There is a duopoly in Spanish football and it is not helped by the distribution of the TV rights. As it stands Barcelona and Real Madrid organise their TV deals independently. The total income of all La Liga clubs through television rights is around £500m, but over 50% of it goes to the two giants Barca and Real.
It is only a matter of time before the bigger clubs in England push for a similar structure where teams can secure their own TV deals. But I would hate to see that happen.
The Premier League’s total TV revenue is currently £850m. Despite this, Manchester United were given £50m from TV revenue, a fraction of the £125m Real and Barca earned. This is because the Premier League sells collective rights and then divides the money up according to a team’s league finish. In England the team coming first earns about £50m and that in last about £30m, but in Spain the same teams would earn roughly £150m and £3m respectively.
When the FIFA fair play rules come into action, teams are going to need to generate extra income, as clubs will only be able to spend a percentage of what they earn through football in a year. Organising TV rights individually could be one such way to achieve this. There is definitely a strong case for the bigger English clubs to try and earn more money in the same way Barca and Madrid do.
Let me consider the argument…
One of the biggest problems with English football, from a financial perspective, is the effect of foreign billionaires who are bank-rolling teams. At the moment, the only reason Chelsea and City can afford to keep spending is because of their benefactors, while sides like United and Arsenal have brought in no new players at all. After the fair play rules, this will no longer be possible.
English teams are falling behind the two Spanish clubs, both on the pitch and in the transfer market because of the two different structures in place that manage TV revenue.
As Arsenal take on Barcelona this week, we could witness the gap between the standard of our two best ‘footballing’ sides. But Arsenal have spent next to nothing in the last two seasons, buying Vermaelen and Koscielny for £18m and picking up Chamakh on a free. Barcelona, on the other hand, have bought Mascherano (£20m), Villa (£35m), Ibrahimovic (£60m plus Eto’o) and Dmytro Chygrynskiy (£21m) to the Nou Camp.
You can see that money plays a huge part in forming any modern football side. Even Barcelona.
Individual TV deals would allow bigger English clubs, like Chelsea, to compete with the highest transfer fees and wages in Europe without relying on their sugar daddy, and for others like Manchester United to start spending an amount that reflects their worldwide support. With this in mind, you can see why the top clubs may want to copy Real’s and Barca’s policy of independently organising their television rights.
I can see the objectives of the FIFA fair play rules and in the most part agree with them. But, to eradicate super-rich teams as a result of foreign investors, just to make way for sides to become super-rich at the expense of the other teams in their league is hypocrisy.
Why should Spanish teams be allowed to organise their own broadcasting deals? Rather than seeing the Premier League copy La Liga, in order for our teams to compete with their domination, I would prefer to see them copy us. The fair play rules should include a requirement for each league to have a structured TV deal that does not allow teams to individually organise their TV contracts, and rewards teams fairly depending on their final position.
One of the reasons the total Premier League income from TV rights is more than that of la Liga is because the league is much more competitive and passionate. We don’t watch a two horse race every year; in La Liga they do.
Furthermore the Premier League as a whole is more supported because each club has a greater chance of doing well. I’m not saying we are glory hunters, but the prospect of winning something is what it is all about. In Spain the smaller clubs have no hope in hell, and don’t even get rewarded financially for their troubles.
The problem in Spain is that it is an upward spiral for the big 2. The better Barcelona get, the more they can earn, and then bring in better players. It’s a joke. Last year, David Villa played for Valencia, who finished 3rd (albeit 25 points behind 2nd), but in the summer he was bought by Barcelona. The gap is remarkable and only made worse by the inequality of revenue from TV.
If the Premier League allowed the bigger clubs to negotiate their own deals it would not be long before our competitiveness is lost, and with it the essence of British football. I want to see our clubs competing with the best in Europe, but this cannot be achieved while they are allowed to accrue vast sums of money at the expense of all the other clubs.
If you want to hear more about my passion for the Premier League and my increasing dislike for Barcelona and La Liga, you can follow me on Twitter @joeaustin8