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Spain's strike is off, but for how long?

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Phil Minshull | 15:35 UK time, Thursday, 31 March 2011

This has been a week of discontent in Spanish football, with talk of strikes almost overshadowing everything else here, including Spain's relentless march towards the Euro 2012 finals.

Games in the Spanish first division will finally go ahead this weekend after a Madrid court ruled on Wednesday that the top-tier clubs couldn't withdraw their labour after all.

However, the concluding comments of the presiding magistrate Purification Pujol were hardly an overwhelming endorsement of the six so-called "rebel" clubs - Sevilla, Villarreal, Real Zaragoza, Espanyol, Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad - who took legal action to have the strike called off.

"The League has adopted the calendar and it would be a very unusual situation if we were to reject this injunction which would then result in a sudden change in the calendar," said Pujol, making little comment about the reasons behind the strike call.

What this means is that the strike is off for now. However the remaining 14 clubs, who wanted to cancel this weekend's games - which included a tricky visit by league leaders Barcelona to third-placed Villarreal - are still frothing at the mouth to get changes to the broadcasting laws that means at least one game every weekend has to be available on free-to-air television.

The cancellation of the strike allows Barcelona to try to do the 'double' over Villarreal. Photo: Getty

You might well ask, as people have been for the last six weeks or so, why this issue has cropped up now, when the law has been in place since 1997.

And why has it been presented with the sort of tub-thumping rhetoric usually more associated with trade unions rather than Spain's football club presidents, self-styled captains of industry?

Obviously, the broadcasting industry has changed in the last decade and the numbers of channels has grown hugely in most European nations.

In Spain, there are several dedicated football-only channels, usually available by subscription, along with various club's own channels such as Barca TV and Real Madrid TV, which are widely available, via satellite TV or broadband packages.

More importantly, though, the answer is that the Spanish first division clubs are now paying, literally in some cases, for years of financial mismanagement.

Jose Luis Astiazaran, president of the LFP, the federation of Spanish professional football clubs, revealed rather discretely on a well-known radio show last week that Spanish clubs - including the second division clubs that were not going to go on strike - currently owe the Spanish tax authorities 694m Euros.

In some cases, the debts extend back for more than a decade. With the Spanish economy in crisis and government's budget deficits still not under control, the taxmen are no longer in the mood to be lenient about when the cash will come in.

They are putting pressure - fairly subtly at the moment but with some clubs it is bound to get nasty - to get their money, and reasonably quickly.

By contrast, Astiazaran reckons that if the clubs themselves had complete control over the TV rights deals and the once-a-week fans' freebie was scrapped, it could be worth 800m Euros in the medium term.

I think you get the picture - as long as you have paid for it, if you'll pardon the pun. If the government acquiesces on broadcasting rights, then they get their taxes paid.

It also means that more clubs can balance their books and also, as quietly expressed by several senior LFP officials, makes them less likely to come under foreign ownership, which is what happened in January when the Bahrain-based Indian businessman Ahsan Ali Syed bought Racing Santander.

There is still a huge resistance in Spain - often for xenophobic reasons - to the type of takeovers that have become commonplace in the Premier League but when Syed took over the perennial mid-table Racing, the core part of the deal was that he paid off the club's tax bill, which were thought to have risen to 20m Euros and which effectively was two-thirds of the purchase price.

Ahsan Ali Syed bought Racing Santander in January. Photo: Getty

The scene is now set for things to get bloody during the summer between the LFP - which has hardly come out smelling of roses in this debate - and the Spanish government.

Let's not be naïve; it is one of the few big issues which the beleaguered ruling party of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has got extensive public backing on and so it wouldn't be a surprise to see them milking it for all its worth ahead of next year's national elections.

But I wouldn't be surprised to find the start of next season delayed by several weeks if the wrangling isn't resolved quickly.

Continuing the theme of football strikes, there could be one by the Rayo Vallecano players on Saturday.

The Spanish second division leaders, who hail from Madrid's less-than-salubrious southern suburbs, are bidding to return to the top flight next season after being relegated in 2003 and even spending four years in Spain's semi-professional third tier, the Segunda B.

The players have not been paid since the start of the season, despite creditably giving their all on the field in recent months, including a 1-0 win over second placed Real Betis last Sunday.

