Spanish government approves law governing sale of TV rights

MADRID -- A new Spanish law governing the sale of television rights to broadcast football games and the distribution of the income was approved by the government on Thursday.

The law will regulate the rights to transmit first- and second-division games as well as the Copa del Rey and Supercup competitions, said Education, Culture and Sports Minister Jose Ignacio Wert.

The legislation will come into effect in 2016 and replace the current arrangements, he added.

Currently, individual clubs negotiate their own TV contracts in what is known as the "rights of arena" agreement, Wert said.

The law aims to bring Spanish soccer in line with how England's and Italy's football leagues are marketed, and will correct existing "imbalances" in earnings that allow top clubs to claim a disproportionate amount of the TV income, leaving lesser clubs struggling for money.

Most of Spain's 42 professional clubs were pressing governing bodies to negotiate a collective rights deal similar to that employed by the Premier League, which in February struck a deal for 2016-19 worth about £5 billion.

Once the new arrangement comes into place the total amount each club earns will depend on a ratio based on the team's results last season, results over the previous five seasons, and the 'social weight' of the club.

"The ratio between the club who earned most and least was at 1:7," Wert said. "It will pass to 1:4.5 and we want to reach an ideal which is 1:3.5, when the revenues get to the 1.5 billion euros desired."

Wert said the Spanish leagues obtained "somewhat less than €800 million" for the 2013-14 season from the worldwide sales of its audiovisual rights.

Spain's two biggest clubs, Real Madrid and Barcelona, were able to reach lucrative TV deals that enabled them to consistently outbid rival clubs for players.

Sport ministry spokesman Miguel Cardenal, who heads Spain's sports council, said the changes allow Spanish football to "adapt to modern times."

"You just have to see that last year the club that came last in the Premier League earned more than Atletico Madrid," which won the Spanish league, Cardenal said.

The new legislation must still be approved by parliament before coming into effect as a law, but it is unlikely to meet much opposition as the ruling Popular Party of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy enjoys a majority in both chambers.