Spain’s Millionaire Soccer Players Support La Liga Strike

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Some of Spanish soccer’s millionaire players are threatening to strike as they seek a share of a new television rights arrangement for their union.

Real Madrid captain Iker Casillas and Barcelona’s Gerard Pique were among about 50 players appearing at a union press conference in Madrid today supporting the Spanish soccer federation. The governing body led by FIFA vice-president Angel Maria Villar said yesterday it will suspend all soccer matches from May 16, a day before the penultimate round of La Liga games.

“We build this sport day by day,” union President Luis Rubiales told reporters. “This is for the more humble players so that when they finish playing they can start afresh.”

Third-division players in Spain are paid as little as 800 euros ($900) a month and the union doesn’t get public funding or money from soccer authorities, Rubiales said in an interview.

In England, the players’ union receives as much as 17 million pounds ($26 million) a year from television income, which it distributes to player pension funds, Rubiales said. The French union gets about 1 percent, currently 7 million euros, of the league’s TV money, he added.

The Spanish federation and union say they weren’t consulted in the discussions about the television-rights law announced by the government last week. Under the legislation, the league will negotiate the rights on behalf of clubs, distributing the revenue more equally.

The league is fighting the strike, which would threaten the title race between Real Madrid and Barcelona, saying it’s unlawful. Barcelona has a two-point lead over Real Madrid with three matches left.

Rubiales declined to say how much money the union is seeking. He said he contacted senior players at clubs who “all” supported the move, but there was no vote on a strike.

League games are broadcast in Spain by Telefonica SA, Atresmedia Corp de Medios de Comunicacion and Mediaset SpA’s Spanish unit.

The government said the federation’s call for a strike was motivated by a long-running dispute over whether the ruling body should open its accounts for an audit and hand back public grants.

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