Football: TV cash tips Spanish Liga in giants' favour
Spain may be proud of how its teams dominated European football this season, but Spaniards complain that at home financial conditions make for a two-horse race between Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Sevilla won the Europa League this month and Atletico Madrid have broken through to face Real in the first ever one-city Champions League final on Saturday.
But these are rare achievements for members of a league where Real and Barcelona rule thanks to unequal broadcast revenues.
"The likelihood that Atletico Madrid will establish itself as a lasting alternative to Real Madrid and Barcelona is very, very small," said Santiago Segurola, deputy head of leading sports daily Marca.
"It is going to be a victim of its relative economic smallness and of its success. It will have to put its best players up for sale."
"If you believe and you work hard, you can do it," said Atletico Madrid's manager Diego Simeone after his side last Saturday won its first Spanish league title in 18 years.
His team's beating of Barcelona and Real to the title was doubly impressive given that it was achieved with a budget four times smaller than those big teams'.
- 'Uneven, abusive' broadcast deals -
Broadcast rights for matches in Spain are negotiated by each club individually and the rich giants Real Madrid and Barca take the biggest slice.
Those two clubs between them took nearly half of the 650 million euros ($888 million) paid in television rights for the 2011-2012 season, according to the latest study by football finance specialist Jose Maria Gay de Liebana.
That left nothing but crumbs for the rest. Atletico took six percent of the total.
English team Fulham earn more in TV rights than the new Spanish champions -- and Fulham have just been relegated from the Premier League.
More broadcast coverage means more cash from advertising, making the big clubs even fatter, said Segurola.
"The distribution of television rights is truly uneven and abusive," he said.
"It feeds the two big clubs, Real Madrid and Barcelona, extraordinarily."
Atletico gets along by selling its star players to bring in cash.
At the end of the 2012-2013 season it sold Radamel Falcao to Monaco for 60 million euros while Real Madrid reportedly paid nearly 100 million euros to English club Tottenham for Gareth Bale.
Meanwhile 25 other clubs in the top two Spanish divisions have launched bankruptcy proceedings.
- Footballers' strike -
In August 2011, Spanish league footballers went on strike for the first time in 30 years over 45 million euros in unpaid wages.
The Spanish football league and government responded with new financial controls, making clubs file audited accounts.
"The work Spanish football is doing is recognised outside Spain," said the junior sports minister Miguel Cardenal.
No Spanish clubs were told off by UEFA in its Financial Fair Play report for the 2012-2013 season.
But their debts reached 3.57 billion euros in that year, according to the government's sports council. The Spanish Footballers' Association is still fielding complaints from unpaid players.
"Something is not working in the distribution of TV rights, which also affects unequal pay in the rest of the teams," said the association's manager Luis Gil.
"A more balanced distribution would benefit competitiveness in the league."
Since the current TV broadcasting deals were signed in 2006, either Real or Barca has won the league every season -- except this year.
The gap between the big two and the rest is "intolerable", said Segurola.
"But given the power politics in Spanish football, where contracts have been negotiated individually, there is no way either Real Madrid or Barcelona will let that change."
© 2014 AFP