How clubs use TV to kill football

How many times has one of your mate’s mates told you that the Spanish league is the best in the world? I’m sick of people comparing leagues – it can’t be done.

But the Spanish comparison irks me more than most. How many English people can honestly say they have watched a La Liga game that didn’t involve Barcelona or Real Madrid? You can’t compare entire leagues by the top teams in them.

Deportivo hosted Barcelona last Sunday and the home fans voiced their displeasure. The banner in the photo roughly translates as: “we don’t want another Scottish league” (See picture, right). In other words, the Spanish fans don’t want a league dominated by two clubs. (Or a league that ultimately has to wrangle with its structure to keep it interesting).

But Barcelona and Real Madrid do dominate. Sid Lowe revealed that the two teams “have won 121 of their last 142 relevant games against the league’s other sides” in his Guardian column yesterday. That is, frankly, ridiculous.

Fans of the English Premier League moan about the traditional top four (Man United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool). But at least that is four teams out of 20 and not two out of 18. That said, it still takes a huge injection of cash from the owner (Man City) or a massive and loyal fan base (Spurs) to make a dent at the top of the Premier League.

The FA and the Premier League should look to the demise of competition in La Liga and prepare to take a firm stance soon. The reason being that it won’t be long before the traditional top four (and, let’s be honest, Man City and Spurs too – right place, right time) look to the demise of competition in La Liga and see an opportunity.

The reason is that Spanish clubs can negotiate their own TV rights. So every Barcelona game and every Real Madrid game is televised. More crucially, it means the clubs can tie up the overseas market.

Under the current Premier League model, a proportion of the Asian money for the viewing of Man United v Chelsea will end up at Stoke, Wolves et al. (Indeed, due to parachute payments, it also ends up at Hull, Middlesborough etc etc).

That doesn’t happen in Spain. And that is a huge factor in the lack of competitiveness in La Liga.

Strong leagues need strong management.



4 Comments on “How clubs use TV to kill football

  1. Superb blog, I agree La Liga is now a uncompetitive league.

    There was a time when teams like Athletico Madrid, Deportivo, Villareal and Valencia could compete. Those days seem long gone.

    However, there is an argument that the teams I’ve just mentioned are better than a lot of the top clubs in England. For example, Valencia fared well against Man Utd in their two Champions League group games this season.

  2. Great post. Perhaps a larger concern for La Liga is that it could be viewed as a competition basically between two individuals in Messi and Ronaldo rather than two clubs. Though people may look back in 20/30 years and see this as a wonderful period of football.

    But the point about TV money stands, if collective bargaining by the league as a whole goes out of the window then the discrepancies between highly established clubs and slightly smaller ones will grow and grow. Which, frankly, diminishes football.

  3. Another great one foot in the game article.

    Lets not forget that many La Liga clubs have not paid their players, Roysten Drenthe has gone on strike as he has not been paid for 6 months.

    The Premier League may not be too far behind though, sure there is a more competitive top end. But Financially there is a worry.

    Serie A and the Bundesliga will catch up on the playing field when the UEFA financial fair play rules come in…

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