La Liga has won the latest battle after 37 of the league’s 42 clubs approved a €2bn partnership with the private equity fund CVC Capital Partners, but the war at the heart of Spanish football has deepened with Real Madrid, Barcelona and Athletic Club set to take legal action in an attempt to overturn the decision.
The deal with CVC was ratified at La Liga’s general assembly on Friday after a week of tension and accusations involving the three clubs, two of whom cling to the breakaway super league project, and the Spanish league’s president, Javier Tebas.
According to the terms of the deal, announced in August, CVC will invest €1.994bn in Spanish football in return for an 8.2% share in a company that will be set up to manage the league’s television rights for the next 50 years – although CVC has admitted it is likely to sell within a decade.
The deal was due to be worth €2.7bn but those clubs who did not want to participate were given the chance to opt out. Madrid, Barcelona and Athletic expressed opposition in the summer, with Barcelona’s president, Joan Laporta, turning his back despite having been presented with it as a solution to be able to re-sign Lionel Messi. Clubs will be able to access the first €400m instalment in the next few weeks, with 70% allowed to be spent on infrastructure, 15% on servicing debt and 15% on player signings.
A two-thirds majority was needed to see it through. There was one abstention and four clubs voted against, the second division debutants Ibiza being the fourth. Madrid, Barcelona, and Athletic had been supported in their opposition by the Spanish Football Federation, which has been in a longstanding confrontation with La Liga. Those clubs had appealed for the government’s sports council to intervene and vowed to take all legal action necessary to prevent the deal.
Madrid, Barcelona and Athletic had accused the CVC deal of being “ruinous” for Spanish football, saying it amounted to “mortgaging” the clubs’ future. The three dismissed the claim that CVC would be an active partner in the new company helping La Liga to develop strategies, insisting that the fund was solely “investors”. This week the trio presented an alternative source of funding for the league’s clubs, claiming that the terms were 15 times more economical.
That sparked a back and forth of increasingly incendiary open letters. Tebas dismissed the offer to act on “behalf” of all clubs as cynicism, coming so close as it had to the vote. He said the proposal was unviable and noted that the investors behind it were the same financial institutions that had been super league backers. He sarcastically referred to Madrid’s president Florentino Pérez and his super league partners as the “saviours” of football. “The only intention is to derail a project that puts their own individual goals at risk, even if it means destroying the collective and competitive future of the clubs,” he wrote in an open letter.