La Liga certainly has a strong claim as being one of the most glamorous leagues in the world, however, it is far from being the most financially sound, or professionally run. Barcelona and Real Madrid's duopoly at the top of the table is looking ever more permanent, whilst clubs are in deep financial trouble across the length and breadth of the country, painting a very different picture about La Liga.
If the Spanish league is not going to suffer a fatal fall from grace, some serious action needs to be taken. These are three areas where a bit of a care and attention from those running the game in Spain is required.
Sharing the Wealth
The squishiest, squirmiest locust nibbling away at Spanish football is the complete and utter lack of competition at the top of table, aside from an endless, tiresome squabble between La Liga’s big two. Of course, every league in Europe has clubs who tend to be dominant, but not to the extent of Barcelona and Real Madrid in recent years.
If either of those two drop points of a weekend, then a regional crisis ensues. In fact, if less than three goals are whacked past the latest cannon-fodder wheeled in front of the teams’ players, then questions are asked in Parliament.
Should Manchester United slip up against a mid-table side in England, everyone tends to shrug and move on. It’s a healthy state of affairs for a division that looks at the collective strength of all 20 teams as its power source, rather than the enrichment of its brightest and best.
The money from the current TV deal in Spain is largely set aside for two teams. In the Premier League, the split between clubs is fairly even. La Liga sees Barcelona and Real Madrid being given €140m a year to blow on €40m bench-sitters. Atletico Madrid grab €42 million whilst the sides lowest on the food chain receive a paltry €14m.
It’s quite, quite ludicrous.
Although new Spanish League president Javier Tebas has called for a more equal carve-up in the future, it’s unlikely to make the slightest bit of difference.
After all, the more money Barcelona and Real Madrid make, the more chance they have of Champions League glory and challenging their true rivals in a more globalized game—sides like Bayern Munich and Manchester United. Mallorca stopped being a concern some time ago.
Supporting the Fans
Traditionally, Spanish fans only get about two weeks to plan their matchday excursions due to the erratic way fixtures are planned and published. To be fair, the supporters are lucky to get this, as sometimes the notice period can be a matter of days. That still does not mean that supporters can get to the game in question, of course, due to utterly bizarre kickoff times.
Being able to attend games in Spain depends on a combination of stamina and ability to withstand deprivation, along with annoying things like families and jobs.
An example of the kind of nonsense that Spanish supporters have to put up with on a weekly basis was when Getafe hosted Real Sociedad last "weekend" at 10 p.m. on a Monday night, preventing even the home fans from going due to public transport issues.
You can forget about anyone from San Sebastian traveling down to catch their side’s thrilling Champions League push. This weekend, Real Sociedad will be playing on Monday at 10 again; Rayo Vallecano on Sunday at noon; and Zaragoza kick off at 9 p.m. on Friday.
Much, much, much rage-filled ranting could be dealt out on this topic. However, things are best left with the finest job of those looking after La Liga’s planning, which was to schedule last season’s Copa del Rey final between Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona a day before Spain’s first warm-up game for Euro 2012, at a stadium whose pitch had only been laid four days previously due to a Coldplay concert.
Fit and Proper People
Deportivo are a fairly typical example club in La Liga: run by truly incompetent people and heavily in debt for that very same reason. The club is currently being run by administrators, having given up on paying their bills earlier in the season, and they are no doubt sifting through thousands of boxes stuffed with napkins masquerading as receipts and IOUs.
Deportivo’s debt is reportedly up to €160 million with money outstanding to tax authorities, banks, footballers, other clubs, restaurants and travel agencies amongst many, many others. Some time ago, the current president, Augusto Lendoiro, apparently thought that it would be a good idea to stop paying anyone, ever, as a cunning way of getting out of financial trouble.
The joke is that everyone let him do it.
The sad story of the Galician club that’s currently facing relegation is a familiar one with Atletico Madrid, Real Sociedad and Valencia—three of Spain’s top five—all suffering major financial headaches and having to sell players to make ends meet. This debt-ridden despair in La Liga is not all down to the aforementioned TV money inequalities but largely due to most clubs in Spain being run by people you would not put in charge of a pot plant, never mind a football team.