Wherever possible, I added fact checks and background wherever I can to help understand the context better.
The set-up: There were about 4-5 people asking questions including the host José Antonio Alcala. Tomás Guasch, Enrique Ortego and Roberto Palomar of Marca were also present.
You ma listen to the entire interview in Spanish here: Link to the Audio
Fernando fielded various questions from a range of issues.
- The TV money distribution
- Kick-off times of the league and how they aren’t announced early enough or in a proper way
- The radio fee issue
- Ley concursal
- The widening gap
He throws some light on certain things like the politics within the teams in the league.
Caveat: While I can understand and speak Spanish very well, it was really difficult to pin down everything and never expected that 30 minutes of an interview could yield 10 pages work of text.
Q1. Are you in agreement with what Jaime Roures said yesterday?
- I agree with him on a few, well just one, the argument that airing one La Liga game on free television (as opposed to cable) weekly is not a good from revenue perspective.
- But about the rest, I don’t agree with him at all. For example: Roures’ argument that the differences between the teams are not due to the TV money but other things like sponsorship etc. is not valid. It starts with the TV money and then goes to the rest. The top two have been receiving hugely disparate sums for a longtime. This helped them signed the best players which helps them get bigger sponsors and the best stadiums etc.,
Background: Jaime Roures is the head of MediaPro the company that owns the TV and Radio broadcasting rights for all La Liga games. They produce the original TV pictures. He is controversial and he said that TV rights distribution is fine as it is and TV rights can’t be blamed for the inequality in the league. He also made some factually incorrect statements. E.g.: All stadia in Week#2 of La Liga were full, while in fact the attendances at all stadia were way off being packed houses.
Q2. Do you think that the main reason for the huge disparity between the Big Two and the rest is the TV rights?
- It is the start. If you give me 150mil euros/year for 5 years I will build a great team with the best players available and get the best sponsorship. [For the shirts, shorts, front, back, right & left etc. -]. But you have to give me the same money for 5 years, like the Big Two have received.
- You are missing the big picture if you just state that they have an annual budget upwards of 450million euros. You have to ask how they reached this point. What was the budget of Real Madrid 10 years ago? –
Fact-check: (based on Swiss Ramble’s excellent and exhaustive post on Real Madrid’s finances their outlay was 229mil in 2005, about half of what it is now and in 2000/01 RM 138 million euros and Barça 110 million euros)
Q3. How much will you earn this season on TV revenue? (Madrid & Barça earn 140mil)
- About 30m + up to 3mil in incentive for reaching the Champions League group stages. This after a year of not getting a euro for all our 2nda division games of Villarreal B.
Q4. Do you think La Liga is shite as Sevilla president Del Nido calls it?
- No. La Liga is not competitive at the moment and the top of the league is not as competitive as it should be in a top half and it is not good for the teams who aspire to be playing European competitions.
- The bottom half is competitive. But at the top it might be good for the league as a whole if Madrid and Barcelona were losing (or were in a position to lose) 5-6 games a season. This would mean the teams below them could aspire to be in the top positions at some point.
Q5. What do u think of the 5-0 (Barça – Villarreal) and 0-6(Zaragoza – Real Madrid)? I think that these sorts of score lines will repeat a lot this season.
- We played very badly. Probably our worst game ever in Camp Nou. We have got some good results here in the past against Barcelona
- That said it is very hard to beat this Barcelona even playing very well. Especially when we have to sell our best player to balance the budget and pay the salaries and they have signed two very talented players (Cesc & Alexis) for about 70-80mil.
Fact-Check: according to @Optajoe, Villarreal has won 8 teams against Barça in the last 10 years, more than any other team.
Q6. RM has spent about 55mil to sign 5 players and likely spend another 45mil for Neymar in January. Barça signed Cesc & Alexis for about 70-80mil. In contrast Villarreal lost Cazorla; Atlético lost Kun, Forlán; Valencia lost Mata. The gap is getting bigger every year.
- Yes. If you want to respect all financial obligations and compete at the same level with the big two, it is a problem.
- Then there is the other big problem of Spanish football: The Ley Concursal (Administration/Bankruptcy laws). There are teams under administration who exploit the law to avoid paying the money they owe but keep signing new players.
- We have a problem at the top and a different problem at the bottom. I feel we (Villarreal) in the middle with a few others are defenseless.
