Spanish women’s football dispute resumes as Mediapro denied access

The battle over rights to Spanish women’s club football has intensified, with the Mediapro agency stating it will take “all necessary legal action” after it was prevented from broadcasting yesterday’s (Sunday’s) Primera División de la Liga de Fútbol Femenino match between Madrid CFF and Real Betis Féminas.

The incident has further inflamed a dispute between, on the one hand, Mediapro and the ACFF, the Association of Women’s Football Clubs in the country; and on the other, the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF). Mediapro and the ACFF have maintained Madrid CFF, the home team for yesterday’s match, had voted in favour of the agency’s rights deal for the league, while the RFEF claims this is not the case.

In a statement, Mediapro yesterday criticised the RFEF’s “interference” in the matter, stating it is attempting to acquire rights already awarded and is threatening clubs with sanctions. The agency added, according to Spanish newspaper Diario AS: “With their attitude, those responsible (of the Madrid CFF) are breaking the agreements reached with Mediapro and with the Association of Women’s Football Clubs for the management of the audiovisual rights of the competition.”

In July, a Spanish court ruled that the country’s women’s football clubs are the owners of their individual broadcast rights, with the implication that a deal signed earlier this year by Mediapro for the Primera División de la Liga de Fútbol Femenino is lawful.

The RFEF had claimed ownership of the broadcast rights and sought to centralise those rights from the 2019-20 season amid its plans to launch a new league. The court’s decision aligned with recent guidance issued by Spain’s competition regulator, the CNMC, that the RFEF’s intention to centralise women’s football rights “did not find coverage in the precepts of the royal decree-law” that regulates the commercialisation of LaLiga rights.

Mediapro extended a rights deal for the Primera División de la Liga de Fútbol Femenino in March, covering the three seasons from 2019-20 to 2021-22. The agency, which has had rights to the league since 2013, struck the deal with the ACFF.

Mediapro yesterday slammed the RFEF’s role in the dispute, accusing the governing body of an “opportunistic attitude” when it comes to marketing women’s football. The statement continued: “Without having contributed especially to the development of women’s football, they now intend to monopolise it and make it their own without caring about destroying the image of seriousness and professionalism that it was reaching.

“To this end, the Federation does not hesitate to use funds that should be used for other purposes, or threaten to apply restrictive rules and sanctions against women’s clubs that it had not applied in these last six years.”

The ACFF has come out in support of Mediapro, stating it will “defend the fulfilment of the commitments acquired with Mediapro”.

The ACFF added: “This incident involves a serious breach of the commitments acquired by the Madrid CFF with Mediapro, the ACFF and its members. In this regard it is essential to remember that the Madrid CFF mandated in an irrevocable manner through a mandate to the Association, along with the others 11 clubs…the necessary steps for the joint marketing of their audiovisual rights.”

The RFEF last week presented a new rights proposal to the Primera División and the second-tier Segunda División Pro clubs. In the case of the 16 Primera División clubs, the joint sales proposal offered a guaranteed €500,000 ($551,000) per season to each of the teams.

Spanish newspaper Expansión reported that Barcelona, Athletic Bilbao, Sevilla and CD Tacón, the club that is set to become Real Madrid’s new women’s team from the 2020-21 season, gave their provisional approval to the proposal, with a further two clubs expected to follow suit.