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Successful but bankrupt: the story of La Liga


Spanish football is undoubtedly successful.   Six of the seven La Liga clubs in European competition advanced to the knockout phase, including all four Champions League representatives.   It is not only about Barcelona and Real.   La Liga clubs have won five of the nine past Europa League titles.

Yet eight out of 20 La Liga teams are either in administration or have had to drastically restructure their debt.  When Deportivo La Coruna played Valencia last Saturday, it was dubbed the 'Battle of the Bankrupt'. Deportivo filed for bankruptcy protection this month, with debts of more than £80m.  Valencia have effectively been nationalised after they defaulted on a loan provided by the regional government.

The implosion of the Spanish economy has not helped already financially troubled clubs.  Yet attendances have held up well.   Last season average attendances were 28,800, which is where they have been for the past decade.  Valencia averaged 38,263 in 2011-12, more than 13 Barclays Premier League clubs including Everton and Spurs.

The system that allows clubs to sell their television rights individually has disproportionately favoured Barcelona and Real Madrid leaving the other clubs in a contest they cannot win.   One has a system that is neither centralised, with appropriate controls, or a true laissez-faire market economy in which clubs would be allowed to go bust.