- The current TV revenue distribution deal signed between RM and G30 has put us in a fix.
- But Villarreal will persist. I will continue my fight. We are getting ready but working hard to improve our cantera (farm system) which will continue to yield us results in the next 3-4 years.
- The TV deal renovation is due in 3-4 years and Villarreal negotiate it much differently this time around.
Background: G-30 is a group comprised of 30 odd clubs (originally 30) from Primera and the Segunda Divisions represented by an attorney Javier Tebas. This group votes together on all the league resolutions. And according to Roig Real Madrid and Barça have made written deal with the G-30. Roig goes on to add later on that while the presidents of these clubs are sympathetic to the efforts and arguments of clubs like Villarreal and Sevilla in private, they can’t do much in terms of helping push through any resolutions.
Q7. Where is the solution to this? The rebels Sevilla, Villarreal, Espanyol, Real Sociedad and Athletic, what is your plan?
- We need to talk. Dialogue is the only we can find a solution for this. The same thing I said about the kick-off times.
[Roig goes off on a tangent about kick-off times. Very interesting & revealing stuff]
- I told the president of LFP in one of the league conference that I don’t want know when my team is playing through newspapers as it happened to me with the Monday game against Barcelona.
- It is not right that presidents get to know when their team plays through papers.
- I have complained about this a few times and their response was “Fernando, we know but you don’t have to repeat it multiple times”.
- I have told them if there are changes in time make sure we don’t end up knowing through Marca. Well they have respected my request; I came to know of the Monday kick-off from AS .
Background: AS and Marca are the leading sports dailies of Madrid)
- And then they would claim – you just wanted to know if your A & B teams aren’t playing at the same time.
- But they never tell us in advance when the kick-off is. Or why a game kicks off at Noon or at 4pm. Is there more money playing at Noon or 4pm? No there isn’t.
- The LFP has never discussed the new kick-off times. I came to know that there will be a game at Noon and 4pm on Sunday through the newspaper. This is inadmissible. I have raised this at the league meetings many times.
Q8. So, what do you think of La Liga?
In Italian they call it a casino.
Q9. Do you think La Liga is a casino?
No, here we call it something different. I think it is a joke in its current form.
Q10. You are talking as if you don’t have any ownership in La Liga?
- No, on the contrary, I have requested the president of LFP to have a league meeting to discuss both the new kick-off times and (the new fee on radios for broadcasting games from the stadia). I will ask him again to hold a league wide conference.
- The problem is you talk to the clubs and the LFP president. And then on the night before the conference some of them would have met and made a deal. There are those that dominate the league (Madrid and Barça) and then there are those that manipulate (the G30).
Q11. By night meetings are you referring to the executive committee meeting
- No I am referring to the G30. They have 30-35 votes in their hands. People listen to your argument and acknowledge the issue but when it comes to voting it is a different thing.
- I told José Luís Astiazarán (LFP president) a few weeks ago that since there is no point in talking at the league meetings and conferences, I will go public. I don’t like to come to radios and talk about this issue because problems are solved by discussing them within the LFP. But LFP isn’t listening at all.
Q12. Are you asking LFP president Astiazarán to step down?
- Yeah but it doesn’t make a difference if he resigns or not. (Pressed further) Yes, LFP is not listening at all. I wanted to have a meeting about the new kick-off times. Nobody told me about the new kick-off times. The LFP didn’t discuss this. These sort of changes need to be discussed before implementing them. Why are we playing at Noon? Nobody discussed.
Q13. I believe the noon kick-off is for Chinese and Asian markets
- No, Noon CET is not a good time for football on TV in China. I was there in China earlier this year and they told me that 6pm in the evening is not a good slot for watching football. The best time for China is 3-4pm CET.
- I think 4pm game might be good for China. But Noon game isn’t. We should have left that slot exclusively for the lower divisions like 2nda B.
- But the thing is these sort of things need to be discussed to come up with the best solution. LFP need to do their duty. Otherwise what is the point of a League?
Q14. Do you think Florentino and Rossell are informed in advance about the new kick-off times?
- Yes, of course. And the G30 also knows this in advance. It is a disgrace. 25-30 clubs meet in a restaurant the night before the league meetings to talk about the topics to be discussed. Clubs like us come to the conference with an idea to talk and discuss about the issues, but by then there is an agreement already and no room for a discussion anymore.
