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La Liga Is Broken And This Is Why

Saturday’s El Clasico was the most expensive game in world football. Ever. The two clubs continue to take a massive cut of the TV revenue from La Liga. The system is broken and unfair. Sean Curtin explains why. 

€1.3 Billion was the figure media outlets reported this weekend. That figure represents the combined transfer fees paid for the 22 players who walked onto the pitch on Saturday, to kick a ball around a pitch.

It’s a truly phenomenal amount of money. It should serve as another wake-up call for those who run La Liga. Their system is broken. The two clubs have such a massive financial advantage over other clubs thanks to past successes and a global fan base.

The structure of La Liga at the moment provides both Barca and Madrid with more of the League’s TV revenue than other clubs. Considerably more at that.

Right now Barcelona and Real Madrid earn some 11 times what the smallest team in La Liga earns in TV rights. To put that in a bit more perspective, both teams earned  €140 million each in the 2012-13 season whilst 30% earned just  €12 million each from TV rights. In fact, 75% of teams earned less than €30 million.

What this creates is a self-reinforcing cycle. Each year the gap widens between what Barcelona and Real Madrid earn compared to the rest. Each year the teams continue to outspend practically everyone in world football. Their spending is so great it causes transfer fees to rise across the board, given the massive valuations they slap on players.

Barcelona and Real Madrid have seen a conveyor belt of talent enter their ranks in recent years. Between them the top five most expensive players of all-time play for either club (Bale, Ronaldo, Suarez, James and Neymar). Elsewhere the other eighteen clubs have a very real problem. They face a constant stream of star players leaving.

David Silva, Jesus Navas, Sergio Aguero, Fernando Torres, Roberto Soldado, Michu, Diego Costa, Radamel Falcao, Juan Mata and Santi Cazorla are just some of the players from outside the top two have migrated elsewhere for better money and a chance at glory.

Is there any light at the end of the tunnel? This year laws were passed that will eventually come in to effect in 2015. This will limit the amount of revenue clubs with combined annual sales of over  €1 Billion will receive. Under the so-called ‘Sports Law’ clubs who match this criteria, will not be able to receive anything over four times more than what the smaller clubs receive.

It’s a start but a paltry effort in truth. Some will argue that the future of La Liga isn’t so dreary after all. Atletico Madrid are the league champions of course. If they can do it, their must be hope for others surely?

The truth is that Atletico won La Liga in spite of the current situation. A talented manager and a talented squad bought on the cheap overcame the odds. It was romantic and perfect. They reached the final of the Champions League, knocking out a Chelsea team featuring £50 million Fernando Torres. Atletico’s XI that night cost £20 million less than Torres.

Future triumphs like Atletico’s will remain beautifully romantic because of their rarity.

La Liga possess two of the greatest sports franchises in the world. But they must restrain them more than the upcoming Sports Law attempts to. La Liga’s greater health can only be ensured by fairly distributing it’s revenue.

At present it is only the mammoth spending spree on world-class talent that props up the TV rights deals La Liga receives. Take away the Ronaldo and Messi factor that having world-class players in your squad causes and would La Liga receive what it currently does? probably not.

La Liga’s long-term competitiveness problem can be somewhat fixed by levelling the financial playing field as much as possible. A revenue sharing model is not implausible. In the Premier League all clubs receive a fixed fee, most recently this stood at around  €16 million euros each.

So what that means is that even the worst team in the Premier League would earn more than a club in La Liga who finished anywhere as high up as twelfth. In the Premier League the gap in TV revenue between the smallest and largest clubs is around 1.6 times. That’s almost a whole ten times less than in Spain.

Everybody loves El Clasico. The drama is second to none. But what it symbolises is a terrific gap between the have’s and the have not’s. La Liga is surely one of the least competitive professional leagues in sport, never mind football. Should the other eighteen teams not be given a sporting chance to perform?

We are nine games in to this season and only two points separate the top five teams. It’s an exciting season indeed. Equal distribution of revenue will not solve the problems in Spanish football. The Premier League is not perfect and the rich teams rise to the top. But the Premier League is the arguably the most fun to watch.

Everyone tunes in for El Clasico but how many remain? How many even know what games are taking place next week? If Spanish teams are empowered with that additional revenue they will have more cash to buy, and pay players and clear off debts. Then just maybe the Premier League will face competition for title of best League to watch. Until then, we will have to settle for the next El Clasico.

Sean Curtin, Pundit Arena

About Sean Curtin

Sean Curtin
Community manager for Pundit Arena. Want to join the team? Got an idea? Get him at [email protected]

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