Football: Spanish league to block football federation's plans to suspend competition

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's professional league (LFP) has begun legal action to block a decision by the football federation (RFEF) to indefinitely suspend competition from May 16 over a spat with the government on a new law on collective bargaining for TV rights.

The law, which is strongly supported by the LFP, was signed off in cabinet last week and aims to create a more level playing field for clubs in Spain's top two divisions by sharing out cash more equitably. However, both the RFEF, and its influential president Angel Maria Villar, and the players' union (AFE) have come out against the legislation and the two organisations have backed halting competition across all Spanish soccer.

The federation, which has been bitterly complaining in recent months of what it sees as government interference, believes the law will rob it of some powers and is also unhappy at what it says are government plans to use of money from soccer to fund other sports.

The final two matchdays in La Liga would both be affected as well as the King's Cup final between Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao at the end of the month.

In a statement late on Wednesday, the LFP said the RFEF's decision was legally "invalid" and that it had initiated "the appropriate action with the pertinent administrative and legal bodies" to overturn it.

Spanish law gave the LFP the right to organise professional competition and set the calendar for matches, the league argued, and called for those involved in voting for a suspension to be subjected to disciplinary measures.

"The LFP wishes to reiterate the importance of the royal decree approved by the Spanish government and emphasise its importance as an historic milestone for Spanish soccer," the LFP said.

After a board meeting on Wednesday, the RFEF accused the government of a "lack of respect" and complained it had not been consulted properly on the TV law.

The new regulations replace the current system under which rights are sold by individual clubs and could lead to a sharp price increase for broadcasters once it takes effect from the 2016-17 season. The status quo heavily favours Real Madrid, the world's wealthiest club by income, and rivals Barcelona and, while the new set-up will still favour the biggest and most successful clubs, it will do so to a slightly lesser extent.

Poorer teams, especially those with big outstanding tax bills, have for years called for rights to be pooled to help them make ends meet.

The LFP called an extraordinary general assembly of the 42 professional clubs in the top two divisions for Monday.