If football disparity could be measured by economic indicators like the GINI co-efficient, then La Liga would score a .8. Or should we call it despair-ity. The fact is that there is no chance any club can compete with Barca and Real. The chasm has become a continental drift and every indication is that it will get worse.
Jorge Valdano, the former managing director of Real who was forced out because of his differences with Jose Mourinho (who would have thought!) predicts both clubs will severe their La Liga links and throw their weight behind a European Super League which will allow it to compete with the best of Europe.
This is not exactly revelatory because this is exactly what Karl Heinz Rummenigge, the president of the ECA proposes as an alternative to an UEFA run Champions League whilst ensuring maximum profitability. Rummenigge is doing the spadework so that his elite constituents are in a position to sign up once UEFA’s MOU with the clubs expires in 2014.
Valdano reinforces the perception of Barca and Real as self serving Brobdingnagians longing to snap their irritating linkages to a Lilliputian Liga. But it is the rest of the league that will have a say in this as much as these two clubs. The growing disparity is partly due to the massive amounts of cash these two giants rake in with their individual TV deals without the income re-distribution that leavens the Premiership’s economic landscape. Banks associated with these two clubs have distributed soft virtually interest free loans for the acquisition of high priced players as favours. Once proud clubs like Valencia and Sevilla have no such beneficiaries and have been forced to raise money by selling players. The proceeds are plowed back into writing down debt and paying wages.
La Liga is not so much an amalgam of football clubs as much as a political collective with each club a metonym for regional autonomy from Madrid. They form a political bulwark, the equivalent of a civil war without bullets flying, to keep from being swallowed by Nationalist fascism. During the Spanish Civil War, the Liga was suspended and clubs formed regional alliances and installed committees to resist confiscation from Francisco Franco’s hordes. Franco’s onslaught also ignited a cultural tinderbox when he purged all non-Spanish language names and symbols. Athletic Bilbao and Athletic Madrid were renamed Atletico Madrid and Atletico Bilbao. The Catalunyan flag adorning Barca’s emblem was removed and the language banned.
If a club such as Sevilla or Valencia should fall victim to a Liga attrition it leaves a potential political vacuum which could be filled with hardliners who see these changes as increasing encroachment on their autonomy. Barca’s part in creating an economic imbalance would erode its image as a countervail to Madrid. There needs to be reform in the way the Liga conducts business with an introduction of a safety net as a priority to negotiate these turbulent times. The sceptre of more strikes and shrinking clubs is a very real existential threat. The question of leaving the Liga may not be the point. The question may very well be will there be a Liga to leave behind?