SOCCER

Why ‘La Roja’ fans won’t be watching world champion’s next match

Friday’s Belarus-Spain qualifier fails to seduce Spanish broadcasters who say the price is too high

The Spanish national soccer team travels to Minsk this week for a World Cup 2014 qualifier against Belarus, but as things stand nobody in Spain will be able to watch Friday’s game: three days before the Group I clash, no Spanish television broadcaster had reached an agreement to pay the 1.5 million euros for the broadcast rights to the match.

According to sports daily AS, the company that owns the rights to La Roja’s World Cup qualifying matches, Sportfive, originally slapped a three-million-euro price tag on the broadcast privileges for each individual game featuring the current world and European champion. In the face of scant interest from Spain’s television stations, the German company reduced its asking price by half for the match in Minsk, but this has still not tempted any channel to snap up the rights to the entire qualifying campaign. The deadline for purchasing the rights to the Belarus game expires on Wednesday, when Spanish stations release their programming schedules for Friday.

Telecinco stepped into the breach at the 11th hour to broadcast Spain’s opening qualifier against Georgia, but the channel confirmed to EL PAÍS that it had no plans to send a camera crew to Minsk on this occasion.

Home matches

Public broadcaster TVE, which last Friday announced it is considering whether to cease broadcasting Spain matches altogether, will show the rather more attractive clash against France next Tuesday at Atlético Madrid’s Vicente Calderón stadium. TVE has a running contract with Santa Mónica, which manages the rights to Spain games organized by the Royal Spanish Football Federation on Spanish soil, but considers that 43 million euros a year [for home matches] is a ridiculous fee in the current economic climate in which broadcasters are desperately trying to cut running costs. “If things go on like this, the [Belarus] game will not be shown” said Santa Mónica, “unless at the last minute the match is offered at a much-reduced price.”

Spain sits second in Group I after its first match, a low-key 1-0 win over Georgia. France tops the group after beating Finland and Belarus and will exert a stranglehold over qualification if it beats Spain next Tuesday. The top team in each group qualifies directly for the World Cup in Brazil, with second-placed teams facing a playoff.

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