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On Racing, Revolutions, and Revolutionaries

jrmrhr Uncategorized 7 Comments

I know the TV revenue debate is dead and locked up like a certain would-be revolutionary president, but today’s events involving Racing Santander inspired me to revisit the whole thing, and I thought I’d share some thought here with you all, since we’ve all been through these waters a few times.

If you’re not familiar with the basics of the situation in Santander, the players have not been paid for 6 months. Their president has been criminally negligent, and is probably just a very high profile con man who has destroyed a former La Liga club. Sid Lowe wrote a nice piece on their situation which is a great recap; I recommend you read it if you haven’t. Anyway, this week the team said they wouldn’t play today if they weren’t paid, and then the day of the game came and they weren’t paid, so this was the result (video link).

The team’s stand at midfield is remarkable, and it’s compelling in its beauty in part for the starkness and audacity of it and in part for the outraged stand against injustice that it represents. It also happens to be exactly the action I’ve been dreaming of seeing in La Liga for several years now, and that of course relates to the ongoing struggle of La Liga’s underclass, the 18 teams known informally as “La Otra Liga”.

We’ve debated this issue countless times on this blog, and have heard any number of facile defenses of the current situation. The most common argument is always that the Big 2 are the primary draw for La Liga, that people tune in to see Real Madrid or Barcelona, and that they therefore deserve to earn ~10 times as much as half the league does from TV revenue. The obvious fact that often seems hard to communicate in the comments section here, and apparently in board rooms in Spain, is that no one tunes in to see just Real Madrid or just Barcelona–they tune in to see those teams compete with other teams. My frustration at some folks’ inability to appreciate this simple fact has lead to the previously mentioned dream, a piece of which sort of come to life today. It’s a dream I’ve discussed several (endless) times with fellow blog author/founder Aaron, and it goes like this:

The 18 teams of La Otra Liga agree before the season starts to do exaclty what Santander did today whenever they meet Barca or RM on the field: simply nothing. Take the field, stand, and refuse to play. Every week, Real Madrid and Barca trot out onto the field, and then shortly thereafter trot off the field. Every week the other 16 teams play 8 entertaining, exciting games. The Big 2’s Liga season is now literally just the two clásicos; the race for 3rd and below the truly compelling narrative week in/week out.

The events that might follow would likely fill a novel; at any rate they’ve filled countless hours of conversation and hypothetical speculation for me.

I don’t mean to take away from Racing’s plight. Theirs is a very sad state and fans of that club have every right to be heartbroken and furious over what’s happened to them. But Racing’s actions today were incredibly inspiring and beautiful, and so much like a stand I’ve wanted to see in La Liga. Hasta la victoria!

Comments 7

  1. Ryan Andrew Moore

    Interesting to go back to this perennial dream…while it has never been probable, it is now even less probable, given Atletico’s current run. Think about it strategically. Atletico would never sit out because they feel they have a chance for #1 or #2. (not to mention that they’re basically complicit with the RM/Barca mafia)

    And even if you think of a world in which everyone sits out against the top 3: if you’re number 4 (let’s say Sevilla), you’re not going to want to sit out, becuase there’s the chance Atletico will fall apart and you’ll be able to snag the 3 spot.

    Sadly, diplomacy and/or talking very loudly seems like the only way out of the TV revenue “sharing” mess

  2. timspence1

    Jeremy, I like the idea and in theory it would work. But the practicalities say that it would be difficult to carry out.

    Each club has numerous binding agreements with 1) the league 2) TV rights, MediaPro etc. 3) The paying public and season ticket holders 4) Sponsors and Advertisers.

    Each club would be breaking those agreements, and some will no doubt have horrendous financial penalties for non-compliance, breach of contract etc.

    Also, football clubs suffer from receiving much of their income up-front and generally spend more money than they have, in the hope of achieving something, all of which makes them fragile. Only a handful of clubs could tough out a financial crisis with the risk of their money supply drying up.

    People often talk about fielding a reserve side or a weak side in protest but that is actually illegal under the laws of the game, even if the players are entirely from the first squad.

    Some long running campaign to shame the league and TV people might do the trick, If every club changed their second or third strip to all black and used it only against Real Madrid and Barcelona that might gain traction because all the fans of all the other clubs could unite behind the black strip. Then people all over the world would always see Madrid and Barca playing a team in black and they would be asking why.

    1. Post
      Author
      jrmrhr

      Yeah, when I’ve imagined how such a scenario would play out, I usually imagine the Big 2 working with La Liga to ensure maximum fines are levied to the teams that do this. To be clear, I’m imagining a scenario that would be hugely impractical to carry out in real life, but I mentioned it here first of all because of the fantastic visual of Santander doing basically exactly what I’ve been fantasizing about for several years, and also because it’s an informative thought experiment regarding where real value if not governmental power actually lies in the LFP as a product.

