Sevilla-led TV cash bid 'doomed to failure'

MADRID - A Sevilla-led bid to force Real Madrid and Barcelona to share television revenue more equitably appears doomed to failure and the big two's domination of La Liga is likely to remain entrenched for years to come.

Sevilla President Jose Maria del Nido, an outspoken critic of the current system under which Real and Barca take half the annual pot of around 600 million euros, has compared his campaign to the French revolution.

The colourful lawyer convened a meeting this month with officials from 11 apparently like-minded La Liga clubs who want the sale of the rights to the league to be centralised and income shared as in rival European competitions.

However, the movement already appears to be running out of steam and Real and Barca, the world's richest clubs by revenue who earn close to 500 million euros a season, are unlikely to agree to give up their privileged position, analysts said.

"Only with a gun to the head and maybe not even then," Placido Rodriguez, a professor of economics at Oviedo University and a former chairman of La Liga club Sporting Gijon, told Reuters.

"If nothing changes the gap between the two heavyweights and the rest can only get wider."

Barca earned a total of almost 180 million euros from television contracts in the 2009/10 season, including non-Spanish deals, with Real reaping just under 160 million, according to the latest Deloitte Football Money League published in February.

A study last year by Sport+Markt, a consulting firm, showed the pair earned almost 19 times more from TV than the smallest clubs in Spain's top division, by far the biggest gap in the major European leagues.

The richest clubs in the English Premier League, which generates more than a billion euros a year in broadcast revenue, earned about 1.7 times more than their smaller rivals.

Real and Barca have declined requests for comment on the Sevilla-led campaign for change.


Introducing a system of collective bargaining in Spain may help clubs boost total revenue per season for La Liga TV rights to around 900 million euros, putting the competition on a par with Italy's Serie A, according to Jose Maria Gay, a professor of accounting at Barcelona University.

"Assuming all the clubs implement rigorous financial controls, La Liga would win in terms of footballing potential," Gay told Reuters.

"The clubs would be in a better position to build more competitive squads, as long as they use the extra injection of money sensibly.

"La Liga would be more competitive, results would be closer and making the league more exciting would mean selling the product around the world would be much easier.

"Real Madrid and Barcelona must be convinced to take a major step forward and centralise their audiovisual rights as soon as possible. Spanish football would be the winner."

The difference in class and spending power between Real and Barca and their domestic rivals has been underlined by some massively one-sided matches since the start of the season.

Spanish and European champions Barca crushed Villarreal, who are competing in this season's Champions League, 5-0 in their opening game, while Real demolished Real Zaragoza 6-0.

The results prompted the president of Villarreal to accuse the big two of killing Spanish football, while Del Nido said La Liga was "a load of rubbish" as only two teams had a realistic chance of winning the title.


Barca underlined their dominance with an 8-0 romp at home to Osasuna on Saturday, when Argentine World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, whose annual earnings exceed those of many La Liga clubs, netted a hat-trick.

Former Real director general Jorge Valdano said this month the overwhelming dominance of the great rivals would inevitably lead them to abandon Spain for European competition.

Del Nido argues that the sale of TV rights should be overseen by Spain's professional league (LFP), which groups the 42 clubs in the top two divisions, as was the case until the system collapsed in the mid-1990s.

He had hoped a meeting on Thursday at the LFP's headquarters in Madrid, attended by officials from Real and Barca, would give fresh impetus to his campaign.

However, Sevilla Director General Jose Maria Cruz said the meeting had been "an afternoon tea of pessimists and good for nothings".

"We only had a praiseworthy defence from Espanyol and [Real] Betis," Cruz told reporters.

"The rest of those that attended have remained silent as if it wasn't an issue for them.

"Real Madrid has reacted harshly against the plan set out by Sevilla, a sign that they feel threatened, and some other clubs have even apologised for attending the meeting in Seville."

Del Nido said on Saturday he was disappointed by the outcome of Thursday's meeting at the LFP but vowed to carry on fighting what he termed "the TV battle".

"It was a day of disillusion, more for the silence than for what was heard," he told a meeting of one of Sevilla's supporters' groups.

"But the next morning the hope returned and I can say that Real Madrid and Barcelona have zero chance of winning this battle."