By Sola Ogbodo.
La Liga currently hosts the vast majority of the most talented footballers ever known to this generation. The duo of Spanish giants, Real Madrid and Barcelona football clubs, boast of what is arguably the deadliest attack force in world football. The likes of current Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo (three-time Ballon d’Or winner), Lionel Messi (four-time Ballon d’Or winner), most expensive player in the world, Gareth Bale, Neymar Jnr, Luis Suarez, James Rodriguez among other super stars currently ply their trade in La Liga.
Of the current FIFA/FIFPro World XI 2014, five players, (Sergio Ramos, Toni Kroos, Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo) are La Liga based players who play for Real Madrid (3) and Barcelona (2). The only player from the English Premier League is ex Real Madrid player, Angel Di Maria (Manchester United), who was on the list as a result of his heroics for Madrid and Argentina.
Despite all this, the English Premier League still remains the most powerful league in the world. It is easy to snipe at the Premier League for its perceived lack of quality and uncultured football, the unrelenting influx of foreign players and owners and the constant failure of its home nation to make any impact on the international stage. But more than 23 years after its launch, the Premier League is still the template for all others for generating both the most wealth and the most excitement around the world. It derives most of its power from the simple truth that more people want to watch it than any other league.
On average, each Premier League game has a global audience of 12.3 million people, according to Football-Marketing.com’s 2011 data which far outstrips In fact, if you added together the average global audience per game for these leagues— La Liga with 2.2 million (via EPFL- Euroleagues.com), the Bundesliga (via 2012’s economic report) with 2 million and Serie A (via Alessandro Baroncelli and Raul Caruso) with 4.5 million,— it still wouldn’t overtake the all-powerful Premier League. Across the globe the Barclays Premier League continues to be the most watched football league. The Premier League is broadcast in 212 territories around the world, working with 80 different broadcasters.
The TV audience for Premier League games is 4.7 billion, and the number of homes reached last season increased 11 per cent to 643 million. In total, the League clocked up 185,000 hours of TV coverage in 2010/11, an increase of 65 per cent on the previous campaign.
This exposure gives the Premier League an unprecedented power to negotiate both its centralised television-rights deal and the clubs’ individual sponsorship deals. The Premier League’s television-rights deal overshadows all its European competitors. At the start of the 2013-14 season, it began a new domestic television deal worth £3.018bn for the next three seasons, a vast £1.25bn increase over the previous deal.
The rest of Europe lags behind the Premier League, with Serie A commanding £721m, La Liga £511m and the Bundesliga £417.4m. In an interview with the Times, Premier League Chief Executive, Richard Scudamore, explained the appeal and success of the Premier League. He said “We’ve got two fantastic things in our advantage. One is our heritage, culture, history and the authenticity of it all. People crave that authenticity, whether it is a British landmark or a crest on a football shirt that goes back to the 19th century. Greenwich Mean Time is [also] very much in our favour. People underestimate the importance of GMT, but when you’re operating a business, it means you sit right in the middle. You can deal with the Far East and California in the same day.”
This worldwide appeal (and access) plays a significant role in the Premier League having more teams than any other league in the top-20 richest football teams, a list which is published annually by Deloitte Football Money League.
On the actual pitch, the Premier League is not as dominant. For all its global appeal, astronomical television deals and the wealth of its sides, the majority of the very best players in the world still seek to ply their trade elsewhere.
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The quality of a player is of course subjective, but over the course of three different surveys, the Premier League trails behind its rivals. The great success of the Premier League is that it manages to be the best league in the world without the best players. The power and enduring appeal of the Premier League is not in the quality of its football but rather in the excitement it provides and its inherent competitiveness. Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho, has coached in the Premier League, Serie A and La Liga, and it was clear which one he thinks is the best when he spoke to The Telegraph, sometime ago. He said, “In England, you don’t do 100 points, [and] you don’t score 125 goals unless Manchester City can do it this season. But normally, the evolution of a player needs difficulty and the difficulties help the development of a player. You reach
your maximum with difficult situations. The big push comes. After that you have choices, stay in the most beautiful league to play or go where it is easier to succeed. You go to Spain and there are two big clubs [Barcelona and Real Madrid]. You go to Germany and they have one big club [Bayern Munich] and a little bit more. In Italy now there is one big team [Juventus], although obviously more than one big club. So, it is easier to succeed.”