Hey, a picture of Sevilla boss Jose Maria del Nido! What’s that about?
As we all know, Del Nido has been in the news of late for making some rather intense statements about La Liga and its lack of equality.
“The reality is that they have chosen a terrible decision in order to continue widening the difference between the big clubs and the rest to charge the radios.”
“For the love of God, are there any fans not saying that the league is prostituted, adulterated, corrupted? The radio income will be another scrap to make the biggest clubs bigger and the rest even smaller.
“Our tournament is not just the biggest joke in Europe, but in the world. It is a third world league in which two clubs take the others’ television money.”
A Brave New World?
For those of you who might not be following this or don’t already know, La Liga is (finally) moving toward a more egalitarian hacking up of the TV revenue pie, one that is long overdue. For the 2014 season the deal, essentially, is that La Liga will negotiate as a whole for TV rights, with the Big Two getting 37% of the total pie (down from the demand of 40%). The rest will be distributed based on standings, viewership and other variables. Not everybody is fully on board, but things probably won’t change all that much.
Which all means what?
That basically, La Liga’s TV package is still screwed up and Del Nido is right to still be screaming bloody murder, because here’s the thing: At present, the two top teams get more than half of the money generated by TV deals. HALF. Is going from 50 to 37 percent seeming progress? Sure. “See? Look, we’re taking a smaller percentage.”
It’s also progress in that rather than doing its own deals, the Big Two should be able to lift the rest of the teams. It’s easy to see the more than half-billion Euros generated from TV rights becoming a fatter number that some estimate could be as much as 900 million by the time “egalitarianism” begins in 2014. And because Del Nido isn’t stupid, he’s screaming because taking a lower percentage of a bigger pie means that the rich get ever richer, and the gaps stay pretty much the same.
Can you be Pollyanna and say “Well, at least it helps the little teams more than it hurts the big teams?” No. For this past season, the Big Two reaped 135 million each from the TV deal. Compare this with 2010, when the bottom team, then Xerez, got 12mn, the same sum earned by teams in positions 14-20. Returning to last year, the Second Two were ATM and Valencia, with 46 and 48 million, respectively. Then came Villarreal with 31 million, Betis (!?) with 29 million and Sevilla, in at 28.
With the new deal, the Second Two have agreed to reduce their percentage of the whole from 13 to 11. Silly? Probably not, as they are banking on the hopes that tying their fate to two of the best teams in the world will mean that 11 percent will be of a much bigger pot.
What’s Del Nido’s Problem, Then?
He isn’t stupid. He’s screaming because a) he isn’t part of the Second Two and b) because he wants a deal that makes TV revenues more like a group restaurant check. You take the total, divide it by the number of folks who ate, and there you go. Now, he isn’t quite that simplistic. But he does want everyone to get the same starting figure, as part of percentages that change based on viewership, league position and other variables. And he’s absolutely right.
I know, I know …. people don’t pay to watch Malaga. Who cares about them? If we don’t do our fancy-pants solo TV deal, how can we afford to be competitive in Europe and the world? Well, I don’t do math, because numbers make me angry. But which would you rather have, assuming the current sorta-accord: 37% of 900 million, or half of 500 million? (If some math whiz works out numbers that say “Half of 500, dumbass,” I disavow that these words were ever written).
Del Nido won’t get his way with the democracy revenue sharing deal, because the Big Two would never agree to a cut of less than 100 million from TV rights. But, figuring we settle for something in the 30 percent range, that’s STILL more than the Big Two are getting right now. It also preserves the roughly 10:1 ratios, at our 30 percent vs the minnows’ 3 percent.
Much more importantly, the bottom teams would see their take more than double (again, assuming the best estimate). And that’s the current, mostly agreed-upon deal that looks to start in some form in 2014.
Another reason that Del Nido isn’t stupid is that he knows that in his ideal scenario, there is no way in hell that the big teams are going to agree to take the 900 million, divide it by 20, and be done with it. If that’s the case, why agree at all? He wants a higher percentage for everyone else. And even at a number as low as 25%, assuming that magical 900 million, we and EE still come out ahead.
