Spanish Soccer Clubs Risk Income Hit After Super League Fiasco
(Bloomberg) -- The main buyer of Spanish soccer broadcast rights is demanding lower prices, putting further pressure on a national league that’s facing the blowback from a failed effort to form a breakaway European competition.
“In the past auction, we managed to have a deflationary outcome -- it would be great to do it again,” Telefonica SA’s Chief Financial Officer Laura Abasolo said in an interview with Bloomberg TV on Thursday. Soccer is important to Telefonica, she said, “but we have many other differentiation levers.”
Spanish clubs are grappling with a double-blow from the pandemic hit to matchday ticket income and the fiasco of the failed European Super League project that was proposed by Spain’s two richest teams, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.
The plan died when most of the other European clubs involved in the project pulled out, but the two Spanish giants are still demanding a replacement for the current Champions League competition that would generate more revenue and improve their stretched finances. Barcelona has the biggest debt load in world soccer.
The clubs badly need Telefonica’s money as the phone company’s main traditional competitor for broadcast rights, Mediapro, is struggling financially and had to walk away from the French league after failing to make the necessary payments.
The head of LaLiga, Javier Tebas, said this week the next auction of Spanish broadcast rights is likely to be held in September -- two months later than planned. The league has said it may split the Spanish domestic rights into different types of packages in an attempt to draw a wider range of bidders.
Under Spanish competition rules, Telefonica must offer its competitors the chance to acquire wholesale access to soccer rights, under prices set by the competition watchdog. Currently, Orange SA, the second-biggest phone company in Spain, also holds the rights but the other national network operators -- Vodafone Group Plc and Masmovil Ibercom SA -- do not.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.