Well, Spanish football has certainly mucked things up this year. Although the La Liga season usually starts in late August or early September, this year we are already two games into the season before the end of August. More than that, match kickoff times are getting spread out, with some matches starting at 11:00 PM on Monday nights. Yes, 11:00 at night. The reason for this is down to the La Liga TV deal, and more kickoff times means more matches that can be shown on TV, which brings in revenue for the league.
Spanish fans are responding to this by simply not attending matches, and the impact is clear when watching the matches on TV. The stadiums are mostly empty. At this weekend’s Getafe match against Real Madrid, the stadium looked barren despite being a game involving the current title holders against a local team. Barcelona played their season opener against Real Sociedad at the Camp Nou in front of just 57,721 fans. That sounds like a lot until you consider that the stadium’s capacity is close to 100,000. Additionally, AS reports that 39.78% of stadiums were empty in the first weekend of league play.
This is probably the worst time for La Liga to be losing ticket revenue, as Spain is in the midst of at least a recession and quite possibly a depression. Instead of adapting the game to help fans attend matches in difficult times, the league has focused on TV deals for revenue, likely without anticipating such a backlash.
But this also impacts how the league is perceived outside of Spain. La Liga already gets grief for being a two-team league, and now they must deal with appearing as if the league is becoming unsupported inside the country. With controversies over players not getting paid, a huge disparity in TV income between Real Madrid, Barcelona and the rest of the league, and now a lack of attendance, La Liga is building the wrong image for itself.
To be fair, a lot of this does have to do with the economy. The Spanish people are going through an extremely rough period, and that obviously extends to football clubs and the league, too. But it seems unfair that at a time when fans need an escape in sport that TV deals and money is given precedence over them and that they should not be able to enjoy the games. After all, what is football without the fans?