A few weeks ago, news reports suggested that Celtic and Dundee were in talks to play an SPL match in the United States. The news went down well with many fans, but the governing bodies appeared not to be interested in it, or in supporting it.
But it was thinking outside the box, and that’s ever more necessary as cash continues to flow into the Premiership, sucking the life out of other leagues.
You’d often be forgiven for thinking Scotland is the only country affected by the huge financial power of the EPL. In fact, Europe’s top leagues are suffering too.
With the latest land rush for the English Premier League broadcast rights, there is more money in the sport than ever before and the other domestic leagues of Europe are searching for a way to replicate England’s success, lest they be left behind.
Spain’s La Liga is looking to turn itself around through international expansion and a revamped system of negotiating its own TV rights.
The EPL has been in the process of selling the overseas broadcast rights for the sport from 2016 to 2019 and the rights are estimated at greater than £3 billion worldwide, which evens out to more than £1 billion a year.
This is more than double what the Spanish league sees for its own rights.
No one questions the history and legacy of the Spanish La Liga but let’s be honest with ourselves, how often do you really think about the Spanish league if Barcelona and Real Madrid aren’t playing?
This lack of interest beyond the league’s four big teams has some worried that the Premier League could become to football what the NBA has become for basketball in the world.
It could lead to a league that snatches up all the top talent and leaves the rest of the leagues to languish with lower-quality players.
“We run the risk of having the Premier League become the NBA of football in the next five years, with the rest of European leagues turning into secondary tournaments,” La Liga president Javier Tebas said in an interview.
“We all know that every talented basketball player discovered anywhere in the world ends up going to the NBA, and if the European football industry and the Spanish football industry don’t react, we will also be losing talented football players.”
Despite boasting arguably the two best players in the world, La Liga still finds itself standing in the shadow of the world-renowned Premier League.
While Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi can draw crowds, too often the league is seeing its most promising players lured to England by promises of fame and fortune. Nicolas Otamendi, one of the league’s most exciting young defenders, was snatched away from Sevilla by Manchester City over the summer transfer window.
And with the exception of big spenders like Real Madrid and its Galacticos, the transfer of talent between the two leagues often seems to be a one way street.
In an effort to increase its cultural clout in the world market, La Liga has learned that to be successful abroad, the league needs to be attractive and desirable as a whole product. In the States, the NFL has done an exceptional job of this with its annual games held in England that are widely attended regardless of the quality of the teams involved.
“We’re not here to see Detroit, we’re not here to see Kansas,” an NFL fan told Bleacher Report; “we’re here to see the NFL.”
This is the kind of thinking that led to the proposals to play an SPL game abroad, an idea that has been discussed in England as well. This concept works for other sports. It’s a matter of time before it is tried in football.
In the meantime, even the Spanish game is not immune to the pinch, and getting fans to invest in the product and the sport itself, as opposed to just one team, will be crucial to the continued success of La Liga.
They’re set to face Arsenal next week, in Champions League action, where they’re favoured to continue their international success against the team. That being said, the Gunners should give the Blaugrana a run for their money, as they’re having one of their best Premier League seasons in the past decade. If they can translate that success to the Champions League, it could be anyone’s match.
The financial issues that have long haunted the Spanish league are much to blame for many of its current problems. La Liga hopes to alleviate some of these through a more egalitarian distribution of broadcasting revenues and providing smaller clubs with a bigger share of the pie. The idea is that by giving mid-table clubs the capital needed to retain players, Spain can create a more enticing product that can eventually compete with the Premier League in popularity on the world stage. We can only hope that the Spanish league can figure itself out because better football is something everyone can get behind.
We can only hope that the Spanish league can figure itself out because better football is something everyone can get behind, and if they get the model right it might even be one that can be copied by other leagues, including the one in Scotland.
Owen Gordon is a freelance writer and passionate football fan based out of London. In his downtime, he enjoys running, cooking, and making his way through his Netflix queue.