September 12, 2007

Spain: La Liga, 2007 Attendance Map.

Filed under: Spain — admin @ 9:45 am


Note: to see my latest post on Spanish football, click on the following, category: Spain.

In the Spainish Liga Futbol Professional (or “La Liga”), there are usually a couple of smaller clubs that sneak into the top flight for a year or two before being sent back down.  Last season, it was Gimnastic Tarragona.   For the 2007-2008 season,  all three newly promoted clubs fit this category:  Real Valladolid, Real Murcia, and UD Almeria.  Real Murcia averaged a bit over 12,000 per game, while the other two were around 8,000. 

That makes for some pretty meager gate receipts, especially when compared to the 70,000 per game that FC Barcelona and Real Madrid draw.  One would think that these smaller sides have no hope of any kind of success in La Liga.   But look at how well Getafe CF has done.  Located in the unfashionable outskirts south of Madrid, in a small stadium ringed by expressways, this upstart club had never been in the top flight before promotion in 2004.  It was only formed in 1983,  out of the remnants of two small clubs.  But once they got to La Liga, they’ve thrived, with finishes of 13th, 9th and 9th.  In fact, they’ve earned a berth in the 2007-2008 UEFA Cup (the second-tier European competition) by being the runners-up in the Copa del Rey in 2007, losing to Sevilla 1-0.  This was accomplished while in the shadow of Real and Atletico Madrid, who between them drew 113,000 per game.  Getafe drew 11,000 per game.  Talk about plucky minnows.

Most every country in Europe has from two to four clubs that dominate the football league.  Spain is no different.  At this point it’s the big two of Barcelona and Real Madrid, with Valencia and Sevilla closing in.  But in Spain, the ”lesser” clubs can really do some damage—just look at who has won the Copa del Rey recently:  Espanyol (the poorly supported neighbor of Barcelona) in 2006, and 2000;  Real Betis (a perennial underachiever with good attendance and few trophies) in 2005; “cup specialists” Real Zaragoza in 2004, 2001,and 1994;  and complete nobodies Real Mallorca in 2003.

Villareal CF is another example of a Spanish club punching above their weight.   The town has just over 40,000 inhabitants, yet the “Yellow Submarines” ably handled the likes of Benfica, Manchester United and Inter Milan during the 2005-2006  European Champions League, making it to the semi-finals.  This from a club that had never been in the top flight before 1999.  CD Tenerife, from the remote Canary Islands, had a similar run, albeit in the UEFA Cup, in the mid-1990′s.  But Tenerife’s run ended in a crash and burn as they sank in the late 1990′s, through overspending and mass defections.

That is the great threat posed to medium size clubs: stretching ones’ self too thin by going for glory in Europe, while sliding down the table in the domestic competition.  It happens again and again, all over Europe.  Here’s hoping it doesn’t happen to Getafe this season, though a defection has already occurred: manager Bernd Schuster bought out his contract with Getafe, to become manager of Real Madrid.  One can’t criticize him for his ambition, but it remains to be seen if Getafe can succeed without him.

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