The LNFS, backed by the Popular Party, seeks the professionalisation of Spanish Futsal

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If you are a lover of futsal then you will know about the conflict between the National Futsal League (Liga Nacional de Futbol Sala – LNFS) and the Royal Spanish Football Federation (Real Federación Española de Fútbol – RFEF) for control of the top two divisions of Spanish futsal.

The LNFS, backed by the Popular Party, seeks the professionalisation of Spanish Futsal

LNFS, after their assembly last July. Source: LNFS

The RFEF stated that although many clubs involved in Spanish Futsal derived from professional football clubs or were futsal clubs organised professionally, these clubs were a small percentage of what was essentially an amateur sport. Therefore, on Wednesday, October 16, 2019, the Federation released a statement, confirming that it will assume control of the First and Second Futsal Divisions, competitions that were organized by the LNFS. To enforce this fact, legal proceedings showed that the RFEF and the LNFS had no legal agreement in place for the LNFS to function as the administrative body for the top divisions, therefore, the RFEF was legally in their right as the sport’s governing body to take control of the Divisions. The RFEF justified their decision by stating that they “must act in accordance with the law”, and “assume the responsibilities conferred on to it”.

It is one of the toughest battles in Spanish sports in recent years. On one side of the ring, the National Futsal League (LNFS), with Javier Lozano as the visible head. On the other, the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), with its president Luis Rubiales at the helm. And now in the middle, a request from the LNFS before the Higher Sports Council (CSD) to become a professional league.

In the event that the LNFS becomes professional before June 30, 2023, the date on which the current five-season television contract with LaLigaSportsTV expires, the league could jointly negotiate the television rights again, in addition to recovering the organization of the competition, assumed by the RFEF. If June 30 were reached without professionalization, the RFEF (by a decree of April 2020) would be the one that would have the upper hand to negotiate television globally.

Relevo, a news platform in Spain broke the news that they had learned that the Higher Sports Council has no intention of professionalizing Spanish futsal in the short term, which would tip the balance in favor of the Royal Spanish Football Federation, which already organizes the competition and would control the television cake. From the CSD they alleged to Relevo, in December, that the case of futsal is not “a priority issue until the professionalization of women’s soccer which has not started as it should, and the other one planned, which is ASOBAL (Handball), has not advanced enough “, even though their clubs have had a year’s moratorium to adapt to the new professional scenario.

The LNFS, backed by the Popular Party, seeks the professionalisation of Spanish Futsal

José Manuel Franco, president of the CSD. J.J. GUILLEN / EFE

Javier Lozano, after years of public vindication and a first approach in 2020presented José Manuel Franco, president of the CSD, “in a very cordial meeting after the summer”, the formal request to professionalize the First Division of the LNFS, not like that the second. ” Handball did it in June and achieved professionalization in 15 days, and the leaders of this sport acknowledge that futsal is much more prepared,” says Javier Lozano, who advised his friends from ASOBAL on various issues.

On the LNFS side, whose home matches are broadcast on LaLigaSportsTV, there are all the First Division teams, except for four (Inter, Jaén, Xota, and Ribera) and several Second Division teams. On the RFEF side, whose home games are broadcast on the federation website, are the four mentioned plus a dozen Second Division teams, with special mention to Peñíscola and Burela, two of the first to leave the LNFS. “Well, and double agent Barcelona”, they say from both trenches. And it is the language of war that has emerged in every futsal conversation since the union of a sport exploded in the summer of 2019 that a year earlier dreamed of taking to the skies after the Spanish Futsal Cup at the WiZink Center, with 40,000 spectators in four days of competition.

“Futsal was heading towards professionalization in 2018, the RFEF was going to change the statutes to consider us at the same level as LaLiga soccer when Rubiales entered three months later,” says Lozano. “The president of the RFEF attacked everything because of our good relationship with other leagues and for personal interests, rewarding people to control the futsal votes. Now we have presented a reasoned memorandum to the CSD. It is in process, they will study it and then It is already a decision of the president of the CSD”. With the new Sports Law, professional clubs are no longer required to become public limited companies, but despite this, not all are in favor of professionalization.

