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Spain TV crisis rumbles on

TV viewers in Spain look set to miss out on seeing their country's World Cup qualifier in Belarus on Friday evening after talks between potential broadcasters and the rights holders broke down again on Thursday night.

International sports marketing agency Sportfive, who bought the rights from the Belarussian FA, had originally asked €3 million for the Spanish market, and although their asking price has since slipped to €800k, there were still no takers with just hours to go until kick-off at 2000 BST (2100 GMT) Friday evening.

A Spanish FA (RFEF) spokesperson told Madrid-based newspaper AS on Friday morning that he was still hopeful of a solution, but that the TV stations would not be held to ransom as "advertisers cannot pay the amounts they used to pay" given the current financial crisis sweeping Spain.

Other complicating factors are the budget cuts recently announced at Spanish national broadcaster TVE, the timing of the game and this being a bank-holiday weekend in Spain so many potential viewers are not at home.

At his pre-game press conference on Thursday, Spanish coach Vicente Del Bosque said he was very disappointed at the situation.

"Football is a very attractive spectacle, and it concerns me that the people in Spain will not be able to see and follow their national team," Del Bosque said. "That would leave a bad taste."

Spain's home qualifier against France on Tuesday will be shown live by TVE in Spain. Their last qualifier - in Georgia in August - was broadcast by private station Telecinco, which is owned by Italian giant Mediaset (an organisation which is controlled by former Italian prime-minister and current AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi).

Sportfive have sold the rights to broadcasters in other territories and it will be televised in Belarus (Belarus 2), England (Sky Sports), Portugal (Sport T), France (Canal+), Italy (Mediaset Premium) and Saudi Arabia (Al Jazeera).

An RFEF senior executive told AS that the fiasco would force FIFA to speed up its plans to centralise the sale of TV rights for qualifiers in future.

"It is normal that at some point a brake is put on the 'modus operandi' of these intermediaries who buy the rights from the smaller federations hoping that they draw a big opponent to sell the game for a huge price," he said. "FIFA will take into account what is happening with Spain in Belarus and will accelerate the new model, which will move to buying bundles of games without intermediaries, directly, as UEFA do with the Champions League."


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