The Spanish league have delayed putting out to tender their international television rights amid uncertainty over what the Catalonia crisis could mean for Barcelona, La Liga president Javier Tebas said on Tuesday.
It has been a tumultuous few weeks in Catalonia following an independence referendum on October 1 that was deemed illegal by the Spanish government and was marred by violence. It is unclear what would happen to Barcelona and other Catalan clubs if the northeastern region of Spain did declare independence, and so the league's governing body have decided to delay opening up the bidding for television rights by two weeks.
'We have had to delay the tender process that we often do around these dates in order to wait and see what happens in Spain,' Tebas said at the World Football Summit in Madrid. This is a problem that could greatly affect the value of our competitions.' The tendering process concerns the rights to broadcast La Liga matches in Europe and various Asian countries such as India and Singapore, Tebas said.
La Liga has raised the total income for domestic and international broadcast rights for the period from 2016 to 2019 to a reported 1.6 billion euros ($1.9 billion) a season. But the value of those rights would drop significantly without the showpiece Clasicos between Barcelona and Real Madrid. 'You could think that Barca is 50 percent of the competition, but it is not like that. I calculate it would be around 20 to 25 percent,' added Tebas.
Barcelona are one of the biggest clubs in the world and were founding members of the Spanish league in 1928 but their status as a La Liga side could come under threat if Catalonia were to become an independent state. Tebas, an outspoken campaigner against the separatist movement, has repeatedly threatened Spanish legislation wouldn't allow Catalan clubs to continue in La Liga post-independence.
Jose María Gay de Liebana, professor of economics at Barcelona University, told AFP Barca's departure would see a 'minimum of 200 million euros' wiped instantly off La Liga's TV income. And the consequences for Barcelona could be even more severe.
The five-time European and 24-time Spanish champions announced last month they expect to make a record 897 million euros this season, nearly a quarter of which comes from La Liga TV deals.
'They wouldn't be able to have world-leading figures,' added Gay de Liebana, of a squad currently boasting the likes of five-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi. 'They would become a medium-sized club.'
Barcelona have backed Catalans' 'right to decide' in a referendum of independence, but stopped short of supporting separation from Spain. And the club have stressed their desire to remain in La Liga. 'I think that La Liga and Barca must continue together,' said club general director Oscar Grau last week.