Counting our Blessings

It’s probably no coincidence that while Barcelona dominates the club football landscape and the Spanish National Team, youth and adult, has seemingly won every trophy available to them in the past 3 years,  the Spanish domestic league isn’t just in shambles, it’s shutting down indefinitely through a player strike.

From Sid Lowe in today’s Guardian:

According to [player’s union president José Luis Rubiales], more than 200 players have experienced salaries being paid late or not at all. Last season €50m worth of wages went unpaid. The season before it was €12m.

Spanish football is in financial crisis. Betis, Zaragoza, Racing Santander, Rayo Vallecano, Hércules, Córdoba and Recreativo de Huelva are in administration. Over the past few years 22 of the 42 clubs in Spain’s top two divisions have passed through administration at one stage or another.

Although it may be easy to side with the players on this, the reason for the strike is so painstakingly obvious, that I can’t summon any empathy for anyone.

The problem with La Liga is not just the continual degree of imbalance at the top of the table; it’s at the top of the ledger. From Mike Cardillo’s excellent That’s On Point blog:

Real Madrid and Barcelona dictate the terms of La Liga’s television rights revenue. Under a proposal in 2010 for a new deal starting in for the 2013, the two clubs would pocket 34 percent of the money with 11 percent split between Atletico Madrid and Valencia, with the other 16 clubs fighting for the rest.

My math may be off but by my count that’s barely 3.5% for storied and quality clubs like Villarreal, Sevilla, Athletic Bilboa, et al. And lest we forget, La Liga postponed a match this past spring because a TV deal could not be agreed to.

The New York Times puts the percentages into figures today:

Spain’s to-each-his-own approach, whereby every club has been negotiating its own television agreements, has allowed Real Madrid and Barcelona to pocket about half of the €650 million of annual television revenue generated by La Liga, as well as develop their own television channels. In contrast, Getafe, a Liga club from the Madrid suburbs, has received about €6 million

We all know that TV revenue is the engine that runs this league, and sports leagues across the planet. I read a tweet over this past week that stated most English clubs are broke but living off TV revenue welfare. When reading stories about Everton’s plight and other reports of clubs hemorrhaging money, you can’t help but agree.

But the EPL and Football League has never reached a 25%, let alone Spain’s 52%, administration level in recent years, has it?

When Fulham barely survived in 2008, the club still earned over 30 million quid in TV revenue. Last year it was 47 million. Now, if Fulham were in Spain, that amount would be only 5.2 million. Or, about what we paid for Moussa Dembele.

So even if you add in other revenue sources: gate receipts, shirt sponsorship, admission to see the Michael Jackson statue (potentially?); a club of our size might not even be in the Third Divison under La Liga’s voodoo economics. And that’s even with Al-Fayed as Chairman.

There are a lot of problems with the EPL. The Sky Five, exorbitant ticket costs, total economic and sporting imbalance, no 21st Century Technology available to consumers, et al. But, this weekend, I’m quite glad Fulham are in SW6 and not Andalusia.

2 thoughts on “Counting our Blessings

  1. interesting. The rich get richer, everyone else has to do the best they can while fighting a losing battle. Sounds familiar.

    You could never run european sports on an american model, and I’m aware that the american system is frequently abused by greedy owners, but the whole concept of revenue sharing is vital to a league’s well being. It’s exciting that Real and Barca are so strong, but equally, it can make the Spanish league seem a bit… unfortunate.

    These things have a habit of sorting themselves out though. Whether it’s the old european super league, a complete meltdown of the spanish economy, it’ll right itself. You make some excellent points though, cheers.

  2. Very good post. Also makes it really interesting when a player like Llorente comes along at a mid-level team like Athletic Bilbao: the club really had to identify a talent and develop it. Also makes you wonder how the Spanish teams so consistently perform at the European levels (Europa, UEFA Cup, etc.) when their English counterparts do not, considering they have not had the same level of resources as the midlevel English teams have had (Everton, Aston Villa, Tottenham, Man City, etc.). Remember Balotelli kicking a player in the chest? Would be interesting to do a post on English teams in non-Champions League competitions for the past 15 years. The only ones that I can remember doing well are Fulham and Middlesborough, and Liverpool the year we got to the final.

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