At the time of writing, the state of La Liga’s broadcast rights in the UK are up in the air. La Liga has had a tumultuous start to the latter half of 2019. An ongoing legal battle between the Spanish FA and La Liga’s organisers, centred on the scheduling of league matches, was only resolved a few weeks ago. Until that situation was resolved, there was a very real possibility that the start of the season would be delayed.
How Did We Get Here?
The ruling is now in – games are not going to be played on a Monday night, but there will be games every Friday. This means that a number of games that had already been scheduled to be played on a Monday had to be hastily rescheduled to an appropriate time slot. To further complicate matters, there have been reports in the Spanish press that several La Liga clubs are unhappy with the SFA’s ruling and will challenge it in the courts.
For La Liga’s UK fans, however, the much more concerning news is that no one currently has the rights to broadcast games in the UK and Ireland. ITV4 was able to secure the rights to three games, two of which have now been played. But the free-to-view broadcaster is set to broadcast its last game on September 1st, after which point no one currently knows what is going to happen.
The UK is one of the most important markets for football in the world. While all of Europe is utterly enamoured with the sport, few nations have the same connection to the game that the UK does. If there is one market that the clubs and their sponsors want to be seen in, it is the UK.
The possibility that games won’t be shown in the UK this season has reportedly caused jitters among some La Liga officials. This is understandable, given the importance of sponsorship deals to the financial stability of the clubs and the league itself. For example, Real Betis recently signed a deal with easyMarkets, an online broker worth a reported 2 million Euros. easyMarkets are a Cyprus-based Forex provider who make it easy for users to buy, sell, and trade foreign currencies.
The good news is that there are a number of businesses who have confirmed that they have made bids and are awaiting a decision. Other than ITV, Premier Sports, who have previously held the rights, has released a statement saying they are awaiting a decision. Rumours are also swirling that both Sky and BT had put in bids earlier in the year.
However, given La Liga’s previous statements that they had not received any satisfactory bids, if these offers were made, they were not considered up to scratch.
If a deal doesn’t materialise soon, La Liga fans in the UK might be forced to use a VPN or similar service to be able to watch the games using overseas services.
Regardless of what happens in the long term, you can catch the next La Liga fixture on September 1st on ITV4. By that time, we will hopefully know who is going to broadcast the games going forward.