They are the employers' association of modest football and David Jiménez is their president. In 2014 they discovered that 2nd B and 3rd B football is not so modest and that many teams are professional. They organized themselves and took the reins of their sport. The RFEF put on automatic pilot and activated one of the many commissions it has to put sticks in the wheels. Like futsal, the ProLiga and LaLiga agreement put them in Rubiales' s sights. They are another windmill that blows in favour of football and against which the Federation fights as if they were enemies. Jiménez is working with ATALAYAR to claim the basic package of humble football: calendar, regulations and protocol. But on the other side there is silence, administrative silence.
Why was ProLiga born?
We are an association that was created in 2014 solely for Third Division teams. With time we saw that it was necessary to incorporate other categories. Today we are the employers' association for non-professional football. We are registered as an association with the Ministry of Labour and we represent Third Division teams, Second B teams and National League and Honour Division youth teams. We have 240 clubs registered, but as we are the employers' association, when negotiating issues such as the collective agreement we would represent both members and non-members. Our role is to defend the interests and rights of the clubs and represent them before the various public or private bodies such as the RFEF, CSD, trade unions, the Ministry of Culture and Sport...
What does football need from 2B and 3B?
Now it needs clarity and information that will get us out of the uncertainty it has. I am aware that the situation is not easy to make decisions. But the clubs need to know very basic things such as the dates for the start of competitions, the rules that will govern the competition, promotions, relegations, groups... and what resources the RFEF will make available to the clubs to comply with health protocols.
In general, they need the RFEF to have a good understanding of the context and circumstances of the teams in the Second B and Third Division in order to know what resources they need. The clubs need to be viable and take steps towards a professionalization that will make them do things right. If I had to stay with something it is that the decisions and initiatives taken are well known the circumstances of the teams of Third and Second B that often are not known.
Can it be said that Second B and Third B football is professional?
If we go to the official nomenclature it is non-professional football, like futsal or women's football, but I think that steps have been taken in recent years to achieve professionalization. The Second B is already quite important and we can say that they are practically professional. There is still room for improvement in the Third Division.
What does it depend on if Second B and Third Division football returns next season?
We were very surprised when the RFEF said at the last meeting that a protocol approved by the health authorities was needed. When they said that, it was obvious that the clubs expected it to be developed. Those clubs don't know if they will be able to have box office or sponsors. Moreover, when a club starts training, it means that it starts to have expenses.
What does ProLiga think of the new format of Second B with one hundred teams?
All of the solutions that the RFEF put on the table were not concrete. Once the decision was made that there would be promotions and not relegations you find yourself with a hundred teams in 2ª B. The clubs expressed their concern that this format would penalise the level of the category. To us what worries us is that one is speaking of a restructuring of the competition, to the margin of the sanitary circumstances, but nothing of what one says this writing, are ideas that are named and are not landed. The RFEF has not made official the rules of the format of the competition. It has not explained whether there is going to be a second B Pro because if there is, the clubs have to organise themselves accordingly. There is nothing on the table. We are concerned that what is done is not agreed with the clubs and is not yet on the table.
Is the Second B Pro necessary or is it more necessary to remodel the Second B?
We as an association represent clubs that are interested in having that Second B Pro and clubs that are not interested. We represent conflicting interests and it is difficult for us to position ourselves as an association. What has been transferred to us from the Third Division is that they have the feeling that they are going to be downgraded. That they are going to play at a fifth level and they feel that they may be relegated. There are teams from the Second Division that have less aspirations in terms of resources and budgets to reach the Second Division and see that the possibility of promotion to the Second Division is much more remote and difficult.
There are some more powerful Second B teams who agree to have this Second B Pro. By laying the foundations and talking to the clubs, we should arrive at a situation where the competition structure is comfortable for everyone. Something has to be done because there are important differences between some teams and others due to budgetary and resource differences. There are some teams that are closer to professional sport because of that infrastructure and budget. We have to discuss this with the clubs.
Why aren't you on the RFEF's 2nd B and 3rd Committee?
ProLiga was created because of the RFEF's inaction with regard to the teams of the 3rd and 2nd B. When they see that it is important to listen to these clubs and to know what they think and what they need, they reactivate the Second B Committee and give it more scope to reach the Third B Committee as well. They do this in retrospect, with ProLiga already consolidated within the clubs. We have denounced this commission because the RFEF's own regulations say that it has to be made up of clubs chosen by and from among the clubs. Those who are now part of this commission have not been elected by the others. The club of Madrid is the RSD Alcalá, but that club has never met with the clubs of Madrid and nobody has chosen it to be on that commission.
Therefore, it is not legitimised nor does it have information on what the clubs in Madrid need to move it. The same is true of the Valencian Community. There is the Alzira and the clubs in the area have no idea what he says on that committee. (Of these two clubs, Alcalá does belong to ProLliga but Alzira does not). ) We would like everyone to belong to ProLiga but what we want is for those who represent the clubs on that committee to actually be elected by the rest. In Madrid one hundred percent of the clubs are in ProLiga. This committee has nothing to do with us. It's within the RFEF so regulating and questioning what you regulate doesn't make much sense. There has to be someone from outside who tells you what is right and what is wrong.
When does it get complicated to go hand in hand with the RFEF?
It's been going on for a while. We have some contact with territorial presidents, much more than the RFEF thinks, and the relationship is cordial. It is with the Federation that we can debate because they are the ones who organize the competition, we are not going to debate with basketball. The key moment was when an agreement was established with LaLiga and there we are immersed in the situation that the RFEF is experiencing with LaLiga because we were seen as a tool of LaLiga.
Who markets the TV rights of 2nd B and 3rd?
We have defended the fact that the rights belong to the clubs and the CSD agreed with us in a resolution. As a result of Royal Decree 15/2020 amending the previous one, the RFEF has the power to market the audiovisual rights of Third and Second B. It has to do so for the entire competition and has to put out to tender, not assign it to anyone by hand. The RFEF could do this right now, but if it doesn't we will put mechanisms in place so that clubs can monetize their audiovisual rights. Furthermore, we have a project that we are about to launch.
Does the RFEF know the football of the 2nd B and 3rd B to manage it?
They lack a lot of knowledge about second-tier and third-tier football. The committee is made up of hitchhikers who do not represent or meet with the other clubs, so they do not know what they are concerned about, what they want, what they need... they know what they need, but not on behalf of the others. ProLiga is the one who knows well how this works.
What has happened to the Canarian clubs of ProLiga?
We had a special circumstance. They told us that the RFEF had called them to tell them that if they wanted to receive money from the subsidies they had to leave the association. We contacted the RFEF because we are talking about an alleged serious crime because it violates the right to be associated.
What will be ProLiga's next step if the RFEF does not react?
We had to issue a joint statement with women's football and futsal because, as we have not been heard, we wanted to see if they would react to the fact that all football requires changes and different management. It cannot be that the RFEF is arguing with ProLiga, with the association of women's clubs, with the LNFS, with LaLiga, with the unions... I find it difficult to find someone who does not argue with the Federation. You should do a self-reflection exercise and ask yourself what is going on. The next step will be to go hand in hand with the rest of the football to tell them that they have to make a change in the way they do things.