You may have heard recently about a possible strike for week 30 of La Liga, which is at this time set to be played April 2-3 after this weekend’s international break. I’d been struggling to understand the dynamics of the situation, or even what the disagreement was, so I did some digging (I even tried tweeting @ Mr. Sid Lowe, but he apparently has more important things to do than free investigative journalism for strangers), and here’s my understanding of the situation:
This report (there are lots of reports, it just so happens that this one had enough background info that I was able to catch on) lays out the basic issue, which is that right now it is law in Spain that the LFP is required to broadcast at least one game to free-to-air TV every week. The LFP insists that this is not fair, and while they are not looking to “leave the people without football” (words of LFP president José Luis Astiazarán), they say they should not be forced to do this. So supposedly the strike isn’t to end free games, it’s to change the law that says they have to do it.
So how does such a long-running, mundane dispute come to a strike? Why now? Might there be some ulterior political motive (in Spain?! Never!) for this issue today? Quoth Astiazarán (emphasis mine):
This has been dragging on since 1997, the scene has changed a lot and now the public can buy games at a price affordable to everyone. It’s important that games happen as scheduled, but keeping this system discriminates against professional football. We want to change the scenery for 2012, and we believe it is necessary now that we are in the process of awarding future TV rights.
Ooooh, the TV rights! Did you just imagine a certain Andalucían president’s ears pricking up? “A strike, you say? Future TV rights, you say?!?” Del Nido would like to have a word. Given that the LFP (and their primary interest, the big two) are on board to have this strike, you can probably guess how nuestro presidente feels, and you wouldn’t be wrong: he, along with our good friends Villarreal and the five other teams opposed to the proposed new TV deal, likes the idea of not requiring free games in principle, but is opposed to striking because it would ultimately be part of a larger effort of getting the TV revenue deal, in its current state, passed. And those seven teams are simply not going to comply with an effort by the league at large to reinforce the unfair TV deal that is currently on the table. Villarreal’s president, Fernando Roig, joined the fun by saying that come hell or high water, he’ll be expecting to play next weekend (against Barcelona, who will be expecting to strike unless some agreement is reached). He gave Marca a nice quote which makes me think that when he and Del Nido are both in their 80’s, they’d make a great sitcom pair a la Statler and Waldorf (again, emphasis mine, these people aren’t actually talking in bold):
[Villarreal is] totally in agreement that open broadcasting is not good for football. And I believe that there ought to be a deep study of the situation, just like the revenue sharing…and, having divided all of that, Villarreal completely agrees that [open broadcasting] must change.
So, it should be interesting. The threatened strike seems like a fairly common occurrence in Spain and La Liga, but they always get fixed at the last minute, and everything goes on as planned. This time will be interesting because Del Nido and Roig et al seem determined to use this issue as a fulcrum to apply pressure to the TV deal situation and make it a much more time sensitive matter. Time will tell if come the first weekend of April we have all games, no games, or half-games where only one team shows up. Should be fun!