La Liga strike threat looms

The start of the 2012-2013 La Liga season is up in the air because of a row surrounding kick-off times, reports Sport.

Eleven top-flight clubs are understood to have steeled themselves for a battle with the Spanish Football League (LFP) over what they consider to be unfair start times to games in the first three rounds of fixtures.

Some matches are scheduled to start at 11pm and will consequently run over into the following day, a situation the LFP say is because of the early start to the season and the intense heat in Spain during August.

However, the rebel clubs – Getafe, Real Betis, Osasuna, Celta Vigo, Espanyol, Real Zaragoza, Atletico Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad, Valencia and Sevilla – plan to ask that the late kick-offs be shelved and the number of Monday night games be reduced.

However, the dispute is not just about the late hours  as it is widely reported that it is a war between the clubs that have sold their television rights to Sogecable – the 11 involved – and those with Mediapro, including the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid.

The two operators have been mixed up in an open war for control of Spanish football for the past two years, with the main change being that Sogecable are now partners with more than half of La Liga clubs.

Some of these have lawsuits pending with Mediapro for breaking their contracts and believe the LFP are discriminating against them by making them kick-off at ridiculous times.

As a result, they are now considering taking action and the word strike has already been mentioned by one President.

“If we have to go on strike then we go on strike,” said Atletico Madrid’s Enrique Cerezo.

“We have to play our first three games on Monday and what they are doing is an aberration that cannot be described in words.”

The rebels are believed to have planned a meeting for Tuesday and Sport quoted a source from one of the clubs who explained the reasons why.

“Right now the times have been hijacked. There is a group headed by Barca and Madrid that have bought the votes of all Segunda teams and they decide the kick-off times and what happens in La Primera.

“This is what it has come to. If they do not respect the 11 teams then we will not play.

“The LFP has become a closed shop between Javier Tebas [its Vice-President] and President Jose Luis Astiazaran.

“We will go on strike because they are not respecting our rights,” he declared.

The 11 clubs are set to demand that the start times for the first three rounds are invalidated and hope to get all clubs to agree to this proposal, while they want fewer Monday night games.

They are also concerned at falling attendances and will again request a fairer distribution of TV money, and if their claims are not met then the league will not begin on the weekend of August 18-19.

A meeting with Angel Maria Villar, President of the Spanish Football Federation, is planned and the Spanish government has also been invited as football is considered a sport that is in the national interest.

In fact, if there is any threat of a strike then the government has already hinted it will intervene and adjust the schedule for the first three rounds.

Sevilla President Jose Maria del Nido, who has been particularly vociferous in the past concerning the share-out of TV money, commented on Friday that this was a war that was going to be won.

“A group of clubs want the calendar to be as sensible and fair as possible and we are on the way to achieving this.

“The schedule is not good and I can’t say much about the matter right now, but you will see that there are going to be changes, and plenty of them,” he maintained.

“The television rights issue and the distribution of money will have to change whether they like it or not.

“It will be justice for something we have been a long time fighting for.”

If agreement cannot be reached then the situation is bound to escalate in the next two weeks, with many clubs studying the possibility of barring the Mediapro cameras from their stadiums.

This would imply that most Primera games could only be seen on Sogecable, with the main problem being that if Real Madrid or Barcelona were involved in a clash against a team connected to Sogecable then it would not be televised.

Tags LFP Primera