Javier Lorente, director of RFEF Futsal, explains the federative point of view: “It is impossible for futsal to be professional. The LNFS doesn’t have anything to live on, now it lives off television money, but on June 30 it disappears. The only way for the LNFS, Lozano, and the two or three people who work there to continue is for it to be considered a professional sport. That’s why they are putting so much interest, nothing more, to be able to continue living from the beach bar they have set up “.

The opinion of the clubs

The clubs in favor of the LNFS transfer to professional need to comply with Social Security, have suitable pavilions, be solvent and have professional structures. Fran Serrejón, general director of ElPozo Murcia, takes the floor: “For those of us who continue in the LNFS unanimously, professionalization is the way out of this situation, without a doubt. And I think that for some of those who are not in the association, too. We are at a point of impasse, we don’t know what will become of our future. We believe that this autonomy of management, which would give us professionalism, would be the perfect solution for the First Division”.

The LNFS, backed by the Popular Party, seeks the professionalisation of Spanish Futsal

Image of a Jaén – Inter match of the year 2020. MIGUEL FERNÁNDEZ

Those who have left the LNFS see things differently. Manuel Sierra, president of the Peñíscola FS, explains it: “Professionalization is unfeasible, you have to forget about ASOBAL, which was a bloody botch job. Here there is no economic dimension, with a budget of 2 million, nor labor ties “. Sierra, a notary by profession, goes further. “In futsal, a very high percentage lives by botching, and this has been allowed by the league for the rest of their lives. Today, we cannot become commercial companies or have audits. The next step is jail. In addition, we would lose public subsidies”. Nicolás Sabariego, general director of Jaén Paraíso Interior: “It is a delay, this sport is not yet ready to be professional, the structure is fictitious, it is unfeasible in First Division and in Second Division we are not even talking. It would be the death of futsal.”

Inter Movistar gives its version through José Carlos Delgado, its general director. “It seems that it is very easy to say ‘professionalization’, but, before propagating any slogan or claim, you have to know the new Sports Law, know where we are, where we want to go and what are the rights and obligations. Today, my club is professional, the structures are professional, I understand that Barcelona, ​​Manzanares, Valdepeñas are… too”.

They are the opinions of some clubs that compete in one of the most complicated situations that the sport of 40×20 has gone through. Professionalization or non-professionalization. Before or after June 30. The future of a futsal that navigates in uncertainty.

The road to professionalism takes a turn

The Popular Party ( People’s Party, PP – Political party in Spain) registered in Congress a Non-Legal Proposal for the CSD to grant Spanish Futsal the qualification of a professional sport.

The PP sports spokesman, Javier Merino, presented on March 1 in Congress a Non-Ley Proposal for the CSD to qualify Futsal as a professional sport. The deputy from La Rioja stated that “it is the starting signal for the competition to become professional, as happened with the F League (Women’s Football”

Merino explained that an NLP is “a non-legislative initiative to promote” and recalled that “this is how Women’s Soccer began.” It should be remembered that on February 23, 2022, a Non-Legal Proposal was unanimously approved by the Congressional Culture and Sports Commission, also presented by the Popular group, so that League F would have statutes.

The parallelism between futsal and women’s soccer, “and with the recent precedent of Asobal” as pointed out by the sports spokesperson for the Popular Party, indicates that the end of the conflict that divides the LNFS could be close, but in the case of the F League, the professionalization of women’s football was announced by the Government at the end of March 2021 and unanimously approved by the CSD Board of Directors in mid-June of that year.

However, the National Futsal League is pending the qualification of a professional league by the Higher Sports Council. The president of the LNFS, Javier Lozano, held a meeting in October 2022 with the president of the Higher Sports Council, José Manuel Franco, and the Association of clubs is awaiting a response, once officially and formally presented. the request unanimously.

