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Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Will England ever be able to match Spain's trophy haul?


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In the past seven years there have been a total number of 44 tournaments organised by both FIFA and UEFA. Teams from La Liga together with their national side have largely dominated the landscape and claimed 25 of these football competitions.

As to whether this year’s Confederations Cup becomes their 26th will be answered in the next few days.

I believe this immense Spanish success has been achieved largely as a result of a "curse", which seems to have been a blessing in disguise.

On the other hand, teams from the English Premier League and their national side have managed to win just five of those tournaments. Which in the same way is largely as a result of a "blessing", which in actual fact has been a "curse" in disguise for them?

Spain-celebrate-008These blessings and curses are so intertwined and linked to each other in such a way that one would need a serious intellect to decipher it and make sense out of.

I did a thorough analysis of the football money league list compiled by the world-renowned multi-national financial and auditing firm DELOITTE & TOUCHE. This money league list is basically, rankings and the comparison of football clubs based on incomes generated annually. My deductions were as follows:

The top 20 revenue generating clubs are all in the UEFA jurisdiction and are based in one the Europe’s "big five" footballing markets - England, Italy, Germany, Spain and France. Out of these 20 clubs, only two are from SPAIN and they happen to occupy the first and second positions on the rankings, thus Real Madrid and Barcelona, seven are from England, five from Italy, four from Germany and two from France.

Initially I was surprised to see clubs like Valencia, Atletico Madrid or Sevilla not making the top twenty, but after further analysis, I went ahead to ascertain the reasons for this development and realised a simple fact, which is; La Liga is not really a viable business compared to the Premier League.

Proper marketing management and unlimited revenue generation streams have seen all the Premier League clubs do well in all aspects of revenue making (match day, broadcasting and commercial sources etc). While in La Liga, aside from Real Madrid and Barcelona - who are also doing well in all aspects of revenue just as their English counterparts - the remaining clubs struggle and are still struggling with revenue generation.

The current economic situation in their country and what I call blatant financial and suicidal injustice has worsened their situation. No wonder at the start of every La Liga season, there is some sort of strike by players and clubs regarding unpaid finances due them.

English miseryA typical example of what I mean by financial and suicidal injustice is this: In England, the broadcasting rights are sold in bulk to pay-per-view TV right holders and so the total revenue accrued from this medium is equally shared among all clubs with the inclusion of lower division clubs with respect to the tier in which a club plays.

Over the past three years, the broadcasting revenue of the Premier League was worth £5 billion and it is expected to grow exponentially in the years ahead and so, such amount is shared among the clubs in England. In Spain however, it is a different story altogether, revenue from broadcasting is the major source of revenue for La Liga's clubs and the LFP (Liga de fútbol professional) has structured the system in such a way that, each club is able to negotiate its own TV rights deal and so the bigger the club, as in terms of following (audience), reputation and brand recognition, the more the money, because pay-per-view TV right dealers will preferably like to deal with you.

Real Madrid and Barcelona are always able to negotiate value for money business deals with their TV right holders (MediaPro) whiles the remaining 18 teams are left to struggle for an elusive deal by themselves in which they find it hard to get because of the their low profile, following (audience), reputation and brand recognition as a result find it hard to attract TV right holders.

As a result of all these and other setbacks, the top two top clubs (Real Madrid and Barcelona) are always able to purchase any player from any source, that they feel will strengthen them. By this, they are able to mount serious title challenge for all trophies available on offer year-in-year-out, whiles the remaining teams continue to wallow in playing as substitutes. This even prompted Fernando Roig Alfonso, the chairman of Villarreal to make his infamous comments two seasons ago; that, it’s high time, the LFP aids them in revenue generation, so that the other teams can also compete effectively and failure to rectify it will result in the loss of interest in the country’s premier club competition in the near future. The only available option of improving their squads is by depending on their home grown talents.

In England, the result of proper marketing management and seamless revenue generation streams has seen the clubs become commercially viable and financially stable. Given the above premise, English clubs are rich and are able to buy good players they also firmly believe will strengthen them. This also rather has resulted in limiting the opportunities available for their homegrown talents.

The financial challenges which many see as a "curse" for La Liga teams has forced them to heavily rely on their youth players to always replenish and improve their respective teams. This in the long run has ultimately "blessed" the country’s national team's set up with unlimited pool of talents, whiles in England, where everything about their finances has been a "blessing" because clubs can purchase any player they want, the national team has long been "cursed" with limited and questionable talents and hence the woes it has been going through for the past five decades and still counting.

This is evidently clear as most Spanish teams field 6 to 10 indigenous players week-in week-out. This is simply not the case in England. According to a recent publication by the Daily Mail, among the "big five" European markets, England has the lowest percentage of domestic players in their home leagues. This could be further inferred from these stats below, which indicates a very deplorable state of the national team set-ups.

NB: Spain – 61% nationals play in local league. France - 60%. Germany 47%. Italy 46%. England 36%.

Another key factor, which has seen Spain dominate these few, is also as a result of the top two clubs building their respective clubs around Spanish players. Real Madrid is built on the shoulders of guys like Casillas, Ramos, Alonso etc, while at Barcelona it rests on people like Xavi, Puyol, Iniesta, Pedro, Pique etc and it is the majority of these players that represent their national team.

In England though, apart from Manchester United who mostly build their teams around homegrown players, all the other big clubs are losing it or have lost it, building their teams with foreigners, which has also affected the national team to an extent.

In conclusion, a strong commitment to youth policy coupled with uncontrollable forces and a particular brand of football, thanks to Johan Cruyff and his beloved Barcelona, has seen Spain soar above its peers for the past decade.

They have really proven that “THERE IS A BLESSING OUT OF EVERY MISFORTUNE”.

The English on the other hand have only paid lip service to their youth policy and never expected to see their national team in this sorry state. There have been plans to address the issue and introduce a system called 6+5 rule (where clubs are supposed to field six foreigners and five UK players) which could go a long way to fixing the problem. Many have argued that the English players are not that good, that they are just hyped up by the media, but I don’t believe this to be the case.

The new chairman of the FA (Greg Dyke) needs England to get back to basics by nuturing the young players to be better players. It could not have been said better than this bible quotation; “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he grows he will never depart from it” - Proverbs 22:6.

Calling all football fans: Do you think England will ever win a major international tournament again or do the fans put club before country? How can England ever get close to matching Spain's trophy haul over the past few years? If you were in charge of the FA, what would you do to benefit the game? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.

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Antony Melvin

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