surinenglish

A LOOK AT LA LIGA

Unanswered questions

Athletic-Barça will be the curtain raiser. But when?
Athletic-Barça will be the curtain raiser. But when? / L. Á. Gámez
  • As usual, there is fixture mayhem just weeks before the season's start

The most frequently asked questions by fans of Spanish football are definitely: "Where can we see the game on television?" and "What day will it be played?"

Rarely can I give the answer to either; it's not ignorance, it's just a downright lack of professional planning by the Spanish footballing authorities.

As I write this, the fans of Premier League clubs are being informed of the schedule for October. In Spain we are two weeks away from the first kick of a ball in La Liga and nobody has a clue what day that kick will take place.

The Spanish season is supposed to start on Friday 16 August with a very tasty tie between Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao. This was announced by La Liga but the Spanish FA have taken them to civil court. It's a mess, it's always been the case.

If it ever gets sorted out, this will be my 25th season commentating on La Liga and none have been straightforward. Full of enthusiasm, I attended night school in 1996 to learn Spanish. Just as my GCSE certificate arrived I was told that talks had broken down over the rights and Sky would be switching their attention to the Bundesliga. Luckily I didn't sign up for German classes as the deal was resurrected in the autumn of 1997.

Here's the contrast between the running of the English league and Spain. This week I attended a 'media content day' at Burnley where partner broadcasters from all over the world were invited to interview and film players. The players know that the billions pumped into the game come from these global deals that make them household names from Nottingham to New Zealand. The players answered questions and to requests to read messages in many languages. That's the industry!

As I left the media circus, news broke that there was no television deal in place to show La Liga games outside of Spain after a tender process. You can't blame the broadcasters. How can they commit billions of pounds, euros or dollars to a mystery product? It's like buying from a reputable department store. The item is beautifully presented and wrapped for you to take away with a guarantee, compared to buying the same product from a market stall where you get it in a re-used brown paper bag and you don't know if the trader will be there next week.

I appreciate different cultures but for goodness sake Spain is the country of El Cortes Inglés, the finest chain of department stores in the world. You can go to one in any town or city and know exactly what you are getting.

So no, I have absolutely no idea where fans can see their Liga heroes on TV, especially in the UK. This is costing La Liga and the Spanish FA billions.

It's the same for fans. There's an industry in football tourists, especially in Spain. Barcelona told me that up to 10,000 visitors stroll through the Nou Camp museum on a good day, most vacating the premises clutching a bag with some kind of souvenir from the last stop on the tour, the vast club shop (my mum has a dog bowl for her pooch Messi!)

So please don't ask! No, I have no idea what day the games will be on, plan a very long weekend wherever you are heading. No, I have no clue about where or indeed if they will be broadcast on TV to the non-Spanish public.

As they say... "mañana"!