“You are only as strong as your weakest link.” It’s been difficult to apply this to La Liga where two clubs have been so financially dominant.
Real Madrid and Barcelona are semi-finalists in the Champions League yet again. The three best players in the world wearing Real or Barca colours, and there is a competitive, thrilling finish to the league title race, unlike Italy, Germany and England. And we mustn’t forget the achievements of Atletico Madrid, punching well above their weight again this season having won La Liga and reached the Champions league final last year.
Change is not easy when things seems to be going so well. So I was surprised as well as impressed that the Spanish Government, albeit under intense financial and political pressure, has acted to try and safeguard the future of its domestic game.
The new law on television revenue is a desperately needed injection into the parts of the body that need it most, to make La Liga finally feel fit and healthy overall.
No longer will Barca and Real be able to negotiate their own television deals, knowing they hold all the cards, being two of the world’s top three clubs. The deal will be centralised from next year with a fair split.
The big two had so much of the pie it was becoming difficult to actually find the slice belonging to the other 18 clubs in La Liga. While the smallest clubs, such as Elche, Granada and Cordoba, performed miracles to survive and play good football, Atletico Madrid were in an incredibly unfair position. Having somehow won the league title AND reached the Champions league final last season, it was chastening for them to learn they earned less than money than the club that finished LAST in the English Premier League.
It’s obvious that the Spanish Government has looked to England the incredible business model of the Premier League, and the new $8 billion deal which has pulled in more than ten times the amount of La Liga. From next year this will change in Spain.
Ironically, the quality of English club football on the actual pitch can be questioned. Arguably the poorest quality season in the Premier League’s 23 year history provided only one team who could defend, Chelsea, and that club was found wanting in European competition, where no English club reached the last eight of either tournament. Spanish clubs, including Sevilla in the Europa League, hit the heights again.
It’s likely Real and Barca’s spending power and consistent Champions League achieving will be affected by this law change, the question is by how much? If La Liga increases revenue, including foreign tv sales, to its full potential, then Barca and Real should still be able to attract superstars. And to be fair to both clubs, they played a part in agreeing this deal, that really could cost them points and money.
I wonder if this will finally affect the systematic and highly political Galactico policy, where the club’s President curiously finds an absurd amount of money to announce his club has brought the world’s biggest transfer target. The European Commission and some important German administrators have paid particular attention to this ‘funding miracle’ in recent years – I wonder if the Spanish Government realised the net was closing.
I follow Seville-based club Real Betis after I covered them attempting to give Real and Barca a bloody nose in the 90s. In 1998 they shocked football by spending a world record fee of over $30 million on Brazilian Denilson. I hope when they are promoted back into La Liga next season, this new era would help them survive and even flourish.
Betis won’t be breaking the world transfer record again but at least they’ll have a chance to compete fairly. And maybe the league will have the competitiveness throughout the twenty clubs that made the most entertaining in the world a few years back.
The weakest link won’t be so weak. For Spanish football, it’s a move that was overdue, desperately needed and to their credit.
Lee Wellings is the Sports Correspondent for Al Jazeera English based in London. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Lee on twitter @LeeW_Sport