El Centrocampista

Revolution talk grows as La Liga clubs look to address financial disparity

Real Madrid's Portuguese forward Cristia

Photo: Reuters

Such are the current problems faced by Spanish football, it almost wouldn’t be the same if the countdown to a new La Liga season didn’t contain some talk of a revolt.

Following the player strike that caused a delay to last season’s Spanish Primera Division’s start, thirteen La Liga teams have threatened to strike in a bid to protest against inequalities and disparity in the distribution of television revenues.

The clubs attended a meeting in Madrid on Tuesday to discuss ways to promote a fairer system of allocating television money which at the moment sees Real Madrid and Barcelona collect fifty percent of the €600 million pot.

A statement was released on behalf of the thirteen teams in attendance at that meeting in the capital which stated those clubs were fed up of  “the league giving fewer collective answers to the league and more to Barcelona and Real Madrid”.

It also highlighting the four points on which they felt action needs to be taken:
1. Demand immediate payment of all money owed by television operators to Primera Division clubs.
2. Demand the withdrawal of all legal action against Primera Division clubs in relation to contracts of sale of media rights.
3. Create a transparent and regulated procedure to organise kick-off times and dates for La Liga matches.
4. Require television operators to establish a stable framework to ensure the fair distribution of broadcasting rights for all clubs in the Primera Division.

Speaking after the meeting, Sevilla vice president Jose Maria Cruz told Spanish sports daily AS: “The positive thing was the presence of all teams called upon. Malaga and Valencia couldn’t attend for justifiable reasons but they confirmed their assistance. Rayo Vallecano, Mallorca and Granada have been incorporated and where there were just six clubs previously there are 15 more or less in agreement”.

Explaining the reasons for the proposed strike, Cruz continued: “It is not possible to trust the league in its current form. It is necessary to change. We have to free the control that two big clubs have in the Primera Division and this we have responded with. This is the path we are taking”.

The 13 clubs – Athletic Bilbao, Atlético Madrid, Real Betis, Celta Vigo, Espanyol, Getafe, Granada, Real Mallorca, Osasuna, Rayo Vallecano, Real Sociedad, Sevilla and Real Zaragoza – have called for the league to organise a meeting next Tuesday (14 August) whereby representatives from each of the 20 clubs would discuss with league management urgent changes to television kick off times and distribution. If after the meeting an amicable solution isn’t found, they have all threatened to go on strike.

While La Liga’s two powerhouses may be used to calling the shots, there is growing momentum behind the collective pact that could just force a change that would be for the better.

Ultimately, the general feeling is that television companies and the league have played dictator for far too long, pushing their luck with extraordinary ideas, share systems, and frankly logic in the process.

While last season there was some controversy over the introduction of a noon kick off time, it was nothing compared to the dismay and disgust over plans to introduce 11pm kick off times this term. And with kick off times or even fixture dates often not confirmed until a week prior to the game, clubs and more importantly their fans, are being taken for a ride.

The fact that Television operators still owe many La Liga clubs money is just the icing on the top of a very sour and bitter tasting cake.
In addition, the television distribution does little to improve the ‘excitement’ or ‘unpredictability’ of the league itself. While in the Premier League there are feasible four teams that could fight for this season’s title, in La Liga there are again just two.

With the differences between the ‘haves’ and ‘have not’s stark, it should come as little surprise that the La Liga title has flirted between the two powerhouses for no fewer than the past eight seasons.

There is little doubting that La Liga carries the most flair but as a competitive league itself it can be fairly dull. The days when the likes of Valencia had the nerve to break the monotony of the two in 2004, are sadly very much the exception rather than the rule itself.

While there is of course the argument that why shouldn’t Barcelona and Real Madrid get the majority share considering they attract the most viewers to the league, it can’t continue at the proportion that is currently is.

Most agree that it is unrealistic that every club should receive the same, however with many clubs in danger of going into administration it is for the safety of the long term future of La Liga that things must change soon.

Whether that is a straight distribution based on final league positions, or a scheme whereby all clubs receive half of the annual television pot at distributed equally at the start of the season with the remaining half based on final league positions, is unclear but either system would be a significant improvement on current policy.

In Barcelona and Real Madrid’s defence, last year they did attempt to appease the other clubs by agreeing that from 2015 they would introduce some sort of revenue sharing system. And while we must not forget that this was a well-intentioned peace offering, it has been argued that this somewhat epitomises the league. Two clubs dictating to the other 18, yet again.

While all of this has, of course, been threatened before, this time there is a feeling that they mean business. If the problems aren’t resolved, don’t expect this La Liga season to start on time either.

Frustrating? Yes. Needed? Absolutely.




3 Comments

  1. Pingback: Di Maria: Real Madrid are out to win everything – bettor.com (blog)

  2. Alex

    13 August, 2012 at 21:13

    I was just talking about this to someone and stumbled on your article.

    It’s really disappointing to see Spain, who produce some of the best players around, has such a poor league in terms of exposure of the cubs other than the big 2. Where I live only Real Madrid or Barcelona matches are shown on tv. There is never even an attempt to show anyone other than when one of the big 2 are involved. This obviously shows how the big 2 get more money which honestly is a disgrace. This really diminishes the appeal of La Liga for me.

    It would be in the Liga’s best interest to revamp the system and make it more egalitarian as it would make it so much more appealing and so much more competitive if some of the 18 clubs were able to compete.

    The EPL should honestly be a reference point as it is the league with the smallest ratio between TV rights money for teams at the bottom from the top. I was actually quite amazed to find that out, especially to see Wolves (relegated now) receive about £20M (~£39M) less than the champions (~£60M). Hopefully La Liga can resolve this & the EPL can be an excellent example of how to be more fair.

    P.S. A chart of the tv money distribution in EPL.
    http://www.sportingintelligence.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/PL-TV-income-11-12-split.jpg

  3. Omer

    15 August, 2012 at 10:33

    I know the argument that Barca and Madrid attract the highest audience seems valid however just think the side Valencia would have had if they were getting an equal share.

    An attacking line up of David Silva, Juan Mata, David Villa, Soldado and Canales – I would pay to watch them!!

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