Bad week for red-faced authorities

“If you pirate football, you hurt your team”, says the poster depicting someone looking like a rather booze-fuelled student in fancy dress, slicing down one of his idols with a tackle that would make even the hardest of Sunday League players wince. This is the Liga de Futbol Profesional’s (LFP) new anti-piracy campaign, aimed at stopping the illegal streaming of games online.

The campaign has the potential to be a very good one – if it were combined with a lower ticket-pricing scheme, for example – however the execution leaves a lot to be desired. Rather awkward looking players have been shoved in front of a camera, given scripts and told to help the Spanish football League point accusing fingers at fans. Coupled with hilarious editing that makes the video look like an A-Level Media Studies project (and not a good one at that), it is the symbol of an organisation that is seemingly blind to its own deficiencies.

Instead of launching this campaign alongside an initiative that incentivises people to attend games (the most glaringly obvious one being a reduction in ticket prices), the LFP continue to accuse supporters of what they deem a heinous crime, most notably via a Twitter campaign where they remind them that they aren’t ‘proper’ fans if they watch football online.

This is something which has sparked a mixture of outrage and bemusement amongst supporters, with thousands of people using the LFP’s own #danasatuequipo hashtag to vent their frustrations at the organisation’s incompetence. Sky-high ticket prices in a time of crisis, lack of proper checks on new club owners, and erratic kick off times – including 10pm on a Monday – are viably cited as doing more harm to Spanish football than matches watching online.

The fact that the body can so readily take the moral high ground on such a subject, when its own president, Javier Tebas, in addition to the Spanish Football Federation’s  (RFEF) chief Ángel Maríia Villar, has signed a document requesting that former Sevilla FC president Jose María del Nido be pardoned following a court’s decision to sentence him to seven years in prison for his role in the embezzlement of public funds is astounding.

Indeed, the RFEF actually went one further by fining Jaen striker Jona €2000 for revealing a shirt encouraging children suffering from cancer worldwide after he scored. Public pressure eventually led to the withdrawal of the penalty, however serious questions must be asked of why such a fine was implemented in the first place.

The fact Atletico Madrid were fined €600, less than a third of a man supporting the fight against cancer, for one of their fans launching a lighter at Cristiano Ronaldo hasn’t exactly helped the Federation’s cause. 

Then came the LFP’s decision to change the kick off times of the Rayo-Valencia and Villarreal-Betis ties only five days beforehand without consulting the clubs. Valencia responded by lamenting the decision on their official website, whilst Betis did likewise. With such a lack of consideration for their public is it any wonder people chose to stay at home and ‘commit piracy’?

The RFEF capped a week to forget for the authorities by allowing Real Madrid and Barcelona to decide the date and location of their Copa del Rey final, which will be played in Valencia on April 16 at 21:30 local time. Whilst the argument of it being midweek can be argued against by the fact the following day is a Bank Holiday, what cannot be ignored is the 700km round trip facing travelling Madrid fans on a working day, with hoteliers no doubt salivating at the fact 50,000 people, a lot of whom will need a bed to stay in, are coming to town.

A particular favourite though comes via Real Madrid’s director of institutional relations, Emilio Butragueno, who said on the club’s official website that both Barcelona and Real Madrid chose said date because it gives them ample time possible to prepare for a potential Champions League semi-final, something the club obviously value more than domestic cup glory.

Butragueno goes on to say that ticket prices will be 20 to 25% cheaper than the 2011 final, which must be applauded. What isn’t so applaud-worthy is the fact that the cheapest tickets will still cost €45, going up to €250.  

Barcelona Coach Tata Martino recently said of his club’s Copa del Rey semi-final "If I were a Barcelona fan and it was at 10 o'clock and I had to work the next day, I might not have gone", when asked about the Camp Nou not even being a third full, whilst Marca wrote in both shock and awe at the fact Schalke were maintaining their lowest ticket prices of €25 for the visit of Real Madrid. Lessons, it seems, are not being learnt.