Spanish Soccer Strike Could Lead to Reform

August 22, 2011

Spain’s first Soccer strike in almost three decades is the perfect chance to reform the administration of sport according to a industry finance expert.

Friday’s showdown talks between the Spanish Football League (LFP) and Spanish Footballers’ Association (AFE) failed to prevent the weekend’s opening round of matches of the top two divisions falling victim to the strike. Talks are now ongoing to avoid cancellation of this weekend’s matches with the Spanish calendar faced with the challenge of rescheduling the games. Domestic action cannot be extended past the current end date of May 13 due to the time allocated to national teams to prepare for UEFA Euro 2012 which a delay in fixtures might end shortening the season.

The AFE is expecting greater protection for players’ wages at clubs that have gone into administration. The union is demanding that an emergency fund is established with around $72 million owed to 200 footballers from the end of last season. The AFE believes the League’s proposed $57.6 million fund is not enough to cover a growing problem, with an increasing number of debt-laden clubs seeking protection from creditors by going into administration.

Racing Santander last month became the latest club to seek protection from creditors, joining fellow La Liga clubs Real Mallorca and Real Zaragoza as well as all three teams promoted to the first division at the end of last season – Real Betis, Rayo Vallecano and Granada – in administration.

Jose Maria Gay, an accounts professor at Barcelona University, believes the current impasse is shaking La Liga’s reputation as one of the world’s top leagues. He told Reuters:  “We have the best football in the world, but it is run very badly. The league has failed to control the situation with the clubs. Winning Euro 2008 and the World Cup earned Spain a great deal of goodwill, it helped open doors for us. But a strike because we can’t pay our players will generate a lack of confidence in Spain as a whole. It would be a good time to use the situation to restructure Spanish football. It can’t carry on as it is. They need to get out of the clouds and back down to earth.”