x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Primera Liga is failing to live up to its own hype

Most teams are struggling, attendances are falling and fans are getting fed up, writes Andy Mitten

Only 8,000 fans turned out at Getafe to watch Cristiano Ronaldo's Real Madrid on Sunday. Andres Kudacki / AP Photo
Only 8,000 fans turned out at Getafe to watch Cristiano Ronaldo's Real Madrid on Sunday. Andres Kudacki / AP Photo

The Barcelona official laughed as he repeated the statement in the stifling heat ahead of last week's Spanish Super Cup.

"Spain has the best league in the world," he said, rolling his eyes. He didn't believe it, few apart from the marketeers do.

Spain has the best players and the best two club teams. It has the world's best international side, yet for all the obvious good on the field, there are major deficiencies off it.

Two hours after the Barca official spoke, more than 90,000 fans left the stadium in the hope of using a metro system which had stopped running before the end of the game. The ensuing chaos saw fans stranded for hours.

Three days later, Real Madrid played another away game. The crowd was less than one tenth of the size, just 8,000 for a capital city derby against Getafe, less than half the stadium's capacity.

The side from Madrid's rough industrial suburbs are the worst supported in Spain's top flight and averaged 8,453 last season. That they couldn't reach the average for their biggest game of the season illustrates the mood among fans across Spain.

Supporters are fed up with games which start so late they span two days and with high ticket costs.

A fan hoping to watch Getafe play Real on the day of the match would have been asked to pay €100 (Dh461) to sit in the main stand.

In an area where unemployment is over 30 per cent and average wages are €800 a month - just ridiculous.

Getafe work hard to sell season tickets with some imaginative advertising. They reward loyalty offering heavy discounts for fans buying season tickets, yet not every fan wants a season ticket. Some just want to turn up and watch big matches. Should they be charged €100 for the privilege?

A club can only charge what the market will pay. Barcelona can ask €150 for main stand tickets for the visit of Real Madrid because there are hundreds of thousands of people who are prepared to pay that.

No matter how illustrious the visitors, the demand simply is not there outside of the clasico. There was a reward for the few who showed; Getafe beat Real 2-1 to inflict the champions' first league defeat of 2012.

The Barca official would have laughed at that, too.

sports@thenational.ae

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