La Liga boasts the biggest stars, the best teams the most dazzling football. It’s a shame it’s lagging far behind the rest of the world in basic planning
On July 20th, La Liga officials and presidents will ceremoniously walk into the Las Rozas facility in Madrid and perform, in one of the pre-season’s most awaited events, the draw to decide the 2017-2018 calendar of games – a ceremony that has its own range of peculiarities, but that (as always) comes very late in the day.
Under Javier Tebas’ management, La Liga has insisted on blatantly copying any successful competition in all of its areas: ripping-off the Premier League’s advertising machinery, imitating the NBA’s flash-interviews pre-game in the Second Division games, reinforcing security measures towards the media and banning them from asking uncomfortable questions to players, in one of the most obvious examples of censorship towards freedom of press in the civilized world.
However, La Liga keeps being the fifth wheel when compared to powerful and well-run competitions such as the Premier League itself, the German Bundesliga or even the Italian Serie A. In theory, La Liga should be above them: it has the world’s two best players (Messi and Cristiano) playing against each other, three teams (Barça, Madrid and Atletico) that consistently reach the final rounds of the Champions League, many sides with attractive styles and loyal fanbases…but, organizational burdens prevent it from becoming a well-rounded product.
Let’s compare them in this sense, shall we? The 2017-2018 Premier League calendar was sketched back in February, and made official (with dates and times) on June 14th. That allows fans to plan their trips in advance almost two full months before the first game. In France, the calendar was official on June 15th. On June 29th, the Bundesliga full schedule will be released. And so on.
Another matter lies within the narrow window between the final scheduling of games and their taking place. In that area, we do have to admit that La Liga has slowly been improving the last few seasons. Five years ago, it was very common to see a game being schedule a measly week before it was played. We’re not talking about decisive games in the last stretch of the season: we’re talking about a Getafe v Valencia being played in Week 10 in November and without enough time for away fans to organize a short trip to Madrid. It’s not a hypothesis: that *has* happened.
Steadily, the margin has grown bigger: now, the standard has become knowing full details of a game’s scheduled time about four or five weeks before it takes place. This is better than nothing, I guess.
Gareth Bale was seemingly confused when there was no trophy handover after Real Madrid clinched the La Liga title. https://t.co/MXRf6uQke4
— Soccer Laduma (@Soccer_Laduma) May 24, 2017
Fans in Spain are doomed if they want to plan their road trips, but TV football aficionados are effed up in a much global basis. Take for example BeinSports, owner of the TV rights for La Liga broadcasting in the United States. With so little time in advance, it’s virtually impossible to plan an exciting outline to advertise and hype the competition. Soccer fans in the US, keen to enjoy Spain’s competitive and colorful tournament, also have to fight time zone obstacles in addition to this. In such context, it’s amazing how top executives are unable to avoid these pitfalls and make things easier for the consumer.
The calendar issue, finally, also comes down hard on teams who fight tooth and nail throughout the season in the second division and, after a 42-week tournament, knock out the rest of candidates and achieve promotion. Levante and Girona did their homework early and have planned with a bit more time.
A primeraaaa oeeeee 🎶 pic.twitter.com/nK39aCxVzh
— Getafe C.F. (@GetafeCF) June 24, 2017
But take Getafe, the third team to be promoted: they finished competing last week, and players will only enjoy a couple of free weeks before restarting training sessions mid-July. No time to rest, indeed. This craziness just helps to outline how absolutely nuts the current planning and scheduling in Spanish football is.
La Liga’s current management has been bedazzled and very impressed for years with all the bells and whistles that US professional sports and organisations have exported all around the world. But imitating it instead of learning from it is not the way to go. The outcome is a poor cardboard copy with no identity nor professional traits at all. The season’s calendar is not the only problem, of course, but it would be a good idea to start solving key issues as soon as possible.