So for everyone thinking that this new TV deal will mean anything at all as regards the rich getting richer, it won’t. All of this numbers blather was to get people to understand that there is absolutely nothing wrong with a more equitable distribution of a much bigger pie. Everybody gets richer, and how often does that happen?
Why IS Del Nido Right, You Big Stupid?
Because if we take his proposed equals arrangement and haul in, by the time variables come into play, something around 100 million per for TV rights, what does that mean, really? For starters, around 40m less per season in revenue, which means maybe we don’t buy Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas. And what’s the harm in that, if that makes the entire Liga better, if it means that Sevilla has a shot at trying to compete for some of the same players as the rest of the teams? Isn’t a more exciting league ultimately worth more money? And if our pipeline of talent is as strong as it seems to be, we’re still left in very good shape, with a roster full of world-class players. And when it comes to purchases, we’re still going to be a destination club.
Yet the question lying at the core of this business is, can anything be done to make the Liga more competitive? Absolutely, with caveats. Here are some suggestions, then the caveats:
–Gather all the team owners in one room for a meeting, lock the doors then unleash a cage full of rabid dobermans. Any team president quick enough to survive will. Then we start from scratch with people who have half a brain.
–Okay, seriously. The team presidents should start acting like people who care that the collective Liga succeeds, instead of just their team. So:
1. This means figuring out a plan to market the league, such as broadcasting the matches in a way that makes the action more visceral. Listen to the way that Premiership matches are miked, and the way that Liga matches are miked. Which one is more exciting?
2. Decide on a schedule, and stick to it. TV broadcasters love knowing when matches are going to air. So do vacationing people who’d like to buy tickets to see a team play. “Oh, it will be some number of days before or after the actual day, we think.” Stupid, stupid, stupid.
3. Suspend and fine players who dive. Yes, that means ours, too. The refs know a dive. And if they don’t, have the Liga review matches and hand down retroactive penalties, as the NFL does, irrespective of what might nor might not wind up the match official’s report. Clean up the global image of the Liga.
Which Leaves Us With What?
Right now, there are two teams that almost everybody in the world wants to see, at the top of Spanish football. That makes La Liga TV rights potentially the most lucrative in football (yes, even more than the Premiership), because potentially, those teams play at least 3 times per season. And as with the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal, the Big Two are global brands, that each haul in north of 400 million in annual revenue. Market the clubs, market the team, and not just in Spain.
As for the caveats, let’s not be silly enough to think that 25-30 million is going to help Sociedad compete with us. That still isn’t one David Villa. But it will help them get a better class of player, which means they won’t be quite so dire, which helps the show. And make no mistake, even if Malaga tomorrow found out a way to generate 500 million in revenue, getting players to come would still be an issue, because ask anyone if they’d rather play for Barca or EE or Malaga, and stand back …. players can run pretty fast in the face of a no-brainer.
But a little team can also pay its star to stay home, rather than migrating to some mid-table side in the Premiership that can pay him more money. A million or two can keep a player home, and having a larger chunk of the TV pie is an excellent way to bring that about. So to me, having a more equitable TV deal makes sense, and we can’t lose in the deal, whether we make even more money, or the show gets better. But without real steps to improve the spectacle that is La Liga, aside from the crushing debt too many teams are wrestling with, the league is going to be in real trouble. Right now, teams are thinking that acquiring debt to acquire players is the only option they have to at least have a shot at not being beaten like a rented mule on the weekend. Sevilla is at present, the only club whose income is significantly greater than its debt. And that, ladies and gents, is no way to run a collective railroad.
Ready …. set …. discuss!
P.S. Among the best work on the Web on this matter is over here. It’s Monchi’s Men, a Sevilla blog that, because Del Nido is the face of egalitarianism as well as the Sevilla president, they have a big interest in the matter and do great work. Big shout-out.