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Spanish Football Federation waives Copa del Rey radio fees

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Radio networks wishing to cover action from Spanish football’s Copa del Rey will not be charged fees, the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) said today (Thursday).

The RFEF took over the sale of centralised media rights to Spain’s knockout club tournament at the start of the 2019-20 season, having previously only sold the rights to the final.

The issue of radio stations’ access to Spanish football stadiums has been a thorny topic among football administrators in the country for years. LaLiga has led a campaign for years to be able to charge radio networks fees, pointing to other European countries where such fees are charged.

Under the leadership of its controversial president Luis Rubiales, the RFEF now appears to have driven a further wedge between itself and the league authorities by announcing the radio access initiative that will cover all rounds of the tournament.

The RFEF said: “Broadcasters and professionals in this medium may carry out their work without paying any fee to the organiser of the competition.”

Explaining the move, the RFEF cited its “determined will” to ensure “information transparency and the universality of sport” to which “the work of professionals in the communications media contribute an important part”.

Spanish league authorities strengthened their stance in 2011 by banning radio broadcasters from entering stadiums to air live coverage unless a rights fee was paid. However, the government issued a decree in 2012 that afforded radio broadcasters access to league grounds.

Radio coverage of LaLiga matches pulls in strong audiences and generates notable advertising revenues as a result.

Until 2019-20, the RFEF only marketed broadcast rights to the Copa del Rey final; LaLiga sold rights to the bulk of the competition. The RFEF sold the competition’s domestic broadcast rights to Mediaset, the free-to-air commercial broadcaster, in a three-year deal signed earlier this month.

In April 2018, Spain’s Supreme Court brought the legitimacy of free radio access into question by challenging article 19.4 of the country’s General Law of Audiovisual Communication. The matter was referred to the Constitutional Court.

Rubiales has been at loggerheads with LaLiga and recently called for Javier Tebas, the league president, to resign. Tebas issued a stinging response.