Spanish soccer avoids stoppage after tweak to sports bill

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The Spanish soccer league seems to have avoided the possibility of a stoppage of play after La Liga president Javier Tebas said Thursday that he was content with changes to a new sports law making its way through Spain’s parliament.

Among the changes that were made to the proposed bill was the elimination of language that Tebas said would have put in danger the league’s ability to continue selling the television rights of the competition. That language would have also, Tebas said, endangered the legality of the league’s deal with private equity firm CVC worth some 1.9 billion euros ($1.9 billion).

“If the proposed bill had ended up becoming law as it had been written, it would have created a lot of legal insecurity, and those who are against the CVC deal would have achieved a clear path (to challenge it),” Tebas said.

Real Madrid, Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao were the only first-division clubs to turn down the CVC deal, and they have tried to nix the deal in court. Madrid and Barcelona are also in a dispute with the Spanish league and UEFA over their desire to create a breakaway Super League to challenge the Champions League.

Spanish sports media had been rife with reports that the large majority of Spanish league clubs, along with the backing of Tebas, were in favor of stopping play at some point if the proposed bill went forward.

Sevilla president Pepe Castro, without explicitly mentioning a stoppage, had said that “the new law would be against our interest and we won’t accept that. The important thing is to talk, but if we have to take action, we will do so.”

But Tebas said he was only “uncomfortably satisfied” with the changes to the proposed bill because it does not take firmer action to limit the possibility of league players also participating in competitions not overseen by the Spanish federation, UEFA or FIFA. It the new law were to include such language it would give the league and the Spanish federation a powerful tool to stop players from playing in a hypothetical Super League.

“This indirectly benefits the strategy of the Super League … so I am surprised since the Spanish government and opposition had said they were against it,” Tebas said. “But the league, the federation and the clubs have many mechanisms to fight against the Super League. We have our statuary, parliamentary and even legal means that will allow us to fight alongside other European league and institutions like UEFA.”

Tebas said that he suspects the influence of Madrid president Florentino Pérez, who still firmly defends the Super League deal that collapsed shortly after he led its presentation in April 2021, as being behind the lack of mechanisms against the Super League in the bill.

“Florentino never loses,” the league boss said.

The bill needs to go through both houses of Spain’s parliament, where it can undergo further amendments, before becoming law.

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Joseph Wilson, The Associated Press