La Liga authorities have announced a campaign targeting fans who watch games illegally online, while a reform aimed at ensuring a fairer distribution of TV revenues appears to be being watered down.
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The Liga de Futbol Profesional and Spanish government are jointly promoting the slogan “When you pirate football you damage your own team” and have asked clubs and players to push the argument that fans watching their teams play on the internet is one of the biggest issues facing Spanish football.
Barcelona’s Andres Iniesta and Carles Puyol lent their voices to the campaign by reading the same message for the cameras.
“In every game we receive many fouls -- kicks, elbows and stamps,” the duo both said on the official Barcelona website. “What the opposition team does to us hurts. But that is part of the game. What our own fans do to us hurts a lot more. If you ‘pirate’ football, you do damage to your team.”
Other experienced figures including Atletico Madrid captain Gabi, Villarreal midfielder Bruno Soriano and Valencia defender Ricardo Costa also feature in a TV advert, which is edited to appear as though ordinary fans are launching dangerous challenges on La Liga players.
The LFP is to spend money promoting the campaign via television, radio and social media, as well as at Primera and Segunda Division grounds, to build awareness of an issue that league chief Javier Tebas says is stopping Spanish clubs from competing with rivals such as English Premier League sides.
“We are launching this campaign to make society aware,” Tebas said in Marca. “In England there are 11 million pay-TV subscribers, and just over three million in Spain, the same as Portugal. This must be recognised and corrected. We must pay our professionals and we must collect for that which is consumed, because if this keeps going we will become the poorest league in Europe. If we do not fix this, it will bring down the sports industry. This is one of the most important campaigns ever.”
Spain’s sports minister, Miguel Cardenal, also said at the event launching the campaign that he was planning to change the country’s laws to make it easier to find and prosecute individuals who watch illegal streams of games.
Meanwhile, Tebas has told Bloomberg that a new law to be brought in next year aims to make the share of La Liga’s broadcast revenue fairer -- but Real Madrid and Barcelona will still receive about four times more than other teams.
Real and Barca, who have shared the last nine Primera Division titles between them, currently receive about 6.5 times more than the smallest club when the revenues of around one billion euros a year are divided up.
Cardenal has long promised that a new “sports law” to be introduced in 2015 would right this imbalance, but the current reform proposed falls well short of the situation in England, where the Premier League released figures that showed champions Manchester United received just 1.5 times more than bottom side QPR for the 2012-13 season.