For most clubs, Spanish league not about winning the title

CHAMP: FC Barcelona players celebrate on the team bus their victory in the Spanish league title in downtown Barcelona, Spain. (AP)
Updated 20 May 2016

For most clubs, Spanish league not about winning the title

GETAFE, Spain: The race for the Spanish league title went down to the wire for Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. For the other clubs, it never even began.
The majority of Spanish clubs started the season with no realistic expectations of winning the championship, already knowing that it would be one of the two powerhouses, or surging Atletico, lifting the trophy when it was all over.
Barcelona was the one celebrating last week after clinching its second consecutive title, and sixth in eight seasons. Madrid was second, Atletico third.
The rest of the teams weren’t even close.
Year in and year out, most Spanish teams begin the season fighting to either avoid relegation or, at the most, earn a spot in European competition. Fourth place usually feels like a title, as it guarantees participation in the Champions League.
“It’s not feasible to try to compete with the top teams in the league,” Alex Aranzabal, president of small club Eibar, said in a statement sent to The Associated Press. “The financial gap is too big. Our goal isn’t to challenge the top teams, we just want to try to remain in the first division and compete as best as we can in every match, including against Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico. But we know we are at a disadvantage.”
Barcelona and Real Madrid have won 27 of the last 32 league titles, including 11 of the last 12. Atletico lifted the trophy twice in that three-decade span, including in 2014. Valencia won it in 2002 and 2004, and Deportivo La Coruna was the outsider in 2000.
The difference between the top teams and the rest of the league is clear when looking at the standings the past few years. The average gap between the champion and the fourth-place team in the last four seasons has been nearly 25 points. Villarreal was fourth in 2016, finishing 24 points behind third-place Atletico and 27 points behind champion Barcelona.
The disparity is also seen on some of the score lines this past season. Barcelona scored six or more goals in five matches, including an 8-0 rout at Deportivo La Coruna. Real Madrid netted at least six goals four times, including in a 10-2 thrashing of Rayo Vallecano and a 7-1 trouncing of Celta Vigo.
“It’s very easy to be a fan of Real Madrid or Atletico, but not so much of a team like Getafe,” said 43-year-old Esteban Rivero, a supporter of the relegated club from suburban Madrid, shortly after watching his team lose 5-1 to Real Madrid last month. “Fans who come here at this stadium to support Getafe deserve a lot of credit. They could just choose the top Madrid clubs, but they stick to Getafe as their first team even though they know that it will likely finish 60 points behind the champion.”
Second-to-last place this season, Getafe finished 55 points behind Barcelona. Last-place Levante was 59 points off the lead.
“The top teams play for the title and most of the others just try to survive, it’s how it is,” 10-year-old fan Hugo Montalt said while watching one of Levante’s games this season as it tried to avoid demotion.
The Spanish league has been working to help the smaller teams improve financially and become more competitive, including increasing their revenues from television contracts. Barcelona and Real Madrid earned nearly 140 million euros ($158 million) in television rights this season, twice as much as Atletico and at least four times more than the smaller clubs. This difference is expected to gradually decrease over the next few years.
“It’s true that if we had a little more competitiveness, it would be easier to sell our brand, but it’s not an essential element for the league’s success,” Spanish league president Javier Tebas said. “We already have two very strong brands, now three (with Atletico), and we want these brands to remain strong, but we also want to develop other brands and to help the league’s own brand become more of a reference.”


European Ryder Cup stars take aim on 2021 Saudi International

Updated 41 min 8 sec ago

European Ryder Cup stars take aim on 2021 Saudi International

  • The February tourney looks set to be one of the strongest events on European Tour schedule

JEDDAH: European Ryder Cup stars Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Paul Casey, Tommy Fleetwood, Sergio Garcia, Tyrrell Hatton, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and Lee Westwood join defending champion Graeme McDowell in looking to get their campaign to qualify for the 2021 European Ryder Cup team off to the strongest possible start at the Saudi International.

The tournament, powered by Softbank Investment Advisers, will take place  Feb. 4 -7 at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City.

With world No. 1 and 2020 Masters champion Dustin Johnson and 2020 US Open champion Bryson DeChambeau confirmed for the event, along with reigning Open champion Shane Lowry and US stars Phil Mickelson and Patrick Reed, the strength of the field means huge ranking points will be on offer for Europe’s leading golfers as they look to get their 2021 qualifying efforts off to a fast start and secure a coveted place on the 2021 European Ryder Cup team.

With a lineup that looks set to ensure that the Saudi International will be one of the strongest events on the 2021 European Tour schedule, Golf Saudi is looking to build on the momentum resulting from hosting two extremely successful Ladies European Tour events this month as interest and participation in golf continues to grow in the Kingdom.

Fleetwood, a six-time winner on the European Tour and standout player in Europe’s Ryder Cup victory in Paris in 2018, is making his debut this year in the Saudi International. He said: “From all I’ve heard from the lads who played there the last couple of years, the Saudi International has established itself as one of the leading events on the European Tour both in terms of set up and facilities as well as quality of the field, which is really impressive this year.”

Poulter, who played for the first time in the 2020 edition, said: “I really enjoyed the tournament at the beginning of this year and am psyched to be returning next February. The course sets up for my game rather nicely so I was pretty frustrated to only finish in the top 20 and will certainly be aiming to finish rather higher up the leaderboard this year!

“It’s a fantastic championship course with some amazing vistas and I also really like the fact we get to play a part in introducing golf to a whole new audience in a new region. With Ryder Cup qualification on the line, I am obviously looking to get my campaign off to a fast start and getting a decent finish or winning the Saudi International against such a stellar field would be massive.

“It’s been a really weird year with the pandemic so we are all looking forward to a fresh start in 2021 and I am hoping it is also a strong start as I keep my eyes firmly focused on qualifying for the European team at Whistling Straits,” he added.

Majed Al-Sorour, CEO of the Saudi Golf Federation and Golf Saudi, said: “This announcement marks yet another amazing group of golf stars joining our 2021 field and the excitement of all the players to kick off afresh in 2021, in Saudi Arabia, is heartening to hear.

“The lineup for the tournament is looking strong and with more players still to be announced in the coming weeks — and on the back of two excellent Ladies European Tour events earlier this month — we are very much looking forward to the third edition of our tournament. We believe it will be the strongest installment to date and will serve as a fabulous illustration that Saudi Arabia is open for business.”