Day 2 – Thursday 11 April 2013
12:00 – 13:00 The League Leaders
– Emanuel Medeiros, CEO, European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL)
– Francisco Roca Perez, CEO, La Liga
– David Dein, Former FA and Arsenal Vice-Chairman
– Moderator: Matt Lorenzo, Head of Media, Soccerex
Matt Lorenzo introduced this session which aimed to look at the English Premier League and the La Liga in Spain, as well as discussion about the issues affecting European football in general.
David Dein introduced a video which promoted the English Premier League, adding that the rights to broadcast the Premier League had been sold to 210 countries. After watching the video, Francisco Roca Perez said that the quality and leadership of the Premier League was incredible and had a significant financial impact across the globe. He continued that other European leagues were trying to play ‘catch-up’ in that respect and the Premier League had an international reach that was twice that of Spain. In focusing on La Liga and Spanish football, Roca Perez said that in the last 15 to 20 years, they had generated talent and invested money in training grounds and associated facilities. He added that he believed they had the best coaches in the world especially with young players that had created a talent pool which has resulted in the recent strength of the Spanish National Team. Roca Perez did accept though that there had to be better control on spending by clubs and that there had to be a change to the way television rights are sold (currently on a club by club basis). He finished by saying that discussion was underway so that in the future there might be a collective deal similar to that in England.
Matt Lorenzo asked how the England National Team reflected on the talent available in the Premier League. David Dein said that the talent in the league was amongst the best in the world and that the National Team had to aspire to improve. Dein though wanted to focus more on the league itself and provided some statistics. Firstly in terms of Revenue Growth, there was a total annual income of €2.5million with a turnover of €1.6million. Secondly, at Premier League grounds they had a 92.5% capacity rate, whilst in Spain it was around 80%. He added that there were also schemes at improving capacity or building new grounds at Spurs, Everton and Liverpool which would continue to raise ground standards. David Dein then went on to show that in terms of Broadcasting Revenue the Premier League had a fairer distribution. He detailed how for last season (2011/12) Champions Manchester City received £60.6million compared to bottom club Wolves who received £39.1million. In La Liga by comparison Real Madrid received £140million whilst for Granada it was £12million. Dein said that Manchester City received 1.5 times that of Wolves whilst Barcelona and Real Madrid had 14 times that of some clubs. Continuing he said that Premier League clubs received equal shares of the domestic and overseas contracts and then addition money based on appearances in ‘live’ games and on final league position.
Francisco Roca Perez started his response by saying that some of the figures quoted were not wholly accurate. However, he acknowledged that the financial domination of Barcelona and Real Madrid was a real issue and concern for the clubs themselves. Roca Perez added that there have been discussions in the last 3 to 4 years in order to work towards a collective television agreement, as the issue of distribution has to be resolved. As part of these discussions Barcelona and Real Madrid had already agreed to a cap in terms of redistribution rights. Roca Perez hoped that in the next 12 months that all teams would come on-board which would make future contracts easier to organise. He continued that as a result he hoped that the league itself would become more competitive because Spain doesn’t have the money to create ‘parachute payments’ as existed in the Premier League and as a result relegation from La Liga is regarded as catastrophic for a club. However, the La Liga CEO pointed out that ‘El Clasico’ was undoubtedly the biggest and most famous football fixture in the world.
Emanuel Medeiros said that quite clearly La Liga could compete on the pitch with the Premier League, but off it there was no comparison. He added that as the CEO of the EPFL it was his duty to ensure that his organisation in looking after the 30 most important leagues in Europe (around 1,000 clubs) met the ‘Global Challenge’ of the sport being the catalyst for social change. Medeiros then showed a promotional video by the EPFL which featured action from the various member leagues under the strapline, “I LOVE IT”
Matt Lorenzo next asked the panel if they believed the game was ‘under-attack’. Emanuel Medeiros replied that our way of living was changing and that across Europe there was social, economic and political crisis in some areas. He continued though that football had been pretty resilient due to the vision of the leagues and through working with UEFA in the introduction of the Financial Fair Play Rules. However, Medeiros said that the use of rights without consent was a threat and would only be resolved by the involvement of government. He continued that the game was not self-sufficient and that vital income was lost to unauthorised activities. Medeiros added that football employed 15% of the European workforce and therefore the EU and governments needed to act to protect the industry and the jobs. Francisco Roca Perez said that La Liga was dependent on the Pay TV money, but that income was being lost through TV Piracy which was costing them an estimated 300,000 viewers. He continued that in Spain every league game was available to watch, but thought this should be changed in the future. Roca Perez added that many Spanish grounds were old, but there was no money to invest. He said that in the Bundesliga they had shown a correlation between better stadiums and improved attendances.
