by Scott Sayers
After a few drinks and whilst in good (or not so good) company, discussion will often turn to which league in world football has the best players, grounds and supporters. The usual suspects will often be banded about and Spain’s La Liga can certainly boast claims as to having world class talent and some great stadia. However, in terms of fans, La Liga is somewhere that putting bums on seats and selling out matches just isn’t in the culture.
Last weekend, Real Madrid were the victims of a shock defeat at the hands of Getafe, which was understandably the story of that particular round of matches. However, what was particularly noticeable was the attendance of around 13,000 when the Estadio Alfonso Pérez holds nearly 18,000 people. This would be understandable had the travelling Los Blancos support had to cross the length and breadth of the country but the distance between the respective clubs’ two grounds is less than 10 miles. From a British perspective, it’s eye-opening to see what appears to be a lack of enthusiasm for a fixture which can legitimately be considered a local derby.
Whilst economic factors, the dominance of Real Madrid and Barcelona and the fact the some clubs really do have a long way to go (for example, Granada fans have a drive of 632 miles should they wish to follow their team to Deportivo) go some way to explaining this, the LFP certainly don’t help matters when it comes to their organisation of the fixtures.
It can’t have escaped the notice of football fans in this country that it’s not uncommon for La Liga games in Spain to kick-off as late as 11.00 pm local time. Malaga fans were the victims of the LFP’s unfathomable timings last Sunday evening when their clash with Real Sociedad kicked off an hour before midnight. A section of the support arrived at the game dressed in their pyjamas as a form of protest against the late, late kick-off.
Speaking from personal experience, I attended an Atletico Madrid game at the Vicente Calderon when the game kicked off on a Saturday at 10.00 pm local time – a day and time only confirmed a couple of weeks beforehand. Whilst I enjoyed the novelty of it, by half-time my hands were raw from the cold (it was November!) and the next day I was so tired I could barely drag myself round the Bernabau tour! Luckily, I was on holiday but had I been working I’m not sure I’d have been as keen to arrive home (technically) the next day, just from having been to a game.
Obviously, British 3.00 pm kick-offs have had to change because of television money, which is a necessary evil, but just be thankful that you’re not sleeping at your desk because the night before you were watching your team lose in injury time! Hopefully the powers that be in Spanish football’s organising body will take notice of the small band of Malaga’s supporters who’ve had enough.