"We aren't ruling out refusing to travel to Valladolid. It's a situation no one in the squad wants but it is an alternative we have," Rayo team captain Michel told a media conference on Wednesday.

"We feel we are on our own. No one is helping us. The LFP wants more money but the players don't get paid," he added.

"At the last meeting with the [Rayo] owners they said they would try to do something from ticket sales, but we haven't seen a euro. We feel as though someone isn't being straight with us.

"We are also owed money from last season. We have received some money, it is different for each player, but they still owe us money from last year," commented Michel, despite the fact that clubs are supposed to clear all their debts to players by the end of each season to avoid automatic relegation.

For more background on what has been happening at Rayo, I can recommend a very good When Saturday Comes article written a few weeks ago.

However, with a three-point deduction for failing to fulfil a fixture, Rayo players have become adamant over the last week that they are prepared to sacrifice promotion in exchange for something in their pay packets.

Please comment on this blog in the space below. Send other comments or questions on European football to: europeanfootball@hotmail.co.uk. I do not need your full address but please put the town/city and country where you come from.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Very interesting. this uefa financial fair play ruling seems to be affecting everyone. And its strange that they are still resistant to foreign owners when seemingly so much in debt? Have many clubs in Spain faced administration yet? Or has the semi-professional third tier meant less clubs struggle? I'm certainly glad Premier League clubs can't control their own TV rights, madness would ensue.

  • Comment number 2.

    Good article Mr Minshull. The TV rights in Spain are scary in that Barcelona and Spain get a huge chunk of the money leaving other clubs to essentially starve. This doesn't disguise, nor justify, the fact that these clubs are heavily in debt to the taxman. As we have seen in the UK, the taxman needs to take a no nonsense approach to ensure clubs pay their debts and we, as taxpayers first and fans second, also need to be repaid.

  • Comment number 3.

    Of course, I meant to write Real Madrid and not Spain before anyone points it out for me. If one club were to be known as Spain, it would more likely be Barcelona! The Spanish league is even more imbalanced than the Premier League.

  • Comment number 4.

    Agreed with both posts, the distribution of funds amongst the teams in Spain is terrible. In the UK the promoted teams from the Championship have an eye watering reward from the PL and ultimately the television rights and in my opinion to be promoted from such a tough divisiion deserves as much.

    However these issues always boil down to money because greed has taken over common sense in the Western World.

    Why show poorer people the games for free? Rich business men don't get anything out of it and surely isn't that what footballs about, making fat cats richer?

    I wish the UK government would make the PL show 1 PL game a week on terrestrial but then super rich people like Rupert Murdoch wouldn't be able to make millions/billions of pounds that he can evade from the taxman and thats not fair on poor old him is it?

  • Comment number 5.

    The funny thing is some of the best players in the world come from incredibly impoverished environments like the favella's of Brazil and not to such a degree Rooney, Gerrard etc came from very humble parts of Liverpool.

    These are the same future footballers whose families probably struggled to pay for satellite TV!!!

  • Comment number 6.

    I fully agree with the posters above in reference to the unfairness of the distribution of tv rights in the LFP. I believe this will only hamper Real & Barcelona's progress in the future, especially in the champion's league as they will come up against stronger foreign teams without having any tough matches.

  • Comment number 7.

    If the Premier League was forced to show 1 live match a week on terrestrial TV; then I think all us non-satellite subscribers would be bloody happy!

  • Comment number 8.

    So, in a nutshell, the Spanish clubs want to squeeze yet more money out of their fans in order to pay for the club's own financial mismanagement?

    Disgraceful. I love watching and playing football but the ridiculous fleecing of the fans, the huge debts (often to the taxpayer) racked up by the big clubs and the ridiculous salaries paid to the players leave a really bitter taste in the mouth.

  • Comment number 9.

    The developments in Spain are of great interest when Financial Fair Play springs to mind. Platini many times spoke of Premiership clubs overspending and being in danger of liquidation. Just, in England, the Inland Revenue gets taxes promptly while in other countries - with Spain a leader - clubs are allowed to not pay taxes for up to 10 years, as we read in this article. English clubs have come on the bring of liquidation, as far as I remember, when they were asked to pay taxes and failed in doing so.

    With regard to one match on free TV per week, the example is not the UK, where Murdoch makes billions out of football. People forget that when you pay some £150 per household, every single household, it is not too much to have one match available per week in this country, too.