Q15. What you are saying is something very embarrassing and we call ourselves as the “Best league in the world”
- I am being honest and stating the truth and what is the current reality. If there aren’t meetings on the night before the league meetings I want the clubs (of G30) to come out and deny my statements. For example the topic of radios paying a fee (canon) I was the only president who asked for a vote. It is lamentable.
- I am the one repeatedly asking them to give us information of kick-off times for our games in advance but I end up finding them only through newspapers. They keep telling me that I only wanted to know if the A & B team games don’t clash but I told José Luís, I’m not stupid.
Q16. Can you not go to the meeting of G30 that you mentioned earlier?
- Firstly, I’m not invited. Once I forced my way into it but it is very uncomfortable. To be in a place where you aren’t invited, your voice won’t be heard where they don’t tell you when or where the meeting is very difficult.
Q17. Villarreal has a TV contract till 2014.What will you do after that? Will you not sign if they don’t offer you more money?
- Yes, they need to pay what Villarreal deserves or I will not sign. Nobody in Spain or China will to see any game involving Villarreal.
Q18. So you are saying if they don’t pay you what you think is the right amount, you will not sell the rights for games involving Villarreal?
- Instead of taking a small sum of money I would rather produce the signal and televise it only at my home. If anyone wants to see our games, the can connect to my home.
**laughs all around**
Q18. How much TV money do you want for Villarreal?
- I want Villarreal to be paid based on their performance on the pitch. It is not the same Villarreal finishing 10th or 2nd or 4th.
- The distribution should be based on certain parameters, most importantly based on the performance of the team in the last year and the performance in the last 5 or 10 years. At least 30+ percent of the total should be divided based on that.
- This implies that based on how well you perform you get more money to invest
Q19. So you don’t want a system like in the English Premier League?
- No, because in EPL there is no great difference between the TV earnings of the teams at the top to those at the bottom of the table. The teams at the bottom are not spending (or investing in the club) nearly as much as the teams at the top that play in Europe.
- I think the bottom teams of EPL should be getting lesser than what they are getting today and the top teams should get more. It is way too evenly distributed. It has to be based on a hierarchy of performances of the teams. We have studied various formulas and solutions.
- For example the Copa Del Rey should earmark the 16mil generated to all the teams that take part in it. teams from 2nd B, 2nd should who get awards like 100k 300k 600k depending on how far they reach. And there should also be award amounts agreed upon for the later rounds too.
- I don’t want to talk too much in detail about the exact numbers here but we have studied these and we have them.
Background: Ruben Uria @Rubenuria has published a comparison of TV rights distribution the top leagues of Europe. I think Fernando Roig is proposing a combination of a few different formulas.
Q20. Villarreal plays Sevilla on Saturday at 1800 CET. Will Villarreal allow the radio guys into your stadium?
- My volition as a president yes.
- But as a club we have to look into the contracts we signed. In the contract we have ceded all our rights to MediaPro.
- We haven’t given much importance to the “audio” part of rights. We talked about audio-visual rights and we always thought they just meant television. We never thought the rights for radio were a part of it. According to the contract we signed all audio-visual rights of Villarreal games have been transferred to Media Pro.
- I believe that Media Pro needs to address this directly with the radios and telling them not to use the signals for free.
Q21. But tell will you allow us into El Madrigal on Saturday?
- To my volition, yes. But I have to check with the directives and the lawyers of the club and study the consequences of letting the radio personnel in.
- What I can’t afford letting happening is MedioPro refusing to pay us the monthly TV money for violation of the contract.
- MediaPro always paid the monthly installment of TV money on time. We don’t have any complaints about Media Pro on that front. This is very important for a club like Villarreal.
Q22. What do you think of this issue? Radios have been doing this for 85 years and now this fight for frankly very small amounts (about 15million in all)? Don’t you think the relationship between radios and football should be protected by the ministry of culture?There is 15mil in total. The idea is to ask 3mil from each of the five major radios. Of which 70% will go to Media Pro and 30% will go to La Liga.
- Nobody told me that La Liga will get 30% of this. It wasn’t discussed or told in the League meetings of 15-Aug. This wasn’t the resolution discussed in League meeting. I was against the fee as I mentioned earlier.
Q23. How much Villarreal get from his?
- About 80k-100k. Its peanuts.
- This is not the right way. There should be an agreement between LFP, the radios and Medio Pro.
