| MADRID, April 19
MADRID, April 19 La Liga leaders Barcelona and
closest rivals Real Madrid, who meet in the final of the King's
Cup on Wednesday, have extended their domination over Spanish
soccer in recent seasons.
The world's two richest clubs, based on Deloitte's revenue
rankings, will also clash in their two-legged Champions League
semi-final on April 27 and May 3, to complete an unprecedented
four meetings in three competitions in 18 days after Saturday's
1-1 La Liga draw at the Bernabeu.
Following is a Q&A on some of the reasons for their
domination of domestic football, which analysts have said also
give them an edge over European rivals:
Actually how dominant are they in Spain?
Barca's second consecutive La Liga title last season was
secured with a record points total of 99, smashing the previous
high of 92 set by Real in 1997 when there were 22 teams in the
top flight instead of the current 20.
Real, who finished second, set a club record points total of
96, and scored 102 goals, four more than Barca. They finished 25
points ahead of third-placed Valencia, who were the last club
other than Barca or Real to win the title, back in 2004.
This season, Barca lead the way on 85 points with six games
left and 18 points still to play for, Real are second on 77 and
Valencia have 63 in third, six ahead of Villarreal.
What is the main reason for their hegemony?
Revenue from audiovisual rights. Barca and Real suck in
about half the total income from television deals for Spanish
soccer of around 600 million euros ($852 million), which is
topped up by TV cash from European competition.
Barca earned almost 180 million euros from audiovisual
contracts in the 2009/10 season, with Real reaping just under
160 million, according to the latest Deloitte Football Money
League published in February.
A study published last year by Sport+Markt, a consulting
firm, showed the pair earned almost 19 times more from TV than
the smallest clubs in Spain's top division, by far the biggest
gap in the major European leagues.
The richest clubs in the English Premier League, which
generates just over a billion euros a year in broadcast revenue,
earned about 1.7 times more than their smaller rivals.
What does it mean in practice?
Combined with revenue from other sources, such as commercial
and matchday income, Barca and Real's spending power means they
can afford the huge transfer fees and wages commanded by the
world's top players.
Under President Florentino Perez, Real have splurged
hundreds of millions of euros over the past two seasons,
including a record 94 million on Portuguese forward Cristiano
Ronaldo and 65 million on Brazil playmaker Kaka.
Barca's purchase of Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic,
which included swapping Cameroon forward Samuel Eto'o, was worth
about 66 million.
Barca's total labour costs in the 2008/09 season, including
amortisation of players, were 255.2 million euros, compared with
249.5 million for Real, according to a study by a University of
Barcelona accounting professor published this week.
By comparison, Manchester United's expenditure on total
labour costs was 188.7 million, Bayern Munich's was 172.4
million and Arsenal's was 150.1 million, the study showed.
Is the Spanish system of negotiating TV deals different to
rival European leagues?
Most of Europe's top leagues bundle their audiovisual rights
together and negotiate collectively with media companies, while
in Spain clubs have always thrashed out deals individually.
Starved of a decent share of TV income, many of Barca and
Real's domestic rivals have tumbled into the red and even
administration. They have no real hope of winning the league.
Is the situation likely to change anytime soon?
Probably not, according to analysts.
An agreement brokered by Barca and Real in November with 11
other top-flight clubs on sharing some of the TV cash from 2015
is likely to cement their advantage while helping the others
As Deloitte noted in February, Barca and Real have sought to
at least protect current revenue levels, which provide a key
advantage over their European peers.
It will also help them comply with UEFA's new "Financial
Fair Play" rules, which are designed to stop clubs spending more
than they earn, while some of their European rivals could find
themselves in trouble.
Does it really matter that they are so dominant?
Many Spanish soccer fans support Barca or Real as well as
their local team so there will always be a large pool of TV
viewers for their matches, which typically attract an audience
of millions around the world.
However, a league of 20 in which only two teams battle for
the title each season will be harder to market to media
companies and over the longer term Real and Barca could lose out
along with their Spanish peers.
(Editing by Patrick Johnston; To query or comment on this
story email firstname.lastname@example.org)
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