The Spanish Premier League: A Coming Reality
In a meeting last week the presidents of the biggest football clubs in Spain layed the foundations for change in how Spanish football is run. The terms agreed upon will be voted on this Sunday May 9th, and could have far reaching consequences in the years to come.
The first of the changes would ba a concentration of voting power in the hands of the biggest clubs. As it stands, teams from the second division have the same influence as the giants of the first division. Like English clubs did almost two decades ago, Spanish clubs are considering making the first division an autonomous entity.
This would allow Spanish clubs to sell Television rights as a bloc, and earn significantly more overall. The deals are currently negotiated individually, leaving Barcelona and Real Madrid over 60 percent of the total. These two clubs have already agreed to submit the joint sale of TV rights to a vote, although the prickly issue of how to divide up that money has been left for a later date.
Many blame the inequality in finance with the rising inequality in La Liga standings. This season's La Liga has been the most unequal in history, with both Barcelona and Madrid breaking the record of points with two games to spare. That record, incidentally, was set by Fabio Capello's Real Madrid in 1996, when the league had 22 teams and 4 more games.
The inability of mid-table teams to compete with the "Big Two" could be improved by a different redistribution of TV money, as it has in England.
The Spanish plan would also mimic the EPL's successes marketing itself abroad. Joint decision making would allow for games to be played at earlier hours for foreign viewers. The foreign market has been the primary driver of the growth of the EPL TV revenue to over €2 billion annually, which is more than the revenues of the second and third biggest leagues combined.
Ideally, this would be the first step for Spanish teams becoming more competetive in Europe as well. Spanish clubs, apart from the top two, already punch well above their financial weight in Europe.
If this change improves Spanish teams' already strong position in Europe, it could usher in a golden age for Spanish football.
Not everyone is so optimistic, however.
The separation of the first and second division has been blamed, by some, for many problems in the English game. The Premier League has been criticized for causing the destruction of interest in local teams, and the failures of the English national team. It has also been influential in the collapse and struggles of formerly great teams like Leeds or Newcastle.
The severing of financial ties to the grass roots of football could combine with the shabby state of the Spanish economy to slam the door on a generation of talented players before they get to the top.
Sunday's meeting may not get as much press as Cristiano Ronaldo, but it could accomplish what the Portuguese forward's arrival claimed to: Turn Spanish football into the best in the world.
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