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Greedy footballers’ strike threat ‘harms’ game

Government slams Spain's top footballers as they threaten to strike over the sharing of riches from television contracts with Spain's smaller, poorer clubs.

Greedy footballers' strike threat 'harms' game
Cristiano Ronaldo's team Real Madrid is one of the giants who profited from the old system on television rights. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

A threat by footballers in Spain to strike in a dispute over the sharing of riches from television rights harms the game and its precious revenues, the government warned on Friday.

Players from top teams, including Barcelona and Real Madrid, on Thursday joined in a threat to boycott the last games of the season if the government does not renegotiate a reform of football broadcasting rights.

"The football world is concerned about possible missed opportunities and the damage that this threat of a strike is already doing to football's image and its capacity to market itself internationally," Spain's junior sports minister Miguel Cardenal said in an interview with conservative newspaper ABC.

The RFEF federation which governs the sport in Spain and the AFE players' union have threatened an open-ended strike from May 16th.

They say they are not happy with the way a new law redistributes revenues from auctioning the television broadcasting rights to lucrative Liga football games.

The government insisted the long-awaited reform offered a better deal for poorer lower-league clubs but the federation and players said it did not go far enough.

The deal obliges broadcasters to bid collectively for the rights to matches rather than letting clubs negotiate with the media individually as previously.

The previous system favoured the richest and most successful clubs, Real and Barcelona.

The government insisted that under the new system revenues would filter down to the lower clubs and prevent the best players from migrating to richer leagues abroad.

"Objectively, there is nothing in this decree of law that can justify a measure of this kind. There is no real reason for a strike," Cardenal was quoted as saying in ABC.

He said the federation had been offered a say in the reform and complained that it had not detailed the grounds for its objections.

"The federation should explain, as it still has not done, what it is that it doesn't like about this law, which it has repeatedly asked for, and what has led it to change its position by surprise," he said.

"Any broadcaster who might be interested in buying match rights now will not understand the situation."

The Spanish league branded the strike threat "irresponsible" and said it would launch a legal appeal against it on Friday.

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FOOTBALL

Putellas becomes second Spanish footballer in history to win Ballon d’Or

Alexia Putellas of Barcelona and Spain won the women's Ballon d'Or prize on Monday, becoming only the second Spanish-born footballer in history to be considered the best in the world, and claiming a win for Spain after a 61-year wait.

FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award.
FC Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas poses after being awarded thewomen's Ballon d'Or award. Photo: FRANCK FIFE / AFP

Putellas is the third winner of the prize, following in the footsteps of Ada Hegerberg, who won the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or in 2018, and United States World Cup star Megan Rapinoe, winner in 2019.

Putellas captained Barcelona to victory in this year’s Champions League, scoring a penalty in the final as her side hammered Chelsea 4-0 in Gothenburg.

She also won a Spanish league and cup double with Barca, the club she joined as a teenager in 2012, and helped her country qualify for the upcoming Women’s Euro in England.

Her Barcelona and Spain teammate Jennifer Hermoso finished second in the voting, with Sam Kerr of Chelsea and Australia coming in third.

It completes an awards double for Putellas, who in August was named player of the year by European football’s governing body UEFA.

But it’s also a huge win for Spain as it’s the first time in 61 years that a Spanish footballer – male or female – is crowned the world’s best footballer of the year, and only the second time in history a Spaniard wins the Ballon d’Or. 

Former Spanish midfielder Luis Suárez (not the ex Liverpool and Barça player now at Atlético) was the only Spanish-born footballer to win the award in 1960 while at Inter Milan. Argentinian-born Alfredo Di Stefano, the Real Madrid star who took up Spanish citizenship, also won it in 1959.

Who is Alexia Putellas?

Alexia Putellas grew up dreaming of playing for Barcelona and after clinching the treble of league, cup and Champions League last season, her status as a women’s footballing icon was underlined as she claimed the Ballon d’Or on Monday.

Unlike the men’s side, Barca’s women swept the board last term with the 27-year-old, who wears “Alexia” on the back of her shirt, at the forefront, months before Lionel Messi’s emotional departure.

Attacker Putellas, who turns 28 in February, spent her childhood less than an hour’s car journey from the Camp Nou and she made her first trip to the ground from her hometown of Mollet del Valles, for the Barcelona derby on January 6, 2000.

Barcelona's Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas (R) vies with VfL Wolfsburg's German defender Kathrin Hendrich
Putellas plays as a striker for Barça and Spain. GABRIEL BOUYS / POOL / AFP

Exactly 21 years later she became the first woman in the modern era to score in the stadium, against Espanyol. Her name was engraved in the club’s history from that day forward, but her story started much earlier.

She started playing the sport in school, against boys.

“My mum had enough of me coming home with bruises on my legs, so she signed me up at a club so that I stopped playing during break-time,” Putellas said last year.

So, with her parent’s insistence, she joined Sabadell before being signed by Barca’s academy.

“That’s where things got serious… But you couldn’t envisage, with all one’s power, to make a living from football,” she said.

After less than a year with “her” outfit, she moved across town to Espanyol and made her first-team debut in 2010 before losing to Barca in the final of the Copa de la Reina.

She then headed south for a season at Valencia-based club Levante before returning “home” in July 2012, signing for Barcelona just two months after her father’s death.

In her first term there she helped Barca win the league and cup double, winning the award for player of the match in the final of the latter competition.

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