Spanish soccer’s RFEF body has provisionally awarded its Video Assistant Referee (VAR) services contract to Mediapro, ending a long-running dispute with the sports rights and production company.
The agreement will cover the 2024-25 to 2027-28 four-year cycle and finally concludes a lengthy tender process.
Mediapro will replace UK-based technology firm Hawk-Eye, which has held the VAR contract since 2019. It will supply VAR for top Spanish soccer competitions including the top-flight LaLiga and Copa del Rey cup competition.
Hawk-Eye will continue working with the RFEF, however, after it was appointed to provide semi-automatic offside detection technology (SAOT).
SAOT was used in the FIFA World Cup in Qatar last year and is being utilized by European soccer’s governing body UEFA in its club competitions this season.
The RFEF restarted the tender process to select a supplier of VAR in October, making a key alteration to the search.
After having to cancel an initial invitation to tender (ITT) – issued in March – in July, the federation resumed the process but opted to split it into two separate lots covering VAR services and semi-automated offside tech.
The deadline for submissions was November 24.
The initial tender (for a cycle that was due to run from the start of the ongoing 2023-24 season through 2026-27) was canceled as the RFEF and Mediapro continued their legal dispute.
In April, the Madrid Commercial Court suspended the tender process as a precautionary measure as a long-running legal battle between the two parties took another twist.
Mediapro had argued – arguments which the Madrid court agreed with – that previous tenders for similar services carried out by the RFEF had been anti-competitive, and that the federation had deliberately excluded the firm from consideration.
The RFEF was ordered to pay damages of €2.1 million ($2.4 million) to Mediapro in March 2022 over the award of a contract to provide VAR services for the top two domestic leagues in Spain in 2019 (which led to Hawk-Eye's appointment).
On that occasion, the Madrid Commercial Court found that the governing body was guilty of an “abuse of a dominant position” when it awarded the contract for VAR services to Hawk-Eye for four seasons from 2019-20.
That was subsequently extended through the current campaign after the original tender’s cancelation.
Hawk-Eye won the contract despite Mediapro submitting a more lucrative financial offer, with the RFEF claiming it chose the UK firm due to its experience.
In January last year, meanwhile, a judge ruled that Mediapro was unlawfully excluded from a 2019 RFEF tender process for VAR services across Spain's Copa del Rey knockout competition.
The RFEF was also ordered to pay compensation to the production firm in that case.
In July, Mediapro accused the RFEF of a cover-up by extending its Hawk-Eye deal for another year after the original tender was canceled.
Mediapro has supplied VAR services to leagues since 2017. It currently provides these services for 14 national competitions around the world, as well as competitions organized by FIFA, UEFA, Conmebol, Concacaf, and AFC.
The new contract award finally sees a thawing in relations between the RFEF and the Barcelona-based company and could end the bitter legal war.
Those court battles primarily took place while Luis Rubiales was in charge as president of the Spanish soccer federation.
He has since resigned and received a three-year ban from all soccer-related activities by world governing body FIFA in the wake of his behavior at the final of the Women’s World Cup in Australia in August.