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Madrid court dismisses RFEF appeal over Mediapro tender exclusion

Madrid’s Provincial Court has rejected an appeal from the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) against an earlier judgment which found the body abused its “dominant position” during the bidding for domestic media rights to the 2018-19 Copa del Rey final.

The ruling, handed down yesterday (February 4) echoed an earlier judgment from Madrid’s commercial court which described a clause in the final’s tender document as a “flagrant abuse of the position of dominance held by the RFEF” which excluded media rights and production agency Mediapro from bidding.

Rights to the 2018-19 Copa del Rey final were eventually awarded to Spanish public broadcaster RTVE, despite its offer allegedly failing to reach the RFEF’s reserve price and going to a second round of bidding.

Mediapro said that no appeal can be filed against the resolution and that the RFEF has “been ordered to pay the costs incurred in this second case, since in the opinion of the Magistrates, the case did not present sufficient grounds for appeal”.

Part of the Provincial Court ruling was also cited by Mediapro in its statement today: “If we analyse the clause in question, we share with Mediapro that it is disproportionate to exclude a company from bidding only because another company in the corporate group it belongs to has been declared criminally liable.

“In this regard, the appeal highlights that neither Mediapro nor the group’s parent, Joye Media S.L., have ever been held criminally liable nor have they recognised their criminal responsibility or that of their managers in the crimes referred to in the contested clause.”

The federation had barred Mediapro from bidding for the property for failing to meet a provision in the process that candidates “must be a company, group of companies or be part of a group of companies where none of them (parent or subsidiaries) has been criminally sanctioned or has recognised their criminal liability or that of their Directors”.

The RFEF cited two managers at Mediapro’s US subsidiary in world football’s governing body Fifa’s corruption scandal as the basis for the agency’s exclusion from the tender. Mediapro settled the case with US authorities, but maintained the pair acted independently and were fired for their actions.

Mediapro said: “[The judgment] is a firm and forceful judicial resolution in one of Mediapro’s ongoing disputes with the RFEF and which will clearly serve as a precedent to clarify future procedures. The Order issued by the Provincial Court, which confirms the ruling handed down at the time by Commercial Court No. 12, comes to endorse Mediapro’s complete qualification to participate in tenders issued by the RFEF or any other sports organisation.

“Mediapro will continue to apply the same legal defense criteria to prevent the RFEF from continuing along the path of non-compliance with the law despite the high ethical standards that it claims to have set.”

The RFEF was approached for comment by SportBusiness, but had not responded at the time of writing.

The timeline for bids for last season’s final was also criticised in the earlier judgment. The RFEF originally launched the domestic invitation to tender on April 23 with a bid deadline set for May 6 before a second-round deadline four days later.

Mediapro and the RFEF have also clashed over the sale of centralised Copa del Rey rights for the 2019-20 to 2021-22 cycle. Following the award of the domestic rights to the commercial broadcaster Mediaset, the agency claimed it had offered an average of €33.5m ($36.7m) per season for both the domestic and international rights to the knockout cup competition.

The RFEF previously only marketed rights to the final of the Copa del Rey, which it sold to public broadcaster TVE in separate deals over the last two seasons. The 2017 final rights were sold to Mediaset through a wider deal which incorporated rights to the Supercopa and Spanish national team friendlies.