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RFEF restarts VAR services tender process with key changes

The new tender has separate lots for VAR and an offside technology provider

The Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) has relaunched the tender process to select a supplier for Video Assistant Referee (VAR) services for the 2024-28 cycle. This comes after the initial invitation to tender (ITT) was cancelled three months ago due to an ongoing legal dispute with sports rights and production company Mediapro.

In a significant alteration to the search, the RFEF has decided to divide the tender into two separate lots. The first lot covers VAR services, while the second lot pertains to semi-automatic technology for determining offsides during games. The deadline for the submission of offers is set for November 24, with the contracts expected to last for four seasons, from 2024-25 to 2027-28.

The RFEF's current partner for VAR services is the UK-based technology firm Hawk-Eye, which has been in place since 2019. The initial tender, which was supposed to run from the start of the 2023-24 season until the end of 2026-27, was cancelled amid the RFEF's legal dispute with Mediapro.

Legal dispute with Mediapro

In April, the Madrid Commercial Court suspended the tender process as a precautionary measure due to a long-standing legal battle between Mediapro and the RFEF. Mediapro argued, and the court agreed, that previous tenders for similar services carried out by the RFEF had been anti-competitive and that the federation had deliberately excluded Mediapro from consideration.

The RFEF was ordered to pay damages of €2.1 million to Mediapro in March 2022 over the award of a contract to provide VAR services for La Liga and La Liga 2 Spain in 2019. This led to Hawk-Eye's appointment, despite Mediapro submitting a more lucrative financial offer. The RFEF claimed it chose Hawk-Eye due to its experience.

Further legal complications

In January last year, 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 cancelled.

In the newly-issued tender, although VAR and semi-automatic offsides have been issued in two separate lots, all VAR bidders must specify which semi-automatic offside systems their technology is compatible with. This requirement ensures that the chosen VAR service provider can seamlessly integrate with the selected offside technology, ensuring a smooth operation of the VAR system in La Liga and beyond.

The RFEF's decision to restart the tender process marks a new chapter in its quest to secure a reliable VAR service provider, while also addressing the legal issues that have marred previous attempts.

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