    The question when it comes to the two superclubs in Spain, Barcelona and Real Madrid, is: with all preferential treatment they get in their country, with regard to taxes, TV money allocation, they still have hundreds of £m of debt. Hardly a comparison with the top English sides.

    Isn't it common sense to question whether the appearance of 3 English clubs in the Champions League semi finals for 2-3 seasons has disturbed a few people in top offices in UEFA and are fighting English clubs?

  • Comment number 10.

    It's a hard one to balance because, on the one hand, it's admirable that there is a law in place which ensures that the lesser beings who cannot necessarily afford expensive satellite television. On the other, these clubs shouldn't be forced into situations where they potentially are unable to maximise television revenues. I don't know whether this falls into FIFAs "no government interference" stance or whether that is simply with the country's football association but something has to give.

  • Comment number 11.

    Yassir Malik is my friend.

  • Comment number 12.

    This is an interesting subject as it is not what we would normally refer to as a strike where the employees (in this case the players) withdraw work from the employers (the club). Actually it is the employers saying they will stop all production.
    While every one seems to be focusing on the clubs vs the government I wonder about the following:
    (i) What is the attitude of the Spanish FA and League. Do they support the cancelling of these fixtures. Especially what was their attitude towards the fixtures where one of the teams was one of the 6 that wanted to play the original date. Had the game been cancelled by the other team could the team wanting to play have claimed the points?
    (ii) What is the attitude of the broadcasters? How much leeway will they give the clubs to cancel games that they are paying to show? This could be very important in terms of the summer. If next season's league gets delayed by 2-3 weeks, are the fans going to start cancelling their subscriptions because they aren't getting live football?

  • Comment number 13.

    To Football_UK (#9)

    Is it possible that Platini has spoken about debt at Spanish clubs but the British media only highlight when he talks about the British clubs?

    Either way the financial fair play regs will have just the same effect on these spanish clubs as the UK ones so it isn't about targeting the English clubs. If they wanted to do that they could have done it in such a way that wouldn't be about to affect the big spanish clubs (unless Platini's trying to get a french team to win it)

    As for should we have a free game every week in the UK?
    Why? Football has never been free to watch (beyond amateur level). Prior to television if you wanted to see the game you had to pay to enter the stadium and watch it. Why should it be any different now?

    If people truely want football on free to air TV then all they have to do is band together and stop buying sky. With out the demand in the UK the price of the UK rights will fall and the free-to-air domestic channels will be able to afford the games again. Plus it will probably make very little difference to the clubs as most of the TV money comes from outside the UK which would be unaffected by this.

  • Comment number 14.

    @ 13 great statement but you do realise that clubs like Wigan and Blackburn are not able to fill their stadiums 3/4's.

    So free-to-air TV is not going to help the "lesser club" compared to Manchester United!!!

  • Comment number 15.

    @ 13,

    fair comments, more or less.

    The question with regard to Platini having a go at English clubs was in relation to transfers made by Chelsea and Liverpool in January and recent transfers in the Premiership, while I am well aware that he hadn't made similar sort of momments when Real Madrid bought Ronaldo, Benzema, Kaka in one single season.

    As for one match available on free TV here too, I don't think it would harm SKY and ESPN if one of those so called lesser Premiership matches was shown on free TV, every weekend. The paradox is that you find fans supporting Murdoch on this. Not viewing a free football match a week is not the only case where the interests of mulitnationals are supported in this country. The same thing happened more or less whenn a big tobacco case came about in USA and tobacco companies paid billions in compensations, while here the were left unharmed.

  • Comment number 16.

    @ 15

    momments -> comments : correction
    mulitnationals -> multinationals
    whenn -> when

    I can't believe me!

    :)

  • Comment number 17.

    @ 14,

    I did assume that the relevant tv channels would pay clubs for showing matches.
    I don't know if I remember correctly, but the BBC pays football clubs also for when they appear as prime football news on the football BBC page.

