Thursday, September 01, 2011

Why Inequality Ruins Everything. Spanish Football Returns | Blokes on the Blog

I was reading something recently about the quantities of money that come into football in different countries through TV rights. The article talked about the comparison between Spain and England, it was in Spanish and unfortunately I have lost the original source.

However here are the stats. Last year in England Blackpool got the smallest cut from TV of all of the premier league teams, they “only” got 45 million Euros. Manchester United, the team that was televised the most got 78 million Euros. Now that is a huge difference, a couple of star players being signed of course. However what it showed is that through the range of the twenty clubs in the premier league there was a roughly equal spread of the TV income thus ensuring that the smaller clubs could compete at least in a game between the clubs. It also ensured that the smaller clubs could avoid going into administration meaning that the league remains quite solid because after all even the bigger clubs need someone to play against.

Spanish Football Players

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In Spain the big two are Barcelona and Madrid of course. Their income from TV dwarfed Manchester United’s with both getting 140 million Euros from TV rights. The next biggest beneficiaries were Valencia and Atletico Madrid with 45 million Euros. Notice a small difference of 95 million Euros there? There were five clubs that received 12 million Euros each, a modest difference of 128 million Euros each year.

Over the last six years in Spanish football Barcelona or Madrid have won the league and finished second every year except one when an inspired Villarreal managed to snatch second place. Everybody else is battling for third. To be third in Spain is to effectively win the league now in my opinion. However Valencia finished third last year 21 points behind madrid in second and Villareal in fourth were a very distant thirty points behind, almost a point per game!

This concentration of money and power in the top two is now having some disturbing trends which are being exaggerated more and more as the seasons go on. This year out of the top two divisions and 42 teams there are 17 who have no shirt sponsorship due to the crisis and the lack of opportunity for the brands to get exposure as all of the media concentrate on the Big Two to the detriment of all others. It looks like Valencia will actually manage to get sponsorship in the next week or so with a cruise line but for the third biggest club in Spain to be having this problem after the start of the season is extraordinary. Imagine Chelsea not being able to find a sponsor in England. Impossible! Well in Spain impossible is nothing.

Five of the teams in the top division are actually in administration to protect them from their creditors of whom one of the big ones are the players themselves who went on strike unless they were guaranteed their arrears. It has been admitted that the only reason that the league does not impose points deductions on teams going into administration is that it would leave the league tables looking like a farce.

During the Sunday football program on Sky at the weekend when talking about how good Juan Mata is Gordon Strachan said he often goes to watch Cartagena, I am going to assume he has a property in La Manga like many other footballers, and Mata is an exception. When he is at the Cartagena matches and comments about how good a young player is he is invariably told “Ah yes but he belongs to Barcelona/Madrid”. 80% of all stand out players in the lower leagues are already owned by the big two. Sid Lowe has written a great article about the “Bricking it” clause in loan contracts that is common now in Spain. You loan a player out to your rivals but he cannot play against his club meaning that you strengthen his loan club against all others and considerably weaken them against you. Real Madrid first put this clause into effect on all loans after being knocked out of the Champion’s League by Fernando Morientes while he was on loan at Marseille.

Sergio Canales

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This year Real Madrid have outdone themselves because last year they bought the best young player in Spain, Sergio Canales, against the wishes of their manager Mourinho. As a result Canales hardly played all season stalling his progression at a critical time. Valencia now have him on loan for two years but he cannot play against Madrid! Valencia also have the option to buy him which may be the only way to get him playing against Madrid, however Valencia have the largest debt of any football club in Europe so whether they can exercise that option is another thing.

The other thing is of course that the matches between the Big Two now mean so much more because they are effectively league deciders. Twice European Trophy winners Zaragoza lost 6-0 at home to Madrid in their first match of the season at the weekend. This would have been unthinkable ten years ago and only thinkable under Franco because the refs were crooked ;-)

The only possible change on the horizon is that Malaga now have their own Sheikh like Man City. They still lost their first game of the season to Seville though after spending 58 million during the summer.

However after the results at the weekend the English league cannot get complacent. United putting 8 past Arsenal and Man City hammering Tottenham away are signs of things to come. Now if only there were 20 Sheikhs with cash to make fabulously rich footballers even more wealthy mmmm!

Time to stop so much inequality methinks in order to save football

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