Matt Lorenzo asked David Dein whether England had better stadiums that those in Spain and Italy. The Former FA Vice-Chairman responded that the English Premier League had the finest grounds in the world and could hold a World Cup tomorrow. Dein added that the match-day experience for all fans had improved, especially for away fans. As an aside he said that over the next 4 years £320million from the television money would be allocated to Youth development.
Before moving onto the topic of betting in football, Emanuel Medeiros wanted to raise a point about the ‘club v country’ and ‘too many foreigners in the Premier League’ debates in England. He said for him it was a non-issue, since 1966 was the last time a major trophy was won and that nothing had been one since, even during the periods when English teams had very few players from other countries.
Matt Lorenzo moved the debate onto the influence of betting in the game. Emanuel Medeiros made the initial response saying that the passion of football lay in the perception of the public that the game was authentic and fair and it was therefore imperative to keep football ‘clean’. He continued that the betting industry had to pay more respect to the football business as they were effectively exploiting the rights of the game. Medeiros added that the French Government had introduced legislation that meant that organisations could only be granted a betting licence if the sport concerned consented and also had an input into which type of bets could be created. He said that a campaign was being developed to unite efforts in looking at the issues with betting in the game. Francisco Roca Perez pointed out that betting was affecting players in the lower leagues, ‘hooking’ players in, so that if they progressed up through the structure, it was providing a danger for the future. Emanuel Medeiros added that one case of match fixing was one case too many and European governments had to get involved in tackling the influence of the South Asian betting markets.
The next question from Matt Lorenzo was why were so many clubs ‘skint’. David Dein pointed out that the Financial Fair play Rules would be in place to curb the excesses and hopefully avoid the situations that in recent years had arisen at teams such as Rangers, Leeds United and Portsmouth. Francisco Roca Perez detailed that in Spain, the most recent case involved Malaga. However, he added, in terms of Spanish football, business was not bad despite the economic position. TV ratings were high, attendances were steady, although understandably Sponsorship was slightly down. Roca Perez continued that there was a pressure to succeed and therefore lead to clubs spending which they don’t have. Now La Liga were monitoring club budgets for next season and if they didn’t ‘add-up’, and so were not approved, it meant that clubs could not sign players.
Emanuel Medeiros pointed out that football has a growing future, with a global brand and clubs with a global image. He added that people were living longer and wanted entertainment and that football was the number one entertainment in the world. This would be established through the two way relationship between football and television.
Matt Lorenzo said that in Italy there were 9,000 registered Football Agents, and asked how is it possible to control such numbers. Emanuel Medeiros said that deregulation had not worked and therefore the EPFL had proposed to FIFA a registration system. In this system agents had to be registered to the respective Associations in the countries they wished to work as well as other criteria set by FIFA. He continued that there needed to be transparency which would be aided by the establishment of a ‘clearing-house’ for all payments. Francisco Roca Perez added that in his opinion agents were a real problem since players rely and trust them. He continued that many retired players were broke because of the bad advice provided by agents and therefore quality standards were required.
In the final part of the session the audience were invited to ask questions. The first question from the floor said that in the German Bundesliga teams only played 34 games and had one domestic cup competition and as such was this a better model. Emanuel Medeiros replied that it was difficult to make a judgement and added that the EPFL did not in any way dictate the way leagues were structured. He continued that if there was a desire to reduce the number of games, then ideas such as doing away with cup replays had to be looked at. Medeiros pointed out that the increase in fixtures on the International calendar was becoming an increasingly bigger issue.
Next the panel was asked about the financial controls on the game. David Dein responded that he believed the Premier League would approve the Financial Fair Play Rules, but these would only be useful if ‘loop-holes’ were not looked for and therefore vigilance was of the upmost importance. Emanuel Medeiros added that he thought these were the most important football rules to be introduced in the last 20 years as clubs had to learn to live within their means. Francisco Roca Perez stated that football is a ‘closed business’, so it was dangerous if teams vanished as it did ultimately impact on the other members and the overall health of the league.
The final question was to Francisco Roca Perez about the progress of Goal-line technology in Spain. He answered that it had started 3 or 4 years ago, where they provided analysis of the all the games in the top two divisions. As part of this there was access for all teams to various cameras. He continued that La Liga supported the use of technology and that over the next 2 or 3 years they would either develop what they had in place or look at introducing a new system.