  • Comment number 18.

    if people asked me which leauge is better? i would say which way that is a dumb queston, first of all la liga currently has better quality of players lets be honest hey, primer is lacking behind and then theres serie a and the german leauge them two leauge are way off, in truth i nevr liked la liga only watchted the el classico but thats about it.

    why i hate la liga the league is very boring to predictable meaning result ways, slow pace, and most of the players are also overrated, thats what i think.

    the government helps them with the funding? are they serious can any1 see UK governement helping teams with money never, recently real borrowed money from the government like 2 years ago or soemthing.

    la liga also sign young players, and then they say the primer leuage teams buy young players stealign talents" as they say, they also offer huge amount of money as salaries lol i live on less than 1% of their money ronaldo earns about 11.5 million pound by salaries, in year with deals about 28 million so thats just shameful act people are dying of food and there buyin hot pink pants.

    also the fifa finacial play starts from 2012 and man utd it is a lon sotry how i hate the la liga leauge

  • Comment number 19.

    I don't care much for Spanish football, it is a corrupt world there. But if the Spanish government helps any of them out I would fully expect Blatter to wade in and ban all Spanish teams and the Spanish national team from international competitions as per the rule he imposes on the smaller nations, like the ones he bans on the African continent.

    If Spanish football suffers, so be it. I won't lose any sleep over it.

  • Comment number 20.

    Welshjack87 (#14).
    Not sure if I understood your post so apologies if my response isn't relevant.
    My suggestion was purely about how the fans could get regular free to air games if we really wanted them. Other than suggesting that the amount lost on the annual income would be relatively small (ITV and BBC would both compete for the rights so the PL would still receive a good amount) for the clubs as the majority of their money from TV comes from foreign rights.

    I make no claim that this will be either good or bad for any individual clubs (or even the league as a whole). Though I admit it would hit the smaller clubs more than the larger clubs as this money would make up a larger % of their overall budgets.

  • Comment number 21.

    PS. This Platini thing going in here....

    I just googled "Platini criticises La Liga". I got:

    Platini criticises Arsene Wengers policy
    Platini criticises Lax Premier League financial regulations
    Platini criticises Serie A Spending
    Platini criticises state stance
    UEFA President Michel Platini plays down Premier League row
    Platini backs Xavi for Ballon d'Or
    UEFA president Platini reveals he is a fan of the Premier League
    Michel Platini will expel debt ridden clubs from the Champions...
    Platini backs Xavi for the Ballon d'Or
    Platini: International stage must take priority

    So despite his precious Spanish La Liga long being the worst league for financial security, not one result shows him criticising his precious jewel in his crown. The only person he hasn't criticised is me.... apart from all those linked to La Liga ofcourse.

    I hope he sticks by his word and rules and makes sure that niether Real Madrid nor Barcelona take part in Europe when the 2012 financial fair play kicks in, because those two clubs never make a profit and between they have over £1,200,000,000 of debts!! That is £1.2 BILLION!!!

    I bet you they don't fall under this new rule! Or any other Spanish club for that matter!

  • Comment number 22.

    The free to air matches on spanish tv are normally Barcelona or Real Madrid v one of the smaller teams in the league. Most of the high profile games are on satellite tv. Imagine games like Manchester Utd v West Ham or Chelsea v Sunderland and you get the idea. If the clubs in Spain sold their own tv rights then the gap between Barcelona and Real Madrid and the rest of Spanish football will only get bigger.

    It seems the top teams whatever the country are only interested in maximising their profits. When did top flight football stop being a sport?

    What is happening at Rayo Vallecano is a disgrace and you have to admire the professionalism and desire of the players. Rayo Vallecano have worked their way to the top of the second division. There seems to be a either a complete lack of will or ability or both to pay the players wages from the clubs owners. The players appear to have done everything possible to resolve the problem only to be fobbed off everytime leaving withdrawing their labour as the only option left to them (strike is the wrong word as they aren't being paid and as such their contracts aren't being honoured by the club). I don't understand why the spanish league hasn't got involved. Good luck to them.

    It puts the self serving strike by 14 of the top flight clubs into perspective.

  • Comment number 23.

    I don't care much for Spanish football, it is a corrupt world there.

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Do you have any evidence of corruption or is this statement of a small minded bigot ?

  • Comment number 24.

    Football_UK (#15)

    Platini, fair enough. He probably does need to speak out about the financial stuff going on in Spain. Especially now with the tax revelations about Spanish clubs.

    Agreed that a free to view wouldn't hurt Sky or other broadcasters. I just don't think it's our right to have it free to air league football.

  • Comment number 25.

    Please let's not start the debate about which is better Premier League or La Liga.
    In the end it comes down to a personnel view of what we like.

  • Comment number 26.

