Crazy decisions in Spanish football

Representatives of the Spanish footballers' union (AFE) held a meeting on Wednesday at which they expressed their indignation at the decision to play a league match in the States.
Representatives of the Spanish footballers' union (AFE) held a meeting on Wednesday at which they expressed their indignation at the decision to play a league match in the States. / EFE
  • La Liga players are rebelling against the bizarre deal to play one regular game this season in the United States

So often I get asked about the difference between La Liga and the English Premier League.

The answer is always the same "Spain may have the most iconic players on the planet but England has the most organised and best marketed league in the world."

The Spanish football decision-makers have surpassed themselves this summer with a series of very odd decisions, and that's putting it mildly!

The players are rebelling and the clubs mystified by the decision to take a regular season game to the United States. Exactly what game or when is vague. The clubs are complaining and the players threatening to strike.

I mentioned in these pages how I was tempted to take in a pre-season game in Miami this summer until I realised that the cheapest ticket was $78. When we headed to Washington DC there was even a van driving around the capital advertising the Real Madrid game with Juventus on a billboard. I suggest there may be more trouble ahead.

This is just the latest bizarre decision. There were headlines about Real Madrid's lowest attendance in ten seasons on the opening weekend. Some put it down to Ronaldo's sale, others put it down to the midnight finish. The reasoning for the 22.15 kick off at the Bernabeu and the Nou Camp was the summer heat. It didn't prevent other games starting at an earlier time.

It is true that the loss of Ronaldo is a blow for La Liga. His best days as a footballer may be just behind him but he is still box office. For the first time in many years there is an imbalance in Galácticos. For the best part of a decade we've enjoyed Ronaldo v Messi, before that Ronaldinho v Beckham, Figo v Zidane and before that the original Ronaldo v Raúl. If they are keen to take the Spanish game to the USA they need a Hollywood star and that is CR7.

When America tried to sell basketball to the Europeans they sent over the Harlem Globetrotters. Meadowlark Lemon and co filled the stadia with their personality. La Liga needs such characters and I'm not convinced Gareth Bale sells those seats at a starting price of $78.

It's not the only decision to take the game away from the Spanish mainland. The Spanish Super Cup was exported to Morocco after weeks of negotiation. There was mass confusion, Sevilla issued an official complaint, Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde was perplexed by the status of the game and how many of his 'non EU' players he could select.

Remember when the trophy was presented to Barcelona last season? The week before there had been a ten-minute turn around at Manchester City from the end of the game to allow the podium to be erected and ribbon tied to the Premier League trophy. At the Camp Nou a DJ played his decks in a blacked-out stadium for an eternity while they organised the Spanish equivalent.

I don't want to get involved in the politics of how the game is now viewed by fans in the UK and Ireland. After twenty-three seasons of games being broadcast on satellite television a new deal was cut last summer. The fact is though that enthusiasts can no longer see matches on a TV screen and must squint to see it on the screen of a phone or laptop as coverage is now only available on the internet.

So as I always say, we can argue about which league is best but there's no argument about which one markets the products globally and which one keeps scoring own goals with some whacky decisions that appear to take the product away from the fan base.