The biggest club game in the world –El Clasico will be missed (for the first fifteen minutes) by fans who live in England, due to the kick off time being 5pm, and English regulations stipulating that no live football can be shown between 2.45pm and 5.15pm.
That is a rule aimed to protect attendances at games, and certainly a topic to be debated another day. As Clasico watchers will know, normally the game is the showpiece of the weekend (if not the season) and would warrant a much later kick off.
This season that will not be the case. Due to La Liga’s ‘commitment’ to attracting viewers in the Far East, the game will be played at 5pm GMT – or 6pm in Spain. That translates as 8pm UAE time – and is all because UAE viewers can now get to watch the game in their prime viewing slot.
Yes, you read that correctly. Their prime viewing spot. Never mind about the fans in England or Spain, who watch La Liga week in week out and are forced to be available at 11am GMT for the equally Far East friendly kick offs on a Sunday morning now, or on a Monday night. We will now be denied the first fifteen minutes of the game of the season because of one thing. Money.
Spanish kick off times are only decided a couple of weeks before hand, and it seems after the comments from La Liga president Javier Tebas, we can expect a whole lot more of pro Middle East kick off times.
Tebas spoke to Sport 360 and noted: “La Liga is working on kick-off times in order to service our fans in Asia and MENA. Next month there will be major news in that sense.
“Our primary focus is of course to protect the interest of our local fans, but we understand that to gain more interest from international fans more needs to be done.”
As if the La Liga TV rights were not messed up enough, this seems the cherry on top of the cake.
Not only is the game of the season shunted from the spot that would have been the prime time for European fans, but the ones in England will now be denied the start of the match, which, in the first 15 minutes, could quite easily see a goal or two, or a red card (smart money would be on Pepe or either of the Sergio’s for the latter and one of the two best players in the world for the former. No Gareth, that does not mean you.)
The Liga have also considered moving the Copa del Rey final or even the Super Copa to the Middle East – something which both Real Madrid and Barcelona were actually united for once in rejecting – and given they are the two teams most likely to be participating, their opinion obviously carries huge weight.
That idea will be revisited in the future and is one that quite simply serves to alienate ‘local’ fans even further.
Quite how fans would feel if they had watched their side home and away in the Copa throughout the season, only to miss out on the final due to it being in the Middle East is another kettle of worms totally.
Why should they have to pay such a huge amount to travel so far when it is their so called domestic cup competition? The answer is again the same. Money. With greedy La Liga supremoes trying to grab as much of it as they can get.
That is without even going into the logistical issues for sides who are actually taking part in the final – at the business end of the season, when the Champions League final and the Liga would also be demanding their attention.
Guess which competition would take a backseat if teams were in both and had to travel to the Middle East ahead of the Champions League final? To put that into context in terms of dates, the Copa final last season was on the 17th of May. The Champions League final was on the 25th.
No coach in their right mind would put their star players on a plane on the 17th to a random destination miles away when their showpiece game of the season – and one they may never get the chance to be in again – is only a few days later, back in Europe.
A failure waiting to happen certainly sounds like the best way to describe that idea. Moving back to the point in hand, the early kick off for the Clasico is a huge problem for fans in Europe – and ones who are at work on a Saturday and still want to watch the game.
There is very little the fans or broadcasters can do – Sky Sports, whose coverage of La Liga is unprecedented, have their hands tied due to legalities beyond their control. The players cannot really do much either.
Should the players chose to delay the kick off or come out of the tunnel late, they would probably end up with a bigger fine from La Liga than the one CSKA Moscow will be handed by UEFA such is the farcical nature of football’s various governing bodies.
For now, fans will simply have to sit back and stream this one online – for the first fifteen minutes at least. La Liga chiefs meanwhile may well think they can sit back and watch the money roll in, but in reality, much more of this ad they will be counting the lost viewers and complaints. The very least they deserve.
What are your thoughts on this farce? Let us know your thoughts below.