But the Spanish comparison irks me more than most. How many English people can honestly say they have watched a La Liga game that didn’t involve Barcelona or Real Madrid? You can’t compare entire leagues by the top teams in them.
Deportivo hosted Barcelona last Sunday and the home fans voiced their displeasure. The banner in the photo roughly translates as: “we don’t want another Scottish league” (See picture, right). In other words, the Spanish fans don’t want a league dominated by two clubs. (Or a league that ultimately has to wrangle with its structure to keep it interesting).
But Barcelona and Real Madrid do dominate. Sid Lowe revealed that the two teams “have won 121 of their last 142 relevant games against the league’s other sides” in his Guardian column yesterday. That is, frankly, ridiculous.
Fans of the English Premier League moan about the traditional top four (Man United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool). But at least that is four teams out of 20 and not two out of 18. That said, it still takes a huge injection of cash from the owner (Man City) or a massive and loyal fan base (Spurs) to make a dent at the top of the Premier League.
The FA and the Premier League should look to the demise of competition in La Liga and prepare to take a firm stance soon. The reason being that it won’t be long before the traditional top four (and, let’s be honest, Man City and Spurs too – right place, right time) look to the demise of competition in La Liga and see an opportunity.
The reason is that Spanish clubs can negotiate their own TV rights. So every Barcelona game and every Real Madrid game is televised. More crucially, it means the clubs can tie up the overseas market.
Under the current Premier League model, a proportion of the Asian money for the viewing of Man United v Chelsea will end up at Stoke, Wolves et al. (Indeed, due to parachute payments, it also ends up at Hull, Middlesborough etc etc).
That doesn’t happen in Spain. And that is a huge factor in the lack of competitiveness in La Liga.
Strong leagues need strong management.