      Having said that, though, let’s think through these things a bit more. Given that the Big 2 would almost certainly move to lean on poor, weak clubs (a demographic that includes at least the bottom 40% of the table at any given moment), the coalition of the 18 (COOL NAME I JUST DECIED TO CALL THIS THEORETICAL GROUP, TRADEMARK ME, ®, ETC) would have to decide, before the season started, one of two things (or both): either to pool their resources together as a group in order to pay the (probably enormous) fines that came each week, or to simply as a group refuse to pay any fines coming from league governmental bodies related to this action. (TV/sponsorship deal would likely be more difficult to ignore). La Liga and the LFP have for so long treated actual dollar amounts as play money…I suspect this would be the likelier arrangement. The 18 could then simply plan to make forgiveness of LFP/Liga fines part of the bargaining process when the strike eventually brings the Big 2 to the table. Obviously a huge risk, but who ever heard of a revolution without risk? Also, the existing contracts, etc, are a real burden, but each individual team is only doing this in 4/38 games–again, pooled resources for payment of any resulting fines might be an effective means of surviving through the “strike”. Once again, the most important part is an agreement among the 18 that they work and act as a collective, to achieve a collective and common benefit that is ultimately in the best interest of every team. Given how Santander fans responded yesterday, I think if a successful PR campaign was waged (job 1: release Del Nido so he can do this) the fans would be very much in support of this. I suspect the increased activity could bring a lot of notoriety/attention to La Liga; it could be that sponsors actually like the development. (And again, it’s not as if every team is refusing to play EVERY WEEK–just the 4 dates on their calendar with the big 2). If you can imagine a world in which the 18 actually worked together and trusted one another (chapter 12 of the novel I’m writing about this involves week 6 when one of the teams, winless and thus already in danger of relegation, and realizing that Barca would come to the field not expecting or prepared for a game, decides to try to surprise them by playing, and playing for a win. The rest of the 18 punishes them, but there’s a lot of intrigue and a few moments when it looks like the coalition will be broken), if you can accept the premise that the 18 sees their unity as the top priority, then the collective power of the coalition actually seems sort of like a viable force.

      As Ryan mentioned, after those problems, the next big problem would probably be Atleti. Given that they were already working with/for the Big 2 BEFORE they were successfully challenging for the title, I can’t see why they’d suddenly grow a pair now that they’re finally able to actually use their financially advantageous arrangement actually to win games (BIG UPS, ATLETI!!!). On the other hand this could well be a short-lived thing, and as Atleti continues to invest in their side to purchase a roster capable of competing with Barca/RM all season long AND going deep in CL, it would probably only take a season or two of disastrous results for Atelti’s insane debt and long-term financial mismanagement to weaken their position considerably.

      Again, I am acknowledging from the outset that this is basically a pipe dream. But it’s interesting and fun to think through what would have to happen for something like this to happen, and how/why it might fall apart thereafter.

      I don’t know, beats obsessing over January transfer news for me. : )

  3. timspence1

    Jeremy, lots of points there that I totally agree on. First, it was a beautiful moment and it could be the catalyst for other similar protests in search of equality and fairness. But let’s see how this protest finishes, the Racing ultras were throwing 5kg metal ash tray stands at the directors just a couple of weeks back, and there were quite a few ladies seated in the danger zone, such idiots give the league all the ammunition to wade in heavy handed on Racing.

    Of course this is Del Nido’s baby and though he’s out of the loop now, he would never have given up, he would have just kept battling. But we paid the price, last season proved that the referees are dogs of war for the league, there’s no other explanation for some of the results, robberies and expulsions. Now Del Nido is gone we are winning away from home.

    Then there’s the little matter of the pecking order and the inter-leagues that exist within la liga. There are long standing protocols between certain clubs and they co-operate to keep themselves top dog in their province. And the league consejeros, Athletic, Villarreal, Malaga, Espanyol, Barca, Real Madrid, Altético and Sevilla are another group with interests and wouldn’t want to lose their consejero status.

    Of course Barcelona refused to play a cup game with Atléti in 2000 in protest that most of their team were internationals and had been called up to play. The league banned them from the cup the following year. I think things have changed sufficient to say that with the amount of money invested and the tightness of contracts there would be much greater repercussions now.

    I still like the idea of teams playing in black against Barca and Madrid.

    Del Nido is still out but it’s getting close to the day when he has to hand himself in, his last hope is the indulto which a return of the €2.66m and an appeal based on good character and references plus the promise to do much good work for society that can’t be done from jail.

  4. timspence1

    Squad for Málaga

    Beto, Javi Varas, Coke, Diogo, Fazio, Cala, Nico Pareja, Fernando Navarro, Alberto Moreno, Iborra, Cristóforo, Trochowski, Rakitic, Vitolo, Reyes, Cheryshev, Bacca y Gameiro.

    Mbia still not fit, Carriço and Jairo suspended, Marko Marin out of favour but Cheryshev returns, so does Cala and Alberto Moreno.

    Málaga are without Rocky Santa Cruz

    1. timspence1

      Possibility of a last minute transfer in the next few hours, could be Perotti out but I have a sneaky feeling that we’re going to obtain a new player. Sergio Ramos went at 11:40 p.m. but transfers from other time zones are permitted later.

  5. shendm

    On other news:

    Valencia is officially a real pretender for European places now, which would automatically put us in real danger, since we lack consistency. They beat Barca today in Camp Nou with only Eduardo Vargas debuting out of other solid reinforcements like: Seydou Keita, Senderos, a Brazilian talented striker. They seemed pretty solid today and who knows… they could be 4th place contenders also.

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