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Post by Scottish » Wed Feb 04, 2015 2:23 pm

Thanks to exhaustive live TV coverage (some weeks there are more Spanish matches broadcast than English games) most of us are familiar with the Spanish set-up. La Liga has twenty teams playing each other twice – thirty-eight each and 380 in total. The bottom three go straight down.

Spanish football has always been strong at club level but the national team consistently underperformed. Until Euro 2008 when victory there set off a remarkable run of two European championships and a World Cup sandwiched in between. On top of all the wonderful players Spain produced at this time came the cream of the rest of the world, even if sometimes by different methods. Barcelona paid big money for Luis Suárez and Neymar but brought Leo Messi through the ranks while Real Madrid shelled out big bucks for Cristiano Ronaldo. The last two named are by common consent the best players in the world today and Barça and Madrid can not only challenge English Premiership teams they can outbid them. It’s difficult to see the likes of Beckham and Ronaldo leave Old Trafford for anywhere other than the Bernabeu.

So, this is a league seen on TV worldwide. It is of the highest quality. The top teams have supporters all over the world. Go into any town anywhere on the planet and replica strips will be seen on children’s backs (as in fairness will those of top English teams as well). Spanish football is also looking to the future with Atlético Madrid taking out part-ownership of Indian Super League team Atlético de Kolkata.

Yet Spain is a league heavily dependent on its two leading clubs to maintain its position as third best attended in the world. Their figures are streets ahead of everyone else. With an average of 26,843 Spain comes in just 500 ahead of the Indian newcomers and is well behind both Germany and England. Perhaps that’s not too surprising. Spain’s population is well below both of those countries as well as being less than the numbers in Italy and France, both of which they are ahead of in the attendance stakes.

Nor has the recent success at both international and club level been reflected in attendance figures. There are many voices inside Spain bemoaning the state of attendances. Spanish crowds are much the same as they were at the turn of the century and actually down on where they were before “La Crisis,” as Spaniards term the economic crash of 2008, began to hit.

This writer speaks from experience, having lived in Spain from 2008-2014 and witnessed first hand the increasing levels of unemployment, particularly youth unemployment which reached over 50%, which beset the country during that time.

Spanish football isn’t cheap either. There is a perception in the UK that the price of football on the continent doesn’t cost as much as it does here. I can tell you that the other man’s grass is always thought to be considerably greener and many Barcelona fans think UK pricing is to be admired.

When I went to watch Barcelona v Celtic in the Champions League I paid 90€ for my ticket and that was about par for the course in a reasonably good part of the ground – the minimum was 60€. For matches against lesser teams then the price can fall as low as 30€ - provided you’re prepared to take a seat in the Gods and have either the eyes of an eagle or a pair of binoculars to follow the action. As for ‘El Clasico,’ forget it – unless you’re prepared to see no change from 1,000€ or more. From a tout of course. Only club members have any chance of purchasing a ticket directly.

Another factor is TV scheduling. In the UK, dates and times of televised matches are issued in tranches well ahead of the actual fixture so while fans will (rightly) moan about Saturday noon kick-offs or Monday or Friday nights, at least they know well in advance when these will be. This can be done because TV contracts are with leagues or national associations. In Spain individual clubs hold the rights to their home matches and sometimes games, days and dates of televised matches are selected as little as ten days before the fixture. Buy a ticket in advance for a Barcelona match and you will be told the game is subject to a day, time and date yet to be announced. Although the situation has improved in recent seasons, it is far from ideal. As of the date of writing, days and kick-off times of future televised Spanish matches lag at least one month behind their British counterparts. This obviously has an effect on Spanish crowd figures.

So, while third in the world sounds good and higher than France and Italy sounds even better, all is not rosy in the Spanish garden.

One good thing which can be said about Spanish attendances is that, like France, the figures published reflect (mainly) those actually attending (in the top two tiers at least, which are run by the LFP. There is a marked reluctance by the RFEF to announce third level crowds). As we know in Scotland, some clubs – particularly the Old Firm – include season ticket holders for every game. Scotland is far from alone in this. There are Italian teams who do likewise. All the more remarkable then that the highest crowd of the Spanish season was a phenomenal 98,761. But if that figure is beyond the wildest dreams of even Man Utd then the low of 1,583 is more in keeping with the bottom end of England’s League Two.

The dominance of the biggest two clubs can be seen in the averages table but even that hides some disconcerting truths about Spanish football. Even the best supported clubs in the rest of the “Big Five” don’t hold the same sway in their domestic leagues. Subtract the top two supported clubs from the English Premier League and the average crowd falls by around 9.3%. In Italy it’s 8.7% and Germany 9.25%. France hits 11.2%. In Spain it’s far, far higher than the others at 18%. In Scotland though it would be touching 44%! And even that figure is down from a decade ago when it was within Ian Ferguson/Mark Viduka spitting distance of half.

