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La Liga will kick off as planned

La Liga will kick off this weekend as planned after an extraordinary assembly of all 40 Spanish first and second tier clubs ended amicably in Madrid.

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The talks were called after 13 rebel clubs threatened to delay the season's start in a row over the division of TV revenues and unusual kick-off times - but all differences have been put aside for the moment.

Jose Luis Astiazaran, the president of the Liga Futbol Profesional (LFP), told reporters important issues had been discussed but did not provide any definitive information.

"We spent considerable time talking about important topics," Astiazaran said. "We put on the table the questions which we had in our hands. We discussed La Liga itself, its governance and television coverage. There will be football this weekend at the hours set out."

The rebel clubs are: Atletico Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Betis, Celta, Espanyol, Getafe, Granada, Mallorca, Osasuna, Rayo Vallecano, Real Sociedad, Sevilla and Real Zaragoza.

They are unhappy with the current situation, which sees Real Madrid and Barcelona share about half the annual €600 million TV revenue between them.

Atletico president Enrique Cerezo said the meeting had been positive, but warned that the battle was far from over. "We are 13 teams united," he added. "We must keep moving forward to achieve our objectives.

"We intend to win the battle at the end for the good of our own interests and those of La Liga."

Spain's recently appointed secretary of state for sport, Miguel Cardenal, attended the meeting, as did Madrid president Florentino Perez and Barcelona counterpart Sandro Rosell, but none of them made any statement to reporters as they departed at the end of the talks.

The new La Liga season begins on Saturday when Celta Vigo host Malaga at 7pm local time. More controversially, Mallorca v Espanyol is set for 11pm on the same evening, with Levante v Atletico at 11pm on Sunday and Zaragoza v Valladolid at the same time on Monday.

Many observers in Spain believe those timings are due to the LFP favouring TV partner Mediapro in its commercial battle with Canal Plus. Some clubs, unhappy about money owed by Mediapro, have switched allegiance to the rival operator.

Speaking in Barcelona while the LFP meeting was being held, Espanyol coach Mauricio Pochettino said his club was being used as a pawn by forces outside its control.

"To play at 11pm is not advisable - it goes against all that we have put forward," he said. "That is an hour more for sleeping than watching football, it is time to rest. But there are opposing interests which have caused this type of situation to happen. I like playing at 5pm, and even better on a Sunday."


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