Football: Spanish clubs decide not to strike over TV rights

BARCELONA (REUTERS) - Spain's 42 professional soccer clubs have rowed back from a threat to go on strike and will give the government more time to push through a law mandating collective bargaining for TV rights.

Club officials meeting in Barcelona at a professional soccer league (LFP) extraordinary general assembly decided to give the government 10-12 days more leeway to make progress on the law, LFP president Javier Tebas told reporters.

"There needs to be a (law) that regulates the sale of television rights," Tebas said. "Without it, the reality is that Spanish football will drop to fifth or sixth in the European ranking," he warned.

Many clubs in La Liga, including champions Atletico Madrid, Espanyol, Valencia and Sevilla, are hopeful a collective deal would enable them to demand more cash from broadcasters which could then be shared out more equitably.

La Liga is the only top European league in which clubs negotiate their own TV contracts and Spanish teams are under pressure to boost revenue after the English Premier League last month agreed a new collective TV rights deal for 2016-19 worth about US$7.5 billion.

Real Madrid, the world's wealthiest club by income, and Barcelona, the fourth richest, together take about half of the annual La Liga TV money of about 650 million euros - one reason they usually finish far ahead of their domestic rivals.

According to Esteve Calzada, CEO of Barcelona-based consulting firm Prime Time Sport, the ratio in England between the team that makes the most TV money and the one that makes the least is about 1.5:1 while in La Liga it is 10:1.

Club officials and the LFP have accused the government of dragging its feet in pushing through a new sports law that would include mandated collective bargaining.

"We are working on it, it's what the sector wants," Miguel Cardenal, president of the government sports council (CSD), was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

"It's a complex regulation," he added. "In addition, there are a lot of interested parties who want to have their say. We have not put the issue on ice and we are working on it."

The LFP, the Spanish soccer federation (RFEF) and the CSD are due to meet on Thursday to discuss the TV rights issue, local media reported.