“In the Popular Party, we are very clear that Spanish Futsal is a professional sport. It is in fact, all that is missing is a rule with the rank of Law that establishes it and from the PP we are going to fight and join efforts so that Futsal is declared so. In addition, I know that in the Government and in the rest of the political groups they know what we are talking about,” said the deputy. And the president of the LNFS began a series of meetings in the Congress of Deputies in 2020 and has presented an extensive report, which is also in the possession of the Higher Sports Council (CSD), for the qualification of the First Division of the Spanish futsal as a professional competition to the sports spokesperson for the Socialist Parliamentary Group in Congress, Juan Luis Soto Burillo, as well as Rafael Fernández-Lomana (Vox), Antonia Jover (Unidas Podemos) or Guillermo Díaz (Ciudadanos).

All of them will be at the meeting and spokespersons table, which could be held on March 14, to define the issues that will be addressed in the session of the Committee on Culture and Sports of the Congress of Deputies, scheduled between 21 and 25 March. In which the Non-Ley Proposal of the Popular Party should be voted on, requesting the professionalization of Spanish Futsal, “a parliamentary initiative through which the Chamber would express its position on a certain issue, thus urging the government to grant that professional qualification and the CSD should not delay it any longer”, Javier Merino details.

Javier Lozano assured in an interview with the ABC newspaper that “we represent the will of the associated clubs and we are an organization in which the common good has always prevailed over private interests” and confirmed that “we have already formally requested it from the CSD, who received us kindly, supported by what happened in other sports and told us that they will see him with affection, but calmly”, acknowledging that the Higher Sports Council would not have the intention of doing so in the short term, as Relevo announced.

On March 22, the president of the LNFS revealed a key aspect in the professionalization of futsal at the 7th Conference on Sports Law, organized by the Real Betis Balompié Foundation. “If declared a professional league, the LNFS would organically depend on LaLiga, although the clubs would maintain the autonomy to choose their president, as well as make their own decisions.” Although, not all clubs see the professionalization of Spanish futsal as beneficial, as explained by Manuel Sierra, president of Peñíscola, in an interview with the ABC newspaper.

However, Javier Lozano responds emphatically. “It would be a radical change in terms of economic resources, international projection, improvement of internal processes, digitization, fan experiences, and many other things linked to the future,” he explained, qualifying that “it would be a common project, never for one person or one club.”, as well as the next steps in the process once the official application has been submitted. “If there is a professional League, there would be a process and it would not be the president unless it was elected,” he asserted, with the presence of Fernando Molinero, General Director of Sports of the Higher Sports Council (CSD).

The LNFS has an agreement with LaLigaSportsTV until the end of this season and distributes 1.4 million euros, but estimates that it could distribute between four and five million euros among Futsal clubs for the sale of audiovisual rights in the event of being considered professional by the Higher Sports Council (CSD) and that the naming rights of the competition could be worth a million.

Javier Merino and Javier Lozano agree that “seeing what has happened with women’s football, the RFEF will be an opposition”. The PP deputy explains that “the Federation never makes things easy, when it understands that they are beyond its powers, but this would mean an improvement for Spanish Futsal and all its classes.” For his part, the president of the LNFS affirms that “I have been in the RFEF for 25 years and I know and love that house, but after 13 years as president of the LNFS and 5 years as president of ALPE (Association of Spanish Professional Leagues), We are the only League that is not professional and we deserve to be professionals”.

From F League (Liga F), its president, Beatriz Álvarez, has declared that “we have had the opportunity to be professionals, which until now only LaLiga and the ACB have been, then Asobal has come, but now the LNFS also deserves it because it has all the reports in their favor to be. Javier Lozano has been fighting for many years to get them to be professionals and I really hope they get what they deserve, since in fact, in practice they are”.

In his latest, Víctor Martín, chief of staff of the LaLiga presidency, highlighted “the embryonic nature of the LNFS and Liga F and we know all the problems that their presidents have raised. We have a permanent master’s degree in these conflicts and in being able to overcome the difficulties they put us through. We are interested in seeing the sport as a whole go well and be a benchmark. They have our full support and I encourage them and I sincerely hope that the LNFS reaches professional status”.

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