    @ 24, ManchesterUnited4Ever,

    I doubt Premiership matches will be viewed on free TV in this country, for one simple reason: citizens in the UK are far too much used to being ripped off, without standing a chance when they appear to be in contrast with what multinationals want. Still, it was a worthy thought, given the analogy with this court case.

    The Realist at @21 gives the best example of why, when I read this article, Financial Fair Play and Platini came to my mind, as it "smelled" that Platini is not so fair when it comes to the Premiership, in comparison with La Liga.

  • Comment number 27.

    SoriaSaint (#22)

    Agree that it is appalling about the payment of players at Rayo.
    In the UK I'm pretty certain the players could get their contracts cancelled for this which would allow them to sign for another club which would then pay them.
    In fact a quick search brought up the case of Michael Stewart who cancelled a contract with a Turkish club for refusing to pay him while he was injured.
    Given that, even though they haven't been paid, these players have made it to the top of the league, I would imagine that several clubs would be interested in them

    Interesting point about the free-to-air games in Spain. While I don't think we have a right to free games, I agree that taking it away from Spain would make the gap larger. I also disagree with the clubs attempting to force the government to scrap the rule by refusing to play

  • Comment number 28.

    So once again the same old English attitude of the world is against us has taken over this topic, no surprise there. Platini has spoken time and again against real madrid as well. Its just that the british media only chooses to focus on the criticism made towards english clubs and rightly so because every country will be primarily concerned with their own problem. Its the same in every other country in the world. Why do you have to make it seem like England is the center of everything?

    take off your obviously biased shades and type "platini critises real madrid" in google and you will see what i mean. For crying out loud! Here is the first page.

    Platini criticizes high transfer fees.
    UEFA President Michel Platini criticizes Italian Stadiums | bettor.com
    Michel Platini to Call into Question Real Madrid's Morality ...
    Michel Platini: Real Madrid's Spending 'Annoys Me' - Goal.com
    Michel Platini Slams Real Madrid's 'Excessive' Pursuit Of ...
    UEFA president Platini "embarrassed" over Ronaldo, Real Madrid ...
    UEFA chief Michel Platini blasts Real Madrid's £80m bid for ...

    Bitter cookies anyone? peace.

  • Comment number 29.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 30.

    @ 28,

    it is not about bitter cookies.
    Platini himself declared at the time that he liked Ronaldo moving to Real Madrid. He does speak frequently about English clubs spending money for transfers in a much higher scale than he does for La Liga clubs. If he was so frequent in criticising Spanish clubs, I'm sure, English media would pick on that and would write about it.

  • Comment number 31.

    Maybe the Spanish League needs to take a cartel based approach to selling their TV rights like the Premier League does.

    In the Premier League, in order to be able to take part, clubs are forced to give their TV rights to the PL. The PL then breaks up all of the 20 clubs fixtures into 6 TV packages, with Sky buying 4/5 of them and another provider (currently ESPN) the remaining 1/2. Sky paid billions for the last deal. The money made from that TV deal is then, in large part, split up evenly between all 20 PL clubs. (On a little sidenote, it would be interesting to see a terrestrial TV channel pick a package up, but considering the costs, its very unlikely).

    From what I understand in Spain, the clubs themselves may choose to keep ownership of their own TV rights. Of course, TV broadcasters are willing to pay millions upon millions for the likes of Barca and Real Madrid, but of course not so much for the likes of Hercules and Sociedad. It leaves the smaller clubs fighting for scraps while Barca and Real carry on spending tens of millions to attract the worlds best talent. As we have seen, this is leading the La Liga into a two horse race every season.

    Yes the competitive balance isn't as great as it could be in the PL either - but its a damn sight better than it is in Spain at the moment. The business sense is wrong in La Liga. In a league system like the PL and La Liga, every club is interdependent on the other 19 or so compeititors, becuase they all need each other to exist in order to put on a spectacle every week. The PL ensures this happens, (Portsmouth only went on the brink of collapse because of their own financial mismanagement), but in Spain, it seems as if the rules are slowly allowing Real and Barca to put every other team in the league out of business!

  • Comment number 32.

