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Spain's La Liga vs. English Premier League
Wall Street Journal , September 17th, 2009 3:15PM

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It's a never ending-debate. Which country boasts the best domestic league, Spain or England? Many believe that the events of the last four months have tipped the scales toward Spain. Barcelona won the Champions League, and arguably strengthened its squad over the summer by adding Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovich. And Real Madrid, reunited with former president Florentino Perez, has warranted the most attention by spending an unprecedented $360 million in the offseason.

Even before this summer, Real and Barcelona were the world's No. 1 and No. 3 highest grossing clubs, according to the "Football Money League" report compiled annually by Deloitte and Touche. La Liga also boasts the best players in the world. Seven of the top nine vote-getters for the Ballon d'Or award (European soccer's MVP) now ply their trade in Spain. And Spain's national team is the reigning European champion. "We're happy with the level of play in Spain which, in my view, is where you best combine skill with physical play," Mr. Perez said.

La Liga employs a more top-heavy business model than the English Premier League. Barcelona and Real Madrid dominate media and fan interest in the league, not just domestically, but worldwide. This is reflected in their league's TV contracts, as Spain allows clubs to negotiate their own rights deals. Both Real Madrid and Barcelona earn in excess of $125 million per season, a figure which, last year, was more than 17 times higher that of the smallest club, Numancia. While the Premier League also relies on a top-heavy business model, it spreads out its TV sponsorships more evenly. Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore says the league distributes its broadcast and sponsorship income so the ratio between the top and bottom teams is never more than 1.6 to 1. As Gabriele Marcotti writes in the Wall Street Journal, this year's Champions League competition, "should tell us which league has the edge on the pitch - and quite possibly, which model is the best for promoting a league."

 

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