broadcast rights directly but does not clarify if there is any impact to the contracts in place.

RFEF president Luis Rubiales has been keen to take over the sale of the rights to futsal, Segunda División B and women’s football rights since he took up the role against the backdrop of a power grab in the Spanish game.

The ownership of broadcast rights to women’s football in Spain has been a live issue throughout the 2019-20 season.

In February, Spain’s Association of Women’s Soccer Clubs (ACFF) criticised the RFEF after it was alleged that the governing body had sold the rights to the Copa de la Reina’s round-of-16 stage without the clubs’ permission.

Mediapro, the Spanish agency and production company, agreed a collective rights agreement with 12 Primera Iberdrola clubs earlier this year during the league’s inaugural rights tender. That deal is worth €3m ($3.25m) per season between 2019-20 and 2021-22, but does not include the rights to Barcelona, Athletic Club (Bilbao), Sevilla or Tacón’s home matches.

The RFEF moved six months ago to assume control of organisational responsibilities for the top two futsal divisions in Spain, dislodging the Liga Nacional de Fútbol Sala (LNFS) in the process. At the time, the RFEF said that it had been recognised in court that there was no legal agreement for the LNFS to organise the competitions.

The LNFS announced the distribution a total of €700,000 in revenues to clubs from the top two futsal divisions in 2019-20, in part thanks to a broadcast rights deal with LaLiga. The league’s over-the-top streaming service LaLigaSports TV holds the rights to the futsal leagues until 2023, although matches are also broadcast by local and regional channels in Spain.

The Royal Decree also states that the RFEF may directly commercialise broadcast rights to the men’s Copa del Rey and Spanish Supercopa. The national association took over the centralised sale of broadcast rights to Copa del Rey from the start of the 2019-20 season, having previously only sold the rights to the final.

Meanwhile, the CSD has also amended legislation with regards to OTT streaming and the possibility of the rights of other Spanish sports federations being managed by the Fundación España Sport Global, a body under the auspices of the CSD and also including LaLiga and RFEF representatives on its board of trustees.

The updated legislation states: “Where sports federations of sports other than football do not wish to assume the management and marketing of audiovisual rights on their own, they may entrust such management to the foundation only.”

Irene Lozano, the CSD president, told Marca: “There are many federations that sell the rights on their own, but we want to give them a tool that will help them better sell their rights and this creates a whole new context.”

LaLigaSports TV already offers content from a range of different sports bodies in Spain.

Earlier this week, the CSD brought together LaLiga and the RFEF to form a pathway to return the domestic game amid Covid-19, with funding agreements reached and a pledge made for the government to fully support a proposed joint bid with Portugal for the 2030 Fifa World Cup.

The developments came following a meeting between the three organisations. In a statement, the CSD said the return of professional football training will be subject to the “evolution” of the pandemic and decisions adopted by the Ministry of Health.