    Football_UK,

    Agreed probably will not have free to air premier league football on the UK again as not enough people want to do anything about it.
    I should point out that before I left the UK a couple of years ago, I had never bought sky. Now that I am living abroad I do buy satellite TV (ESPN sports channels with PL are actually included in the basic price which is good) as it's the only way to get english speaking tv. Not sure if/when I return to the UK I'll get sky for the sports though. However if I don't then I won't have any right to complain about no free to air football on tv. I'll either have to buy SKY or get out and convince everyone else not to buy sky to get it back on the BBC (Please not ITV they ruined PL coverage when the had it and I'm not a great fan of the CL coverage)

    Durtbag (#28). Agreed UK media does seem to gloss over Platini's non-UK criticisms. It took me a while of searching to find critisisms of the Ronaldo transfer and the reports generally only had one brief quote. Finding criticism of spanish league will be tricky for the english as most of the coverage will be in spanish and that doesn't show up in a standard UK google search

    So to contradict my previous statement slightly maybe the UK media needs to start reporting his non-UK criticisms.

  • Comment number 33.

    Football_UK,

    Platini did criticise the ronaldo transfer in terms of price it just wasn't published very well in the UK media (1 or 2 lines). Instead the UK media focused on UK people saying it was over the top.
    The support you refer to was prior to the transfer and was about the way that Real Madrid were going about it. Even then he mentioned finances
    From RTEsport website
    "United have already had an official complaint against Real rejected by FIFA and now Platini has said the Madrid club's public wooing of the Portuguese players is part and parcel of the game.
    Platini told a news conference in Vienna:
    'Every club in the world would like to have Ronaldo.'It's part of the system we have today. Players move from club to club and I can understand why Real Madrid want him. They had di Stefano and Puskas in the past, and as Ronaldo is considered one of the best or the best player in the world it's normal. If the club has the finances they can do it so, if they don't have the money they can't.' "

    Realistically the public courting of Ronaldo was nothing much more than Man Utd and other British clubs have done over the years. It's not much different to the Barcelona/Fabregas thing either

  • Comment number 34.

    Football_UK

    You are peddling this nonsense again. You will find that the english clubs are very well placed to deal with this, far better than say the milan sides, and hes always accused in this country of favouring italy seeing as he played there. It simply isnt the case.

    Real and barca will likely be fine, its clubs run at a huge loss by sugar daddies that will suffer, and to be honest thats tough. Its financial doping and I fear ti will take a milan or something of that ilk to go to the wall before people here accept what hes trying to do is the right thing. Just because he not sky's chief cheerleader dont think he hates people in this country.

  • Comment number 35.

    any one realise that there is no such thing as, free to air tv in the UK, we still have to pay tv license what ever channel they put football on we still paying for it, the only thing that changes is the price isn't as inflated

  • Comment number 36.

    I think the financial fairplay rules will be great for Europe, if enforced. It will force the sugar daddy teams to compete more fairly and in fact probably result in those teams not winning as many titles as their owners wish they would. Pure money doesn't always result in pure success. It's footballing institutions, with real fan bases and a recognisable strategy for continuous success that win titles year in year out. Man Utd, Real, Barça, previously Juve and AC Milan. They know how to win, it's in their genes. United may have had a horrible takeover, but few would argue what their success in the 90s was down to. I hope teams like Ajax, with a great academy and recognised style will be able to catch up again under the new rules. I hope that the oligarch funded russian teams, with no fan base or history, will be nipped in the bud before they start unfairly drawing CL money further east. Zenith, CSKA, Dinamo Kiev ok, they have european pedigree, but Teret Grozny and the unpronouncable team that Roberto Carlos just turned up at? Give me a break. And Felipe Scolari was earning millions at a club in Uzbekistan. What on earth is that about? Back at home, Manchester City have made every nouveau riche mistake I can think of. Every single one. Blackburn too, and it's not like they were very marketable to begin with.

    I live in Lyon now and Jean Michel Aulas wants to model OL on Arsenal, including the financial aspects. But in his plan to make a giant new stadium with plenty of corporate boxes to make him a fortune, he forgets that Arsenal moved less than a mile. The Stadium of Light, as it will be called, is to be situated miles out of the centre, by the airport. Not very convenient at all, and not likely to be welcomed by the fans.

    I also think the Premier League's group selling strategy is excellent, and fair, and the position based prize money guarantees extra incentives not to just try to avoid relegation. I enjoy La Liga, think it's technically far superior but still really fun to watch (Villareal, Atletico, Valencia and Sevilla often serve up great games without the big 2), but I wish they would take a collectivist leaf out of the PL book. I'm sure though the greedy spanish club owners will be looking for all the other more lucrative aspects to the PL success.

