Mediapro withdraws from Copa del Rey rights race, takes swipe at RFEF

Spanish agency Mediapro has pulled out of the race for rights to the Copa del Rey domestic club football competition for the 2019-20 to 2021-22 cycle.

The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) last week initiated new rounds of bidding for the rights with a deadline having been set for Friday, October 25. The same deadline was set for new bids in the international rights sales process.

An invitation to tender for the domestic rights was initially launched at the end of August but after first-round bids were deemed too low, a fresh round was launched earlier in the month.

Last week’s announcement by the RFEF marked the latest delay to the process and Mediapro’s withdrawal now leaves commercial broadcaster Mediaset and an alliance between public-service broadcaster TVE and telecoms operator Telefónica as the two remaining candidates.

Reports have suggested that the RFEF is seeking as much as €45m ($50m) per year for the rights. The domestic rights inventory comprised exclusive live rights to up to 117 matches during the main competition’s six qualifying rounds and the final, with the successful bidder required to broadcast at least 65 matches per season.

In its initial invitation to tender, the RFEF included criteria that appeared to preclude Mediapro from bidding. Analysis from the RFEF’s evaluation commission had appeared to pave the way for the Mediapro to bid for the rights but the agency has now withdrawn from the process and taken a swipe at RFEF president Luis Rubiales in the process.

In a statement reported by Spanish newspaper AS, Mediapro said: “Mediapro has decided not to present any offer in the new process called by the Royal Spanish Football Federation for the adjudication of the domestic rights to the Copa del Rey, as well as for the commercialisation of rights in Europe and the rest of the world for the 2019-20 to 2021-22 seasons.

“After confirming the lack of willingness of the RFEF to grant these rights to the best offer presented in the previous process, Mediapro has decided with its withdrawal to not continue collaborating in this simulation orchestrated by the RFEF.

“Since the beginning of the current president’s management, the RFEF has been involved in conflicts with AFE (Spanish Footballers’ Association), with its main sponsor Adidas, LaLiga, women’s football and futsal.”

The statement continued: “Mediapro has already announced, and nobody denied, that its offer presented in the previous contest was for the highest amount (€13m for the first season, €13.5m for the second season and €14m for the third) and, therefore, if confirmed it must have been the winner of the rights. The reserve price established by the RFEF at €45m per season is a device to be able to cancel the award if they do not like the bidder with the best offer.

“Therefore, Mediapro will not participate in the new simulation organised by the RFEF, which once again ignores the rules for carrying out its discretionary criteria in abuse of its dominant position.”

The RFEF previously only marketed rights to the final of the Copa del Rey, which it sold to 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.

Mediapro held the rights in the 2016-19 cycle for the remainder of competition, which it acquired from the then rights-holder LaLiga, which governs the top two tiers of the Spanish game. Mediapro had initially been excluded from last year’s bidding process for the Copa del Rey final before a judge ruled it was unlawful.