71958 Barcelona
70754 Real Madrid
46746 Atlético Madrid
36903 Valencia
33383 Athletic Bilbao
30652 Real Betis
30545 Sevilla
25320 Elche
23204 Real Sociedad
21551 Málaga
20410 Celta Vigo
19632 Espanyol
16083 Villarreal
15741 Real Valladolid
15398 Granada
14730 Levante
14709 CA Osasuna
10749 Rayo Vallecano
10229 UD Almería
7963 Getafe

The second level Segunda División consists of twenty-two clubs playing each other twice for forty-two games in total and 462 overall. The top two go up automatically and the next four play-off over two legs in each game to produce a winner who takes the third promotion spot. If, like last season, a team ineligible for promotion (in that instance Barcelona B) finishes in a promotion or play-off spot then the place goes to the next team down. Thus seventh-placed Córdoba entered the play-offs and ended up returning to the top flight after an absence of forty-two years! At the other end the bottom four go down to the appropriate regional division.

Spanish football may be dominated by its two biggest clubs but below that there is a lot of mobility with many Segunda División teams familiar names from their La Liga days of not so long ago.

The average of 7,762 last season was fifth best. In addition to Germany and England, both Argentina and France drew more. Highest was 33,639 and lowest 1,136.

22068 Deportivo La Coruña
17150 Sporting Gijón
11921 UD Las Palmas
11019 Córdoba
10360 Tenerife
9952 Real Zaragoza
9863 Alavés
9220 Real Mallorca
8506 Real Murcia
7353 Hércules
7295 Real Jaén
7084 Recreativo Huelva
5479 SD Ponferradina
4722 Girona
4161 CE Sabadell
4085 Mirandés
3703 Barcelona B
3671 Lugo
3093 Numancia
3085 Real Madrid Castilla
3017 Eibar
2753 AD Alcorcón

The third level Segunda B is administered by the federation, not the league, and consists of four regional divisions of twenty clubs each. Teams may be switched from one region to another depending on the location of sides relegated from the Segunda División. Promotion is complex. The top four in each group qualify for the play-offs. Of the sixteen teams the four group winners are insulated from the rest and play off against each other to decide two promotion places. The two successful teams then play each other for the overall championship.

The other twelve play-off qualifiers meet, with the six winners going forward to join the two losers from the Group Winners play-offs. They then play off until two teams are left and they take the two remaining promotion places.

All matches are over two legs.

At the other end the bottom four in all four divisions go down. The four teams finishing fifth last then play-off, with the two losers also relegated. So, of the eighty clubs at this level four are promoted and eighteen relegated.

It’s a high number going down but it needs to be as there are eighteen regional Tercera Divisións from which the top four in each qualify for play-offs along similar lines to the Segunda B with regional winners given first crack at half (nine) of the places on offer and the losers joining the first round play-off winners from the rest to continue the process of determining the other nine promoted clubs. A complex system of relegation to regional set-ups continues below this.

A word on the averages. It has been impossible to track down last season's figures for Group C so I have used THIS season’s up and including Jan 31st 2015. The numbers for all other groups are last season’s.

12766 Real Oviedo
6013 Racing Santander
3400 Ferrol
2456 CD Ourense
2078 Burgos
1891 Real Aviles
1786 Cultural Leonesa
1658 Zamora
1237 Caudal
1174 UD Logroñés
1163 SD Compostela
1108 SD Logroñés
1033 Coruxo
1028 Sporting Gijón B
890 Celta Vigo B
828 CD Tropezón
664 Marino Luanco
591 CD Guijelo
351 SD Noja
Average for this division was 2,232. Note: There were only nineteen teams in this division last season.

3500 CD Leganés
2008 CD Toledo
1700 Barakaldo
1655 SD Huesca
1550 Real Unión
1508 Sestao River
1338 Bilbao Athletic
1240 UB Conquense
979 CD Tudelano
924 Fuenlabrada
763 Las Palmas Atlético
695 SD Amorebieta
664 Atlético Madrid B
629 Real Sociedad B
550 Real Madrid C
536 CD Sariñena
496 Puerta Bonita
450 CD Laudio
438 Peña Sport
407 Getafe B
The average was 1,125

4408 Hercules
3200 Gimnástic
2128 UE Sant Andreu
1909 Alocyano
1865 Real Mallorca B
1746 Lleida Esportiu
1710 Eldense
1598 Olot
1467 Valencia B
1464 UE Cornellá
1407 Olimpic Xátiva
1300 Huracán
1209 Reus Deportiu
1202 Badalona
1153 L'Hospitalet
1144 Atlético Baleares
1075 Elche Ilicitano
1025 Real Zaragoza B
968 Villarreal B
922 Espanyol B
Note: These are this season's figures up to and including Jan 31st 2015. The current average for the division is 1,662

6551 Cadiz
5330 Albacete
3897 Cartagena
2165 La Hoya Lorca
2158 Algeciras
1744 RB Linense
1479 San Fernando
1417 Guadalajara
1371 CT Cacereño
1300 Atlético Sanluqueño
1268 Lucena
1053 Granada B
883 Écija Balompié
875 La Roda
783 El Palo
694 Arroyo
658 UD Melilla
586 Sevilla Atlético
438 Córdoba B
434 UD Almería B
Average was 1,809

The biggest Segunda B crowd was 22,000, the lowest 110 and the overall average was 1,758

It's impossible to give Tercera División Levels of support but last season the play-offs were watched by slightly in excess of 350,000 and had an average of around 3,000. There were vast disparities within these figures with some teams capable of attracting five-figure attendances and others fewer than 500. Obviously run-of-the-mill league games would draw far fewer fans than the play-offs.

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