  • Comment number 37.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 38.

    "Why show poorer people the games for free? Rich business men don't get anything out of it and surely isn't that what footballs about, making fat cats richer? "

    Do you actually have a clue what you're talking about?

    You've seemingly missed the entire point of the article, the clubs AREN'T getting richer, infact very very few professional clubs actually break-even, let alone the even fewer number who actually make a profit.

    Almost all professional clubs lose money every year, especially in Spain where as previously stated, Barcelona and Real Madrid have a monopoly of the TV rights.

    So this isn't about "making fat cats richer lololol", it's about helping clubs which are barely surviving to actually survive.

  • Comment number 39.

    Phil, just to clarify the 800m would just represent an increase from the 650m which the present deal is worth.
    What irritates me is that Barca and Real Madrid currently share 45% of this pot between them. Even under the new deal planned for 2014, their share will still be 34% of total income. Why not start the season with 6 extra points as well?
    This financial imbalance allows the top 2 to reach the Champions League each year, which of course opens up another income stream and further distances them from the competition. The result is 2 very exciting clubs playing against some gallant also-rans, who are fighting for the scraps.

    By allowing the club's tax debts to grow to gargantuan proportions, the Govt has shot itself in the foot. Already struggling with 20% unemployment, it cannot put La Liga into administration a year before the General Election, but equally it desperately needs that money. In the same way that bonuses have been attacked by governments in banks & institutions that they have 'bailed out', perhaps Spain's government should threaten to get inside clubs and curb pay and bonuses whilst they are coming from our tax euros. That may concentrate the minds of club chairmen?

    I agree with all the posters who lay this at the feet of UEFA to resolve the basic inequalities of the way income is distributed. They need to remove the 'candy' of European competition, until the LFP sorts itself out.

  • Comment number 40.

    Isn't it common sense to question whether the appearance of 3 English clubs in the Champions League semi finals for 2-3 seasons has disturbed a few people in top offices in UEFA and are fighting English clubs?
    _________________________________________

    Which 'English' football clubs are you writing about? ManU and Chelsea are not English owned. Even Arsenal is 2/3 foreign owned and has very little to do with English even on the field.. Can't compare these with Spanish clubs which are Spanish owned except Malaga and Santander, which are nowhere near CL places.

  • Comment number 41.

    What should really happen is that the 18 disadvantaged clubs in La Liga should go on strike and refuse to play until the disgracefully unfair TV rights issue which is heavily in favour of Real and Barca is changed. It distorts competition and unless it is changed, it is inconceivable that any club will be able to challenge the Big 2 supremacy in years to come. The Liga will then become a predictable and irrelevant tribal tussle like the Scottish Premier league.

  • Comment number 42.

    Could you explain why Mallorca finished in a european spot last year but did not get to play in the end? Was that not due to some financial irregularoty

  • Comment number 43.

    I wonder what people's views are on the possible resurrection of a G14 group launching a Euro super-league should the fair play rules come into effect and, heaven forbid, be enforced?

    The clubs discussed, United, Barcelona, Madrid etc, they are all too big to fail. They have huge followings and account for the more interesting cities in Europe, hence they're not going to struggle with fanbases or attracting top players.

  • Comment number 44.

    Sorry, too big to be allowed to fail I should say...

  • Comment number 45.

    Phil, seeing as you're the resident "europe" expert, 'd be curious to see your take on the farcical nature of the Belgian competition over the last 2 years
    (ridiculous play-off system which completely alienates the fans, constant stream of attempts to overturn lost games/degradation via courts, and even the totally moronic suggestion of letting the average results of the last 3 years determine the teams going down from the first tier)

  • Comment number 46.

    The Spanish negotiating their own TV deals isn't as unfair as people seem to think - only unfair when you compare what Real Madrid get to what Manchester United get, but that is neither here nor there. Real Madrid's and Barcelona's TV earnings are roughly a third of their income, with match day earnings and commercial revenues making up the rest in roughly equal measure. This is a good business model. Cutting their TV money would mean that they would immediately seek to grow this revenue stream in a bid to equalise all revenues. How would they do that? 39th game in Asia? Press for a European league? The other teams in Spain know that they owe their livelihood to the big two so it's reasonable that each club should get a fair price for their product. Real Madrid and Barcelona started out like any other club and owe their success to the good running of the clubs. Should they share out their ticket sales because they have big stadia or commercial revenues because other clubs can't sell their Levante bed sheets?

