Book Review: Island Hopping – the football grounds of Lanzarote by Steven Penny

Whilst football fans looking for a Spanish football fix are often drawn to the mainland to watch the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid or Valencia, football and travel writer Steven Penny took a different path, by looking at the football scene on the volcanic island of Lanzarote during 2021/22.

The Island of Eternal Spring (as Lanzarote is known), is a Spanish island, located approximately 125 kilometres (80 miles) off the north coast of Africa, with its all year round sun attracting visitors from all over Europe since the 1980s. In terms of size of the island in UK terms, think the Isle of Man times four, with Lanzarote measuring approximately 37 miles (60 km) long by 12 miles (20km).

Given the size of the island and the fact that with a lack of grass due to the volcanic soil, you’d be forgiven for thinking that football pitches and stadiums would be scarce. However, in Island Hopping – the football grounds of Lanzarote, the author shows that it is a location with more than its fair share of teams and venues.

The main part of the book provides a colourful guide to the various clubs on the island with useful information showing a location map of the venue, ground address, entry price, club badge and home shirt as well as a number of images of the venue itself. The grounds themselves won’t win any awards for design, as many have a templated feel, with an artificial pitch, sometimes with a running track, and generally just one main stand. However, the dramatic volcanic backdrop of the island makes up for that in many cases.

What is also included and very useful to anyone unfamiliar with the Spanish pyramid, is that Penny provides a brief guide to the where the 17 Lanzarote clubs play their football in 2022/23 additionally adding colour coding to show the level. So readers are shown, taking La Liga as Level 1 (i.e. the league Barcelona and Real Madrid play in), the islands two current highest ranked teams, are UD Lanzarote and CD Union Sur Yaiza, who play at Level 5 in the Tercera División (with 18 Groups – Lanzarote and Union Sur Yaiza plating in the Canary Island Group). Penny though doesn’t just detail those grounds in use and like any good journalist seeks out other grounds and those no longer in use, providing an extensive record of facilities on the island.

This well research bulk of the book is supplemented by a short piece on Penny’s journey round the island as he attended a number of games, a brief history of football on Lanzarote, and a major high in UD Lanzarote’s footballing history when on 27 November 2001, they hosted Real Madrid in the Spanish Cup (Copa del Rey), with Madrid winning 3-1 with Luís Figo, Zinedine Zidane and Steve McManaman all appearing at some point in the game. There is also a brief noting of abbreviations used in the club names, and this reader was please to learn what the prefixes often used in Spanish team names, such as CD, CF and UD mean.

It’s a cracking guide for anyone visiting the island or indeed with an interest in Spanish football.

Lanzarote – sun, sea and…….soccer. Who would have guessed!


(Publisher: Penny for your Sports Publications. July 2022. Paperback: 120 pages)


Buy the book here: Island Hopping

Category: Reviews | LEAVE A COMMENT

Book Review: Working Class Heroes: The Story of Rayo Vallecano, Madrid’s Forgotten Team by Robbie Dunne

Can you name the three professional football clubs in Madrid?

Most people would instantly come up with Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid pretty quickly, but how many know the third? Well, presumably very few. And to put you out of your misery, the club making up the trio is Rayo Vallecano, who as recently as the 2015/16 season played in La Liga, but who currently ply their trade in the Segunda Division (La Liga 2).

Freelance journalist Robbie Dunne decided to investigate the story of the Los Vallecanos (The Vallecans) as the team adjusted to life in the second tier of Spanish football in the 2016/17 campaign, whilst he came to grips with life and the language in Spain. What he discovers during his year following the club is a story that goes beyond football.

In a book which stylistically mixes diary entries from games he attended and short essays, the author tells the story of a club which is all about the community, proud that it represents not Madrid but the barrio (the neighbourhood). This is a club of the working-class people of Vallecas, who are proud of their roots and their anti-fascist stance. Therefore, Dunne documents something of the history of Spain, so that readers can see how politics and social history have been influential in the development and philosophy of Vallecas in terms of its people and team.

The club is inextricably linked to those who attend games headed by the Bukaneros and in the twelve-months covered by the book, they battle both on and off the pitch, as the team fights against succumbing to a second straight relegation and fiercely demonstrates its opposition to the Club President, and a revolving door policy in relation to the team manager’s.

It is undoubtedly an interesting read into on one of the lesser lights of Spanish football and does provide a glimpse into a very different environment which does not have a comparable example of in the English professional game.



Category: Reviews | LEAVE A COMMENT

Soccerex European Forum (Manchester): The League Leaders

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.

English Premier League

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.

Spanish La Liga

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.

European Professional Football Leagues

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.

David Dein

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.