The 2011-2012 Spanish football season began as it always has, with the Super Cup, a two-leg match between the winners of La Liga and Copa del Rey. This year fans were treated to an exhilarating 5-4 aggregate victory of Barcelona over Real Madrid, marred only by a scuffle that erupted at the end of the final match and could result in Madrid Coach Jose Mourinho being suspended for 12 games.
The Spanish league season — which the Super Cup is supposed to open — did not start, however, because players went on strike, the first time they had done so in over three decades.
The Association of Spanish Football Players (AFE), representing players from every team in the top two divisions, went on strike when they failed to reach an agreement with league officials over guarantees on payment of over $70 million in unpaid salaries to more than 200 players.The season could start as late as September 10th.
Officials from the players’ association and league officials met on Tuesday to attempt to reach an agreement, but as AP reported, AFE president Luis Rubiales said the sides were still at loggerheads after the meeting. “The positions are far apart and it is impossible to solve things in one day,” Rubiales told Spanish radio Marca. “The next two or three days are going to serve to study the options and from there look for solutions.
The financial troubles that have hit Spain have trickled down to its soccer clubs, with six La Liga clubs and several more second-division teams currently in bankruptcy. Spanish bankruptcy laws allow clubs to renegotiate player salaries or delay payment while under bankruptcy, which spurred the players to demand guarantees about salary payment.
Valencia, which has qualified for the Champions League the last two seasons and is regarded as a top Spanish club, is a good example of how powerful clubs found themselves in financial trouble.
In 2007, after several successful seasons, the club began construction of a new 75,000-seat stadium meant to replace its 55,000-seat stadium called the Mestalla, which they planned to sell. In 2008, however, in the midst of the global financial crunch, Valencia ran out of cash. Financing for the new stadium ground to a halt in part because the club could not find a buyer for their old stadium, and construction stopped.
Fast forward to 2011, Valencia has sold stars David Villa, Juan Mata and David Silva, but has staved off bankruptcy and hopes to have the new stadium ready for the 2012-2013 La Liga season. That is a bright spot among a league beset by financial woes. For comparison, Real Zaragoza’s finances are in serious trouble; one recent tally shows it currently is in debt to almost everyone.
If the Spanish parliament passes a law next month relegating any insolvent teams to the third division, the Spanish league might see a dramatic reorganization.