The state of Spanish football

La Liga money problems | EspangolLa Liga is currently characterised by huge levels of debt, with many teams on the verge of bankruptcy. Behind the glamour of Real Madrid and Barcelona, Spanish football conceals a tragic economic crisis that grips stronger than anywhere else in European football.

After years in which teams spent money they simply did not have, almost all are now forced to sell players to survive. Beyond the big two, Spain ceases to be a fruitful market for signings and has given way to selling.

Today, the total debt among Spain’s professional clubs is estimated to be more than 4,000 million euros, and more than 200 players across La Liga and Spain’s second division, ‘La Segunda’, have filed cases against their clubs as they await to be paid. A dozen Spanish clubs have now appealed to the famous ‘Ley Concursal’, a Bankruptcy Act which serves as a legal concept that allows companies to defer payments and stay in business. The law protects clubs, but not their players. The way it works is that three administrators are sent to the club to devise a five year economic plan and arrange the payments of their debts. In many cases the law allows clubs to only pay back 50% of the totals they owe.

Real Betis, Rayo Vallecano and Granada, the three teams promoted this season to the top division in Spanish football, are all bankrupt. For this reason, the Association of Spanish Footballers (AFE), the union that brings together players, called a strike for the first two match days that delayed the start of La Liga.

“We don’t want more money. We want compliance with the contracts. We will not falter in our attempt,” said Luis Rubiales, president of AFE. “In terms of players’ rights, we are at the tail end of European football,” he added.

Unlike in Spain, teams in the big continental leagues that do not pay simply cannot compete. “We’ve gone from a time when not paying sent you down to a time in which nothing happens. Clubs who do not pay should be relegated, and the players on that team should be freed from their contracts,” said Fernando Roig, president of Villarreal.

Villarreal define the situation in Spanish football perfectly. Roig has to sell big to break even. In this case, Villarreal sold Spanish international, Santi Cazorla, for €21m. He has been arguably their most influential player in recent seasons, and has now been sold to a Malaga side recently blessed with the petrodollars of Sheikh Al-Thani.

But it’s not only small and medium-sized clubs in Spain that are suffering from these financial problems. Barcelona, a team possibly enjoying the most successful era of their history, closed last season with losses. Even the Catalan club, with all its titles and fame, cannot escape the crisis. As a sign of the times, club president Sandro Rosell, said club employees are instructed to make photocopies in black and white to save money. Although given their summer outlay it’s hard to feel any sympathy.

So La Liga looks ahead to a new season, a season which has Barcelona and Real Madrid as the only serious contenders for the title and the vast majority of clubs up to their necks in debt. Unless something can be done, unless this ridiculous flouting of the Ley Concursal is stopped, dark times lie ahead for the future of Spanish football.

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My name is Sam Attard. Some people call me Sambo. I am a freelance web developer and SEO geek and have been professionally developing websites since 2005. I’m an experienced user of XHTML, CSS, PHP, JQuery and WordPress based websites. I have a metal hip.

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