Time for La Liga to go collective

Sevilla announced a meeting of La Liga clubs on Thursday to discuss a new equal collective TV deal.

Except Barcelona and Real Madrid have not been invited to the party, sharing as they do, the majority of TV revenues generated by teams in Spain’s top flight. The Seville club’s intervention comes as they hope to inject some sense back into the Spanish game, which is becoming increasingly ludicrous. 12 teams met, and they are determined to change La Liga and bring in an equal collective TV deal.

At the top of the scale, Barcelona and Real Madrid can generate double what English champions Manchester United can through TV revenue, but then third place Valencia took less than a million pounds more than Blackpool, relegated from the Premier League last season.

This highlights perfectly the gap, or cazzum, that appears between the top sides in Spain and the rest. Real Sociedad and Real Mallorca have recently exited administration, but four La Liga sides remain critically in the red, whilst most others are also in the danger zone, including Valencia and Sevilla.

All leagues are split. There is usually a group at the top, a middle ranking group and another one at the bottom fighting relegation. In England, this split is very pronounced, whilst in France and Germany for example, it is less so. But splits exist, only in Spain it is so large that it has become unhealthy.

The problem with La Liga is that the individual TV deal rewards Barcelona and Real Madrid so much that they can effectively buy up the talents from elsewhere in the league. Sergio Ramos, Dani Alves, David Villa, Raul Albiol…so many of the best talents of the ‘lesser’ teams have been snapped up by the big two. And those who aren’t, invariably end up elsewhere, such as Fernando Torres and Sergio Aguero.

But La Liga is now so uncompetitive that it suits no-one. The clubs who are trying to keep up with Real and Barca do not like the system, naturally. Jose Maria del Nido, the Sevilla President, has attacked it and called La Liga the biggest load of rubbish in Europe.

Meanwhile, Barcelona and Real aren’t benefiting either. Real general manager Jorge Valdano has spoken of the problems of the league and the potential need for the big two to break away to a league with other teams who progress at the same speed as them. I.e. a European super league.

But football, despite what cynics say, is not a business. Real and Barca do not generate millions to line their pockets. In fact, they have about £1 billion worth of debt between them and the money they generate is invariably poured into buying new players and paying their wages. This is not how a business works. Normal businesses have profit margins, and their whole purpose, as anyone whose watched Dragons Den will know, is to make money. In football, the whole point is to win trophies. That is what drives Real and Barcelona, but the achievement goes completely when there is no competition. Sport relies upon competition. La Liga though, is moving so far away from being competitive, that it is being slowly destroyed from within.

Comparatively, the Premier League is a beacon of perfection. Of course this is inaccurate, and wilfully ignorant of its own problems and debts, but it is at least more equal. The gap has closed between the traditional top four and the rest as Tottenham and then Manchester City broke that barrier. Remember a few years ago it was said that no-one could gatecrash that grouping. And though some may point to City and say big money has won them their place, that ignores Tottenham’s achievements, which so far have been better than those of City.

Competition is still fierce in the league, and it is far from being somewhere in which two sides will just trounce their opposition every week. La Liga should see this and take note. It is time for Spain’s league to go for parity over inequality. This is not a business, this is sport. Without an even playing field, football is meaningless.