Saturday, September 29, 2007

All's Fair in Sports and...

There are a lot of things about Spanish "politics" and "business" that I simply do not understand. In fact, the more I see the less I understand. And the more I see the more convinced I am that the powerful people in Spain, whether their power is in the form of business, sport, or politics, are really all colleagues in the same lio (mess). The latest drop in my bucket of confusion falls from the hybrid tree of sports, business, and media.

Thursday evening much of Madrid was finishing their dinner in preparation for a couple of hours watching the public TV station La Sexta for the Real Madrid-Betis soccer game. Less than an hour before the planned emission it was announced that Real Madrid was not allowing the La Sexta crew to broadcast the game and that the match would be available through pay-per-view only. What ensued was pure television chaos. When hubby Nacho tried to purchase the match through our Telefónica Imagenio (cable) service we lost the cable programming all together - no pay-per-view, no guide, no channels whatsoever. When he tried to restart the service he was met with all kinds of error messages and we were unable to get any channels for the rest of the night. After resigning himself to listen to the match on the radio he discovered that those people who had managed to order the game through the PPV screen were still without an image well into the second half of the match.

What surprised (I'm naive, I know) and confused me about the whole event was that there were clearly major politics happening behind the scenes to cause such an about-face so close to game time. Real Madrid's official position is that, as an acceptable agreement with La Sexta was not reached in time for the broadcast, they proceeded with a previous agreement with the pay-per-view provider. La Sexta argues that an agreement HAD been reached and that la Liga, governing body of Spanish soccer, had chosen the Real Madrid-Betis game as the one "free" game of the week. (A 1997 law states that one free "general interest" soccer game shall be broadcast per week. The Real Madrid-Betis game was the last of the week.) Apparently there are major companies with political and sporting interests and connections that are fighting over who gets to broadcast what games. A more in-depth discussion (done by someone clearly much less naive than I) of the politics at work can be found at South of Watford.

Some reports indicate that La Sexta's parent company, Mediapro, is possibly pursuing civil action against Ramon Calderón, president of Real Madrid, for denying them access to the game and violating the above-mentioned law guaranteeing one "free" game per week. Likely he would never actually be sanctioned. I'm fairly certain, especially considering he's a lawyer by trade, that the tangled web of politics-sports-business-media also includes the courts.

No comments: