Tag Archives: La Liga

To Asia, Taking La Liga Beyond Real Madrid and Barcelona

In July last year, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez made a major push to get at least one La Liga game a week played earlier in the day to attract Asian audiences and support: “The change is vital if the Spanish league is to compete with the English,” he said. “The revenue figures for our clubs this year will be around the €1.55bn mark, in England the figure is closer to €2.4bn. It is not just the TV deals themselves but the potential repercussions that being shown prime time in Japan can have on marketing revenues.”

A year on, and it looks like this change to La Liga kick-off times will actually happen, following an offseason that has revealed just how parlous Spanish finances are, Barcelona’s debt and Mallorca’s financial troubles only the most obvious examples. It’s now apparent La Liga executives see a shift to suit Asian television audiences as critical not just for revenue growth at Real Madrid and Barcelona, but for the whole league — even if it’s at the expense of Spanish tradition.

I would argue that there are root problems in La Liga’s foundations behind these levels of debt that need to be addressed with as much urgency as reaching out to a new market, but at least La Liga is starting to realise that a two-club league is not the way forward, as World Football Insider reports.

“We are trying to change gear the way the Spanish league is promoted, not only the league but the players and also the sport of football,” Francisco Roca, La Liga’s chief executive, told Soccerex delegates today.

“I say changing gears because so far most of the promotion of the Spanish league has been driven by the individual efforts of FC Barcelona and Real Madrid.

“This has been extremely successful for us because those are the two elite teams of the Spanish league, but it’s not enough.

“They will obviously continue to do their individual efforts to do their tours every pre-season but we think that as a competition we are mature enough to be able to promote not only our two elite teams but also the other teams of the Spanish league, especially the first division.”

Famously, unlike the Premier League, television rights in Spain are sold individually by clubs, with the income for Barcelona and Real Madrid dwarfing all other clubs: Real Madrid and Barcelona have deals worth about €150 million  a season, while the likes of Valencia and Sevilla earn around €30 million a year, at best. Ultimately, as great as that is for Barcelona and Real Madrid in the short term, in the long run it makes for a weaker league and a less appealing global “product” (ugh). The Premier League and Manchester United have demonstrated the ancillary benefit of being seen as the biggest and best club in the biggest and best league, at least as collective marketing power has driven that perception.

If any informed Spanish observer knows, I’d be curious to learn if overseas television revenue is also sold individually by clubs in La Liga, or whether it’s sold collectively and shared equally: if it is the latter as I suspect it is, it would appear this drive to the Asian market may be one way to financially compensate for that huge domestic imbalance in revenue, that only hurts smaller clubs and drives madcap spending by the big two. Because while there has been discussion of selling La Liga rights collectively in the domestic Spanish market too, such is Barcelona’s debt and reliance on their individual television deal that seems very unlikely to change right now.

Elsewhere, in discussion of that imbalance and the drive to the Asian market, La Liga CEO Francisco Roca said, according to SportBusiness, that “this is not about short-term. The real benefits are in the medium and long-term. As a league we have to promote our clubs and we have to recognise that promoting the league is not just about Real Madrid and FC Barcelona.”

La Liga To Follow Premier League Television Revenue Sharing Model?

Sky Sports

Despite the current financial crisis in English football, it’s not down to a lack of television revenue for the Premier League. Indeed, that revenue is the envy of the world, with the £1.782 billion deal signed last year for domestic live game rights alone.

The Premier League’s deals are negotiated collectively; the threat of, say, Manchester United going it alone has long bubbled under the surface, but the overall size of the deals the League have managed to negotiate, and the long-term benefits of it for the Premier League as a whole, have kept even the biggest clubs behind the collective agreements.

The biggest clubs do receive more than the smaller clubs, with the money divided as follows:

25% is paid in merit payments determined by where a club finishes in the final league table;
50% of the domestic revenue is split equally;
100% of the non-domestic revenue is split equally among the clubs.
25%  is paid in facility fees, based on how often a club is shown on TV in the U.K., with each  club guaranteed a minimum of 10 facility fees.

But it’s still a far more equitable system than many other top European leagues have in place.

As Forbe’s explains:

Last season the club that got the least under that formula, Middlesborough, received 30.9 million pounds, compared to Manchester United, which got the most, at 51.1 million pounds.

That is a ratio of one to one and two thirds. Though not strictly analogous as clubs negotiate TV rights individually not collectively as in the EPL, the ratios in the top Italian and Spanish leagues are one to 16 and one to 14, respectively.

La Liga’s leadership has been looking to follow the Premier League’s example to close this gap for the benefit of the league as a whole. The problem they have is the entrenched power and massive revenue Barcelona and Real Madrid receive from selling their television rights individually. In 2006, the two companies signed deals worth a combined 2.1 billion euros with Grupo Mediapro in 2006 that expire in 2013.

Barcelona club president Joan Laporta said today in an interview with Reuters that they could consider change. Oddly, his words were described in this piece as an expression of outright opposition to such collective sales (“Barcelona are unwilling to accept a system of sharing television revenue”), but there is a reluctant acceptance that change may be coming:

“I don’t want to damage the interests of Barcelona Football Club, because we have to compete with teams in other countries,” Laporta said in an interview with Reuters Television at his office next to the Nou Camp stadium.

“In England, we are talking about 2 billion euros for Premier League rights so we have to compete against clubs that are making more money than us,” he added.

“But if there is a change in the system we will face that. I’m open to look for other systems to balance what every club represents in this business. I’m open to discuss other possibilities to make money (for) all of us.”

This change in the system could come from government action, as Bloomberg reported in December that new legislation means the biggest clubs “may have to negotiate future accords collectively with smaller Spanish soccer teams.”

It was much easier to persuade the biggest English clubs to share revenue in the Premier League, because the institution of the Premier League itself rewarded their greed: previously, the entire four division Football League had shared in the collective sale of television rights. The breakaway that formed the Premier League ensured much more revenue went to the top clubs, and the growth of those sales and of the Premier League as a global marketing phenomenon have kept them more-or-less happy since.

Given the structure of the Premier League, a corporation owned by all 20 clubs with one vote each, it would likely take another breakaway of the elite clubs to end collective television rights’ sales; and the balance that rewards the big clubs plentifully enough makes that highly unlikely.

And it’s one aspect of English football’s financial set-up that other parts of Europe do look keen to copy, as the prospective change to La Liga shows: it may be the only way they can keep up with the global selling power of the Premier League as a whole and the benefits this has for the biggest English clubs, with the potential of overseas television rights only starting to be seriously tapped.


What’s in a Name? – Real Sociedad and Borussia Dortmund

Age in soccer is a funny thing. On the one hand, we’re endlessly bombarded with praise for the latest teen sensation and seemingly every other issue of World Soccer or Four-Four-Two magazine includes a special on “25 rising stars”. On the other hand, football clubs take great pride in their years of origin – the older the better. A great many teams feature their foundation year in their logo and a large percentage of fans can tell you the year their favorite team was founded. I doubt that more than a tiny percentage of baseball or basketball fans could do the same
The reasons for this confusing relationship with age are for someone than me to answer. But considering the importance fans place in the heritage of their beloved clubs, I’m here to pay tribute to a pair celebrating their centenary in 1909 – two clubs with long, action-packed histories, rather interesting names and, by random chance, happen to be the local club of two of my favorite soccer columnists.
Real Sociedad
Regular readers of Phil Ball’s Soccernet column will be quite familiar with the recent travails of the Txuri-Urdin of Real Sociedad. Based in San Sebastian in the Basque country (where Ball resides), Real Sociedad have endured a few tumultuous seasons – finishing second place to Real Madrid in 2003 (despite leading for a long stretch of the season) and then being relegated to the Segunda in 2007 (ending a 30 year run in La Liga). It must come as a great disappointment to the supporters of Erreala to be celebrating one hundred years of football in the second division.
The Royal Football Society (as their official name is so gloriously translated) has its origins in an era when the great game of football was spreading rapidly around the globe, usually by expats from Great Britain or native students who had studied there. San Sebastian was no different and many a local club contested matches in haphazard fashion. The most stable of these early ventures was San Sebastian Recreation Club, who got the ball rolling in 1903. Six years later, prompted by registration complications, the boys entered (and won) the Copa del Rey under the name Club Ciclista.
Later in that year of 1909 – September 17, to be exact – the club was officially registered with the Spanish FA under the name Sociedad de Fútbol. Just five months later the club requested (and received) the patronage of the Spanish king Alfonso XIII and adopted the name Real Sociedad de Fútbol.
The name changing was not quite done for the boys in blue and white. The 1930s were a period of incredible turmoil in Spain – the Spanish Civil War. For a time the Basque region broke free of the center and became an independent country with independent football competitions. In this context everything was politicized – language especially – and football clubs were no exception. In 1931, Real Sociedad changed their name to Donostia Club de Fútbol in recognition of the Basque name for the city of San Sebastian – Donostia. When the Civil War concluded and the city was reunited with Spain the team reverted to the earlier name.
The Txuri-Urdin (Basque for blue and white, the club’s colors) finally won their first league championship in 1981 and then promptly won a second the following year, to date their only league titles. The Eighties also featured a Copa del Rey title in 1987, a Supercopa de España win in 1982 and, to the dismay of traditionalists, the end of the Basques-only policy in 1989. Similar to their great Basque rivals Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad had long fielded only Basque players but the signing of ex-Liverpool legend John Aldridge changed all that. If I’m not mistaken they do still, however, refuse to sign players from the rest of Spain – strictly Basques and non-Spaniards.
Borussia Dortmund
In the 1997 Champions League final Borussia Dortmund pulled off a huge upset, beating Italian maestros Juventus 3-1, the final goal scored from midfield by Lars Ricken on his first touch of the game. This victory propelled BVB to a level of name recognition never received before (or since) by the club. Their relative anonymity outside Germany is a puzzle considering their massive fan base fills the 80,000 seat Signal Iduna Park every other weekend, giving Borussia Dortmund one of the highest average attendances in the world.
Turn of the century Dortmund (and the nearby mines and steelworks) received a relatively large number of (mainly Catholic) Polish immigrants. This community needed a gathering place within their predominantly Protestant surroundings and a local Catholic youth organization – Trinity – offered just the thing. In addition to religious instruction the group offered social activities like football. In 1906, a new chaplain Hubert Dewald took charge of Trinity and, much to the disappointment of many of the young men, opposed the organizations member’s playing football and using a nearby pub for meetings.
Revolt was soon in the air and on December 9, 1909, a brand-new club was formed, independent of the Trinity Catholic organization. The name chosen for the club was Borussia, by most accounts chosen for the beer the founders were drinking, which came from the Borussia brewery (now a part of the Dortmunder Actien Breweries).
Naming a football club after your favorite beer? Brilliant!
The Schwarzgelben (Black and Gold) have won the German championship six times in all – three times in the pre-Bundesliga era and three times in the late 1990s and early 2000s – and have a fair number of other trophies in their cabinet – two German Cups, four German Super Cups, a Cup Winners’ Cup, an Intercontinental Cup and the 1997 Champions League. But what’s most impressive about Borussia Dortmund, as previously mentioned, is the incredible popularity of the club.
Opened in 1974 the Westfalenstadion (now the Signal Iduna Park for sponsorship reasons) holds up to 80,000 fans per game and includes a huge standing area on the South end of the stadium – the Südtribüne. While Dortmund itself is only the 7th largest city in Germany, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia is the country’s most populous. Despite a string of recent disappointments and crushing financial problems the Dortmunder keep packing in the Signal Iduna Park. In the midst of that mass is Uli Hesse-Lichtenberger, pondering his latest idiosyncratic column on German football for Soccernet.
Jeremy Rueter spends far too much time exploring the history of football clubs around this crazy world on his website Albion Road.

Age in soccer is a funny thing. On the one hand, we’re endlessly bombarded with praise for the latest teen sensation and seemingly every other issue of World Soccer or Four-Four-Two magazine includes a special on “25 rising stars”. On the other hand, football clubs take great pride in their years of origin – the older the better. A great many teams feature their foundation year in their logo and a large percentage of fans can tell you the year their favorite team was founded. I doubt that more than a tiny percentage of baseball or basketball fans could do the same.

The reasons for this confusing relationship of soccer with age are for someone other than me to answer. But considering the importance fans place in the heritage of their beloved clubs, I’m here to pay tribute to a pair celebrating their centenary in 1909 – two clubs with long, action-packed histories, rather interesting names and, by random chance, that also happen to be the local club of two of my favorite soccer columnists.

Real Sociedad logo

Real Sociedad

Regular readers of Phil Ball’s Soccernet column will be quite familiar with the recent travails of the Txuri-Urdin of Real Sociedad. Based in San Sebastian in the Basque country (where Ball resides), Real Sociedad have endured a few tumultuous seasons – finishing second place to Real Madrid in 2003 (despite leading for a long stretch of the season) and then being relegated to the Segunda in 2007 (ending a 30 year run in La Liga). It must come as a great disappointment to the supporters of Erreala to be celebrating one hundred years of football in the second division.

The Royal Football Society (as their official name is so gloriously translated) has its origins in an era when the great game of football was spreading rapidly around the globe, usually by expats from Great Britain or native students who had studied there. San Sebastian was no different and many a local club contested matches in haphazard fashion. The most stable of these early ventures was San Sebastian Recreation Club, who got the ball rolling in 1903. Six years later, prompted by registration complications, the boys entered (and won) the Copa del Rey under the name Club Ciclista.

Later in that year of 1909 – September 17, to be exact – the club was officially registered with the Spanish FA under the name Sociedad de Fútbol. Just five months later the club requested (and received) the patronage of the Spanish king Alfonso XIII and adopted the name Real Sociedad de Fútbol.

The name changing was not quite done for the boys in blue and white. The 1930s were a period of incredible turmoil in Spain – the Spanish Civil War. For a time the Basque region broke free of the center and became an independent country with independent football competitions. In this context everything was politicized – language especially – and football clubs were no exception. In 1931, Real Sociedad changed their name to Donostia Club de Fútbol in recognition of the Basque name for the city of San Sebastian – Donostia. When the Civil War concluded and the city was reunited with Spain the team reverted to the earlier name.

The Txuri-Urdin (Basque for blue and white, the club’s colors) finally won their first league championship in 1981 and then promptly won a second the following year, to date their only league titles. The Eighties also featured a Copa del Rey title in 1987, a Supercopa de España win in 1982 and, to the dismay of traditionalists, the end of the Basques-only policy in 1989. Similar to their great Basque rivals Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad had long fielded only Basque players but the signing of ex-Liverpool legend John Aldridge changed all that. If I’m not mistaken they do still, however, refuse to sign players from the rest of Spain – strictly Basques and non-Spaniards.

Borussia Dortmund

Borussia Dortmund

In the 1997 Champions League final Borussia Dortmund pulled off a huge upset, beating Italian maestros Juventus 3-1, the final goal scored from midfield by Lars Ricken on his first touch of the game. This victory propelled BVB to a level of name recognition never received before (or since) by the club. Their relative anonymity outside Germany is a puzzle considering their massive fan base fills the 80,000 seat Signal Iduna Park every other weekend, giving Borussia Dortmund one of the highest average attendances in the world.

Turn of the century Dortmund (and the nearby mines and steelworks) received a relatively large number of (mainly Catholic) Polish immigrants. This community needed a gathering place within their predominantly Protestant surroundings and a local Catholic youth organization – Trinity – offered just the thing. In addition to religious instruction the group offered social activities like football. In 1906, a new chaplain Hubert Dewald took charge of Trinity and, much to the disappointment of many of the young men, opposed the organizations member’s playing football and using a nearby pub for meetings.

Revolt was soon in the air and on December 9, 1909, a brand-new club was formed, independent of the Trinity Catholic organization. The name chosen for the club was Borussia, by most accounts chosen for the beer the founders were drinking, which came from the Borussia brewery (now a part of the Dortmunder Actien Breweries).

Naming a football club after your favorite beer? Brilliant!

The Schwarzgelben (Black and Gold) have won the German championship six times in all – three times in the pre-Bundesliga era and three times in the late 1990s and early 2000s – and have a fair number of other trophies in their cabinet – two German Cups, four German Super Cups, a Cup Winners’ Cup, an Intercontinental Cup and the 1997 Champions League. But what’s most impressive about Borussia Dortmund, as previously mentioned, is the incredible popularity of the club.

Opened in 1974 the Westfalenstadion (now the Signal Iduna Park for sponsorship reasons) holds up to 80,000 fans per game and includes a huge standing area on the South end of the stadium – the Südtribüne. While Dortmund itself is only the 7th largest city in Germany, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia is the country’s most populous. Despite a string of recent disappointments and crushing financial problems the Dortmunder keep packing in the Signal Iduna Park. In the midst of that mass is Uli Hesse-Lichtenberger, pondering his latest idiosyncratic column on German football for Soccernet.

Jeremy Rueter spends far too much time exploring the history of football clubs around this crazy world on his website Albion Road.