It's finally here! The start of the La Liga season is upon us, and it promises to be a blockbuster start to the season.
Unfortunately though, action on the field has almost been forgotten as political issues once again cast a huge shadow over the commencement of the campaign.
Teams in La Liga have long been disgruntled with the distribution of television money between them, as in negotiating individual TV deals, Barcelona and Real Madrid have deals that equate to more than half of the broadcasting revenue in the League. Pulling in far less, other clubs have long viewed the disparity in the payments as the reason for the disparity on the pitch.
In recent months, then, has emerged a group of rebel clubs, who have broken with their previously agreed contracts with broadcaster Mediapro to sign better agreements with rivals Prisa TV. Prompting lawsuits between themselves and Mediapro, they have been locked in emergency talks this month with the Spanish Football League (LFP) over the implied threat of a strike to disrupt the season kick-off.
However, this threat of industrial action has not just been over of the divide of television money. Specifically, the 11 'rebel' clubs – Getafe, Real Betis, Osasuna, Celta Vigo, Espanyol, Real Zaragoza, Atletico Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad, Valencia and Sevilla, later joined by Granada and Rayo Vallecano to make it 13 – believed that the majority signing with Prisa TV has brought about discrimination in the scheduling of games for the start of 2012-13.
Atletico Madrid and Espanyol, who both face kicking off Week 1 matches on one day and finishing them the next, publicly lambasted the LFP for poor management of the Division.
“It is a conflict of interests. There is a League for some and a League for others. We will fight for it to be a League for everyone,” Atleti President Enrique Cerezo blasted, in seeing his side’s UEFA Super Cup preparations cut significantly shorter than opponents Chelsea.
The League hit back, explaining the reasoning for the timetable, that will have games on the opening two weekends kicking off as late as 11pm local time on Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights, was a move to fit in with the rest of Europe.
“The players need to be protected from the high temperatures of mid-August and so the Players' Association (AFE) asked us to make sure that no games started before 19:00CET,” read a statement released.
“Therefore, we have had to schedule games at unusual times in August. Kick-off times will return to the usual times as of the third weekend of the season.”
Spain's sports minister Miguel Cardenal intervened and this week it was concluded that the season WILL go ahead as originally planned. However, as Cerezo warned, it’s not an issue that will allow the football to get in the way of the headlines.
“We 13 teams are united and we must forward to achieve our goals and try to win the battle for the sake of our interests and those of the League.”
Watch this space.
Meanwhile, teams have been preparing all summer for the new season, and the transfer market has been as busy as ever. Barcelona and Real Madrid have been very quiet this summer, but in Jordi Alba and the expected arrival of Luka Modric, both are set to be strengthened in such a way to make the title race extra intriguing.
Valencia have been busy in the market as they bid to break the duopoly, bringing in players like Andres Guardado and Fernando Gago to spearhead their quest. The chasing pack have also been busy, as Atletico Madrid brought in experienced heads such as Cata Diaz and Emre, whilst Sevilla snapped up Alberto Botia and Cicinho to strengthen their defence.
At the other end of the table, Rayo Vallecano could struggle having lost goalscoring playmaker Michu and key defender Alejandro Arribas – survival will be the ultimate goal for the Madrid side. Returning to La Liga are Deportivo La Coruna, Celta Vigo and Real Valladolid, who will all be hoping to avoid slipping through the trap door at the first time of asking. Deportivo have made plenty of moves this summer, and their work with famous agent Jorge Mendes has brought in a huge influx of Portuguese talent to watch out for.
Finally, recent seasons have produced record-breaking statistics in almost every department. From Xavi Hernandez’ 20 assists in a single campaign to Cristiano Ronaldo and then Lionel Messi’s implausible League goal-tallies, seemingly unmatchable individuals have emerged. However, as Mesut Ozil’s 17 assists last term and Radamel Falcao’s statistically more accurate finishing than Cristiano Ronaldo signify, there are other footballers out there who could write their names into the record books in 2012-13.