Rubiales slams RTVE over Supercopa stance, threatens legal action

Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) president Luis Rubiales has threatened legal action against RTVE over its stance on the Supercopa club competition in Saudi Arabia, stating that the public-service broadcaster’s actions in deciding not to bid for the rights are “contrary to market laws” and influenced by the decisions of other media companies.

Rubiales made the claims in a letter addressed to Rosa María Mateo, president of RTVE. Earlier this month, RTVE joined the chorus of criticism concerning the RFEF’s decision to stage the Supercopa in Saudi Arabia, stating it will not bid for broadcast rights as this would be “incompatible” with its constitutional principles.

RTVE, which operates the flagship TVE channels, cited human rights concerns as a factor in its decision, in particular the rights of women in Saudi Arabia. The broadcaster said: “These humanitarian reasons make RTVE’s participation in this sporting event incompatible with its constitutional principles and with its repeated commitment to the promotion of women’s sport.”

In his letter, reported by Spanish newspaper Marca, Rubiales wrote: “The decision is a criticism of other entities and public companies, which have contracts much more important than that of this Federation with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

“From the Federation we understand that RTVE is free to offer or not for sporting events that are going to be held in the future. But what we cannot understand is that in the period of submission of offers in a tender mandatory by law, RTVE makes public not only that it is not bidding, but also based on essentially political reasons that have nothing to do with a strictly commercial or economic issues…this positioning during the period of submission of offers for national and international markets produces an obvious distortion.”

Following on from RTVE’s announcement, agency and production group Mediapro, along with commercial broadcasters Atresmedia and Mediaset, have also stated they will not bid for the rights. Rubiales added: “Some other companies have already manifested themselves, undoubtedly dragged on by their [RTVE’s] irresponsible performance.”

Earlier this month, RFEF announced a lucrative three-year hosting deal with the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, estimated to be worth €120m ($132m) over the three seasons from 2019-20 to 2021-22. Real Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Atlético Madrid will take part in the revamped event, which will reportedly take place from January 8-12 at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah.

The Supercopa has traditionally been played as a two-legged affair in August and has been broadcast by TVE. The CNMC, Spain’s competition watchdog, has claimed that the RFEF’s domestic and international Supercopa invitations to tender violate the 2015 Royal Decree which governs the sale of broadcast rights in Spain.

Nevertheless, the RFEF this month issued the tender documents for the domestic and international rights sales processes. The RFEF has issued bid deadlines of November 28 for domestic and international broadcast rights to the Supercopa. Broadcast rights on offer cover the 2019-20 to 2021-22 period, matching the contract term in place with Saudi authorities.

Rubiales added: “The RFEF requires not only immediate public rectification…but we urge RTVE to modify its position regarding participation in the tender called. If there is no change in attitude that we request, the RFEF will exercise as many legal actions as are necessary to compensate for the damages caused and that are caused in the future as a result of your illegitimate action, contrary to market laws.”