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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

La Liga to be suspended by Spanish FA over government interference

The Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has announced that all domestic football will be suspended as of May 16 in an argument over government interference in the league's television rights.

The dispute centres around a law passed last week which forced the RFEF to sell television rights for La Liga collectively. Currently, all clubs negotiate rights individually, a policy which hugely favours powers Barcelona and Real Madrid financially.

The government approved the law on April 30, though it still needs to be approved by parliament. Under the proposed law, the RFEF would receive 4.55 percent of all revenue, a figure it considers inadequate.

The federation said on Wednesday that the legislation "has not resolved any of the problems gravely affecting soccer." As a result, the federation has called an "indefinite strike" that will "suspend all competitions in all categories" from May 16.

The move would disrupt the final two weeks of the season and a tight title race between Barcelona and Real Madrid. The Copa del Rey final on May 30 between Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao will also be disrupted if the strike does not end. 

The federation said on its website after a board meeting on Wednesday: "Representatives from the referees' union and coaches as well as the federations in the sphere of autonomy, have told us they have no intention of participating in the competitions, which makes the dispute impossible to prevent.

"At the same time, and once more, we reiterate the offer of dialogue on behalf of the RFEF to the government of Spain."

Spain's Secretary of State for Sport called the strike "an insult to democracy."

"It is incomprehensible that the RFEF wants to stop football. It's based on ignorance," Miguel Cardenal said. "[RFEF president Angel Villar] believes the government has to pay attention to him. What he's doing is an insult to Spanish democracy and the rule of law.

"The egos of someone has been imposed on the responsibilities of his office. There are some clubs [who didn't attend the meeting at which the strike was discussed] because they knew what was happening.

"[The TV rights law] gives money where there wasn't any, to, for example, the women's game and the Segunda and Segunda B."

Before the decision, La Liga players had threatened to strike, in a move backed by Barcelona star Lionel Messi.

Lionel Messi had supported a strike over the new TV deal before the Spain federation suspended the season.

The Liga players union (AFE), unhappy at being left out of the negotiations as well as with their own lack of revenue in the deal, reportedly considered strike action as well.

No guarantee of support for players appears anywhere in the new legislation.

Asked at the news conference ahead of Barca's Champions League semifinal first leg at home to Bayern Munich about a potential strike action by the players, Messi said he was aware of the issue and supported the union's position.

"That is something which AFE have said to us, they came here for a meeting with us," he said. "The players are with them in what they say."

AS' reports on the possible strike points out that the Premier League's new broadcast deal diverts 1.5 percent of revenues to players, while the Liga arrangement gives them zero -- but does say that one percent of the total amount raised should go to athletes in other sports.

El Pais adds that AFE is also unhappy, with the tax authorities having recently targeted big-name players as part of a general crackdown in response to Spain's continuing economic woes.

All this comes after recent complaints by Villar of "excessive interventionism" when asked to account in detail how all money granted to the federation was spent.

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