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Spanish clubs to press ahead with TV cash campaign

Source: Reuters - Fri 9th Sep 2011

A group of 12 Spanish top-flight clubs have vowed to press ahead with their campaign to stop Real Madrid and Barcelona taking such a big chunk of audiovisual rights revenue after a first meeting on Thursday.

Officials from Athletic Bilbao, Atletico Madrid, Real Betis, Espanyol, Granada, Malaga, Osasuna, Racing Santander, Valencia, Villarreal and Real Zaragoza gathered at Sevilla's Sanchez Pizjuan stadium want the sale of the rights to La Liga to be centralised and income shared as in rival European competitions.

Sevilla president and host Jose Maria del Nido, one of the most outspoken critics of the current system under which Real and Barca take about half the annual pot of around 600 million euros, said the campaign was "irreversible".

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The sale of TV rights should be overseen by Spain's professional league (LFP), which groups the 42 clubs in the top two divisions, and Real and Barca would be invited to any future meetings to try to find a solution, he told a news conference.

"None of the clubs present intend not to respect the contracts we have signed with the television broadcasters," Del Nido said.

"This does not mean that we all will not work towards having a centralised sale (of TV rights) together with the body that must conduct it, which is our Professional Football League.

"We reached the conclusion that either we continue down this path to avoid a lack of competition or football will have few options to solve the problem."

Real and Barca have declined to comment on the issue.

The difference in class and spending power between the two heavyweights - the world's richest clubs by revenue - and their domestic rivals was underlined by emphatic wins in their opening league games of the season.

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Spanish and European champions Barca crushed Villarreal, who are competing in this season's Champions League, 5-0 at the Nou Camp while Real demolished Real Zaragoza 6-0.

The results prompted the president of Villarreal to accuse the big two of killing Spanish soccer, while Del Nido said La Liga was "a load of rubbish" as only two teams had a realistic chance of winning the title.

Spain has yet to adopt the system of collective bargaining and income sharing used in other competitions like the English Premier League and Real and Barca get a far bigger share of TV money than rivals in other major European leagues.

The pair brokered an agreement late last year with 11 other top-flight sides that would introduce limited revenue sharing from 2015.

However, analysts have said the deal, which Sevilla, Villarreal, Bilbao and several others refused to sign up to, was likely to cement the big two's advantage while helping the other clubs only marginally.

Officials from Real Sociedad, Getafe, Rayo Vallecano, Sporting Gijon, Real Mallorca and Levante did not attend Thursday's meeting, although Sevilla said in a statement on their website (www.sevillafc.com) that the first four of those were sympathetic to the group's aims.

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