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Proposed strike in Spanish football

The Spanish courts suspended the strike, and the league and cup programmes will therefore carry on as normal. (14.05.15)

Three weeks to go to the end of the season, promotion and relegation issues in the balance, three Spanish sides fighting for places in European finals, the Spanish cup final approaching, and suddenly we are facing a players’ strike which is likely to throw everything into turmoil! Ostensibly the problem is the disaccord over the recently approved television rights decree, the government having just passed a law obliging the rights to be sold collectively by auction (similar to procedures already used in other countries). The decree has the full backing of the league (LFP) and the clubs, including those who stand to get less from the deal, but now the federation (RFEF) and the players’ union (AFE) have come out against the new law, and have threatened to call an indefinite strike as from next weekend.

Without going in to too much detail, the main complaint is about the split of money between the top flight and the lower divisions, and other social rights and obligations of the players, which the AFE would like to have included in the law. However part of the problem boils down to ongoing conflicts between the various bodies, who have been at loggerheads for some time. The LFP is headed up by Javier Tebas, a self-righteous lawyer who, whilst making important headroads in financial fair play regulations and other areas within the Spanish game, has managed to upset many people with his pompous attitude. He has been fighting for some time with RFEF`s long standing president Angel Villar, a close associate of Josef Blatter who refused to cooperate in the recent FIFA corruption investigations, and who has yet to give satisfactory explanations to sports minister Miguel Cardenal and the sports commission (CSD) as to how some €8 million of public money has been spent. Meanwhile Villar has sided with AFE president Luis Rubiales, ex Levante defender who has extended his hard-man reputation into the offices, and who has already called several strikes since he took over five years ago.

It seems as much as anything that Villar and Rubiales are upset that they were not included in the negotiations, which the CSD and LFP rushed through without them (although Cardenal says that Villar was invited but ignored the invitations). Tebas has not helped matters though threatening to denounce any strike as illegal, and likening a photo of Rubiales backed by several top players (including Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Xavi, Iniesta and Piqué) as remiscent of photos of the Basque terrorists when they made their demands some years ago! Meanwhile other cynics question what some of the richest players in the world are doing backing a strike, especially as the agreement they are opposing will make them even richer.

All of that though seems like a recipe for disaster, and there is little hope as things stand right now that the strike can be avoided. There are virtually no free dates to reschedule any matches, and some voices are saying that the league could end this weekend, as under Spanish labour law any days lost to a strike do not have to be made up afterwards. One can only hope that common sense prevails, that egos can be set aside, and that an agreement can be reached between all parties. It will be a sad day for Spanish football if they can’t. (08.05.15)