End of La Liga season on hold over Spanish football rights row

The Spanish football federation has become embroiled in a bitter row with the government which could see 30,000 matches suspended and leave the title battle between Real Madrid and Barcelona unresolved.

Yesterday, the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), which organises league fixtures, indefinitely suspended all matches as of May 16, which would include the Spanish cup final and the last two weeks of the Spanish premier league.

The decision followed the approval of a new law last week by the Spanish government which changes the way television rights to football matches are sold.

If the suspension goes ahead, some 600,000 players will be affected across 17 regional federations and all tiers of Spanish football, according to RFEF.

In the race for the Spanish title, Barcelona are currently ahead of Real Madrid by two points, with three games to go.

In its statement, RFEF accused the government of "a lack of respect" and said it had been ignored in the drafting of the new law.

The RFEF has been backed in its stance by the Spanish footballers' union (AFE), which represents the employment rights of professional footballers in the country.

The Spanish government is yet to respond to RFEF's decision. However, the Spanish football league (LFP), which supports the government's stance, announced that it had launched legal action against the federation.

LFP president Javier Tebas said: "If the Government yields to this irresponsible blackmail, we will take a backwards step in the regeneration of Spanish football."

The new law, which would come into effect into 2016, would introduce the concept of collective bargaining into broadcasting rights deals, ensuring a more even distribution of wealth between clubs.

Currently, the Spanish premier league is the only top European league in which clubs are able to negotiate TV deals on an individual basis. This has led to a massive disparity in earnings - around half of the annual €650 million distributed to premier league clubs goes to Real Madrid and Barcelona, while the bottom club can get as little as €15 million.

Conversely, in the Spanish second-tier league, only €71.2 million was earned from broadcasting deals in the 2011-12 season.

The collective bargaining arrangement is used in the English Premier League, which secured a record £5.1 billion (€6.9 million) TV rights deal for the three years from 2016.

In September, Real Madrid posted annual revenue of €603.9 million for the 2013-14 season, the highest recorded revenue in the history of team sports. The total eclipsed the previous record set just two months before, when Barcelona posted annual earnings of €530 million.