    In England, only Man Utd, Arsenal and Chelsea can boast a revenue stream equal to or better than TV money. For other clubs TV money is between two and five times their second biggest revenue source. When clubs get relegated their very existance is under threat. One by one English teams are being sold to foreign investors for a song just to cover the debts.

    I think the 3rd to 6th place teams in Spain deserve more money from TV but that's it. The English model is not desireable. Liverpool is a great example of one of the historically elite clubs of Europe being dragged through the mud on the back of financial gambling due to TV money.

  • Comment number 47.

    Thank you, this was an in-depth coverage of a very important topic in global sports, my question is that Valencia management wanted to play, but were not part of the G-6, why?

  • Comment number 48.

    palmagreen, Mallorca, due to the poor financial situation at the club, UEFA decided on 22 July 2010 against granting Mallorca the licence to play in the 2010/2011 UEFA Europa League.

  • Comment number 49.

    BigGiantHead: “Have many clubs in Spain faced administration yet? Or has the semi-professional third tier meant less clubs struggle?” Good questions, sadly there are no clear-cut answers. The truth of the matter is that the clubs are less-than-explicit about the state of their accounts. To keep it simple, if clubs clear their debts to the players by the end of the season and manage to keep the rest of their creditors at bay one way or another, the state of their finances isn’t being questioned too closely. Of course, sooner or later, such as when big tax bills finally have to be paid, this house of cards falls down.

    Football_UK: “Barcelona and Real Madrid, is: with all preferential treatment they get in their country, with regard to taxes, TV money allocation, they still have hundreds of £m of debt.” The point also has to be made that they have huge assets, which is not the case with most other La Liga clubs.

    ManchesterUnited4ever: 1: “What is the attitude of the Spanish FA and League. Do they support the cancelling of these fixtures?” In Spain, the Spanish FA is basically responsible for the national team and grassroots football so they have been conspicuously silent on this matter. The League, as such, is the LFP, i.e. the top two divisions of professional teams (although the Segunda B also contains some fully-professional teams) and it was them that called the strike.

    2: “What is the attitude of the broadcasters? How much leeway will they give the clubs to cancel games that they are paying to show?” The broadcasters were adopting a wait-and-see approach, seeing whether it was the government or LFP that came out on top. The games were not going to be cancelled, only postponed.

    3: “If next season's league gets delayed by 2-3 weeks, are the fans going to start cancelling their subscriptions because they aren't getting live football?” There are such a plethora of special offers from the broadband and satellite companies that perhaps some people might cancel their contracts and then re-subscribe when the footy starts in earnest but the majority of subscriptions are for packages that also cover other types of entertainment (films, children’s channels etc) so wives and kids might be taken into consideration in this situation!

    SoriaSaint: “The free to air matches on Spanish TV are normally Barcelona or Real Madrid v one of the smaller teams in the league.” It’s looking likely that Real Madrid v Barcelona on April 16 will be the late kick off free-to-air match.

    I only talked about the situation at Rayo in passing, but eventually they played this evening at Valladolid, ending up with a creditable 2-2 draw.

    However, there was an extensive interview in Marca this morning with Teresa Rivero and her son Javier Ruis-Mateos, the owners of Rayo.

    I’ve included a link the website article, below but it’s in Spanish.

    http://www.marca.com/2011/04/02/futbol/equipos/rayo/1301745552.html?a=818019b543e937aee46192d5f93da08f&t=1301770027

    The key points are that they have no money and they haven’t got a buyer for the club, so the players are going to continue to not getting paid.

    However, without going the financial details, this is not a situation that has arisen overnight. To my mind, this provokes two questions: what are the LFP doing to audit the financial state of clubs such as Rayo? If the LFP are not culpable, what information was then withheld and are criminal proceedings against Teresa Rivero and her son Javier Ruis-Mateos viable?

    You thoughts would be welcome. The Rayo story would be worth a blog in itself and it may be a subject I revisit at the end of the season, especially if they do eventually finish in the top two (this season there will be a ‘Championship-style’ play-off among the next four eligible clubs for the third promotion place).

 

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