- The radios should get better access to players and better facilities at the stadium. The players should spend more time (in the mixed zone) to give more sound bites to the radios.
- If all this help increase revenues of the radios, then it makes sense to ask the radios to pay up.
- But it needs to be done methodically.
- The way they are doing this is similar to the players strike. It is really bad that they got to the same agreement after the strike that they could have gotten to a week earlier. It is the same thing. We have to dialogue and discuss. And while the parties are talking the league should go on as usual. I don’t like the pressure tactics even at the level of my company I don’t like these tactics.
- Same in case of the radios. I think problem will be solved only through dialogue. First peace needs to be established between the radios and football so they can come together to discuss.
Q24. Do you think LFP president will resign?
- No I don’t think so, but I don’t think that it is a solution either.
- All the presidents need to speak out openly. Nobody votes for me but when I talk to them privately they agree with me posture. But they are bonded by certain agreements (G30 again) that they can’t get out of right now as they will be penalized. The clubs under this agreement are promised an increase from 12-13mil today to about 18-20mil three years from now. So until they are bonded salves to the contract and the group G30.
- The president of Valencia (Manuel Llorente) told me he would have love to come with us (Villarreal, Sevilla Espanyol, Athletic, Malaga etc.) but Valencia is under the contract. And are not sure what will happen if they violate
- We have to move to a better distribution of review. I am not an extremist to say I want cut what Madrid or Barcelona are making now. But for the rest us we need to reach a point where we will be paid a 3rd or 2.5X less than that of Madrid and Barça.
- And we can work our way slowly with the cantera and then see what happens. If we were able to keep Santi Cazorla and had the money to buy a player or two more, we would have been in a different situation than we are in right now.
- Since Villarreal is one of the clubs that always keeps their promises on paying people and doesn’t owe money to anyone, we had to sacrifice (sell Santi) to keep paying.
- We also expanded our capital with the next 3 years in mind to keep fighting and working hard, especially with the cantera.
Q25. It seems like in Spanish football, more money means more debt. We can’t take it anymore – (alluding to the argument that many clubs were poor at managing their resources) should there be a reestablishment of the league from scratch?
- Yes, I agree. I have repeated this many times.
- The game on free-to-air TV is not a good idea for Spanish football.
- The Ley concursal needs drastic reform.
- The quinielas (the result prediction lottery) should be self-managed by the league and LFP should get more money from it.
- All clubs need to resolve the debts with Social security and the Tax departments
- We need to build a league that is really strong.
- We need start paying everyone.
- Just like how the players have an insurance fund, there needs to be one covering the clubs, especially the ones under Ley concursal.
- It is right that a player who isn’t paid scores 2 goals against you and you lose.
- For playing in Europe should be contingent upon teams fulfilling their financial obligations, like it has happened here in recent years.
- There are a lot of things we need to improve and we have lot of ideas but in the LFP they talk about lawsuits, court cases and lawyers. It feels like we have more lawyers than football players.
Q26. What will you do if José Luís Astiazarán (LFP president) calls you to protest your criticism of him here tonight?
- Nobody is going to call me and protest. Because I have told him I am going public because nobody gives an ear for my concerns in LFP. Whatever I have told today, I have already discussed this within LFP. But they can’t care less.
- When I say that what the LFP is doing is wrong, they tell me that we are doing all wrong.
- They asked me in TV3 the other day as to who will win the league Madrid or Barca. I said one of them will win but Spanish football will lose.
- That Real Madrid and Barcelona will most of their games is not something new. But the fact that there isn’t a sensation that they might lose is the cause of worry.
- Sure they might lose the odd game accidentally but over the past few years neither of them has lost to the teams immediately below them. Villarreal hasn’t beaten Madrid or Barça in the recent years. Same with Atlético Madrid.
Q27. Finally, do you think there is a solution?
- Over the long-term, yes.
- There are a lot of problems but I am not giving up on my dream. I am not here to come 4th. I’d rather stay home than do all this work to come 4th. I aspire for big things.
- I am building my team, the financial structures, the cantera base so that 3 years from now when we will do a new TV contract we will do it differently and Villarreal will give a fight (for a more equitable distribution).
- And as for our bad showing at Camp Nou, I hope the players and the coaches take measures to improve and the real Villarreal is not the one what we saw in Barcelona.
Here is a link to the @LigaJusta page where the compare the two rival proposals for the new deal.