Tensions resurface between CNMC and RFEF over Copa del Rey rights

Spanish competition regulator the Comisión Nacional de los Mercados y la Competencia (CNMC) has called on the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) to alter several aspects of its invitation to tender process for the 2019-22 Copa del Rey domestic broadcast rights cycle.

The CNMC published a report into the RFEF’s sale of Copa del Rey rights outlining several points the watchdog had observed.

While the CNMC acknowledged that the RFEF had incorporated previous recommendations on how the rights were sold, there were five key areas gleaned from the report where it has urged the federation to improve.

Those points include rights the RFEF is permitted to sell or limit the rights buyers can bid for in keeping with the May 2015 Royal Decree which governs sporting rights sales in Spain. The points also include minimum standards of broadcast production and providing greater clarity on issues the CNMC feels are insufficient, such as how production and rights acquisition prices are determined.

Upon launching the tender process, the RFEF specified that it would be responsible for producing all matches, although the successful bidder would bear the costs, which vary from as low as €12,000 ($13,170) per match for the lowest profile matches to as high as €170,000 for the final.

The RFEF began the rights auction for the 2019-22 cycle on August 30 and it is scheduled to close on September 30, with the successful bid to be announced in early October.

The inventory comprised exclusive live rights to up to 117 matches covering the main competition’s six qualifying rounds and the final for the seasons 2019-20 to 2021-22. The successful bidder must broadcast at least 65 matches each season. The semi-finals and final are required to be broadcast free-to-air and in HD quality.

Local media outlet, Palco23.com, reported in June that the RFEF has a media-rights revenue target of €33.8m for the Copa Del Rey in 2019-20, comprising a €3.8m allocation for the final. Public broadcaster TVE is thought to have paid significantly less than the latter allocation for its rights to the 2019 edition of the final.

Clashes between the CNMC and RFEF have been common place in recent years, with the watchdog criticising the sales process for the 2018 Copa del Rey final and receiving a complaint from Barcelona-based agency Mediapro over the award of the rights to the 2019 final.

The CNMC has also criticised the RFEF’s sale of Primera División de la Liga de Fútbol rights for an alleged failure to sell them in accordance with the May 2015 Royal Decree.