Webinar Thinking Football: "The present and future of world Football"
Pedro Proença, President of Liga Portugal, and Javier Tebas, President of La Liga, addressed structural issues of the football industry
The opening panel of the webinar, aimed at kicking off the Thinking Football Summit 2022, featured a truly high-profile panel: no less than Pedro Proença, President of Liga Portugal and Javier Tebas, President of La Liga.
Under discussion were absolutely structural issues of the world football panorama, namely issues related to the sustainability of the European Leagues, the importance of centralizing television rights and also the inevitable question of the European Super League.
Is modern-day football a prisoner of the most powerful entities?
Pedro Proença, President of Liga Portugal
"The Portuguese League has struggled with the power of money and the incapacity that is associated with such leagues as ours, where the talent development of players has floundered against the economic strength of the big international leagues. Therefore, there is no capacity to compete with those leagues, since the associative model is jeopardised and, consequently, it is impossible to compete with the Big-5 European leagues.
It has been a very intense battle. Javier Tebas has had the ability to realise that world football will not develop without the small or mid-tier leagues. Since 2016, the Portuguese league has held a memorandum of understanding with the Spanish league, as we trust Javier Tebas to be capable of leading this balancing process. We have fought together on international calendars and on approaching the small and mid-tier leagues more openly. Javier Tebas is always available to reflect with us on what the world leagues are all about."
Javier Tebas, President of La Liga
"The world lives off money. What kind of risks do we have in football today? The first point is that there is a prominent league (Premier League), the Spanish League and the Bundesliga come right after that, then the Italian League and the French League and then the Portuguese League. The Premier League creates 30% more deals than the Spanish League, but I'm not going to ask the Premier League for money in order to be more competitive. We have to be concerned with the domestic competitions, so that our league becomes more competitive economically. So, once the Portuguese League has the centralised distribution of audiovisual rights, it will be on a more equal footing with other leagues, otherwise it won't be as competitive.
"The football world has to be regarded in a 5/6-year perspective, taking into account financial fair play. In France, half of the clubs are ruined, in Italy it's the same. The German and Spanish teams are no less competitive than the others, but they are more sustainable. With economic control you can't buy as much, but we want clubs that are economically sustainable. One of the problems of the European leagues is that they are competitive for a minority, the money must be better distributed, and the biggest clubs have to be paid less.
Centralising television rights?
"It's the key to success. The most important measure of the last 20 years is the decree-law that provides for the commercialisation of audiovisual rights by the Portuguese League. Javier Tebas has done it in Spain and revolutionised La Liga. This decree-law is 10 years late, as is the way in which we work with this product and how it is made available to those who assist in the creation of a new strategic plan. We aim for 2027-28, but we want to anticipate that distribution of audiovisual rights. It is necessary to adapt the way of how people consume football. The Portuguese League is currently sitting in 6th place in the UEFA ranking, but if nothing is done, in a couple of years we will go down further".
European Super League?
"I am against the creation of the Super League. It is a project with a philosophy of the big clubs, who want to rule everything and not share money with anyone else. It is a disaster in terms of management and a project that is already dead. For me, that’s inconceivable. However, the big clubs want to dominate the football world and that is very dangerous. It will lead to many economic losses for the European leagues, and this is an ethical debate in the football industry. This has to stop. The big clubs make a lot of profit, and the money can't just be distributed to a handful of them. New ways of governing competitions have to be implemented and we also have to worry about the Serbian, Romanian or Macedonian players, for example, so that their Leagues also grow, with more labour rights."
"What model of sustainability do we want for the next decade? The problem with the Super League is that it is a niche that gets all the wealth, but that wealth has to be shared. The great key to success in football is the ability to achieve a sense of solidarity between the Big-5 leagues, but also between all the associations that comprise UEFA. If we only cater for the elite markets, where we don't have the capacity of reaching that level, then we will not even have sporting success in football. The merit principle must be respected, in which the sporting aspect prevails over the financial aspect, like when FC Porto were European champions. There is a need for a solidarity-based football and where everyone can have access to it."
"Football has to be a sustainable industry that creates thousands of jobs, and all families deserve that we provide the best efforts for the sport. We have already made great progress and we will continue to do so in collaboration with the Portuguese League. The stronger the Portuguese League gets, the better it will be for everyone. If we succeed in making them stronger, less talent will leave the country, helping the teams to become more competitive. Furthermore, with the economic control model, with the centralised sale of audiovisual rights and the necessity to have a medium/long term perspective for economic sustainability, progress will be achieved".
"It's a change of mindset. Realising that all the peripheral leagues are also strong, and can become even stronger, so will the Spanish League. We have done extraordinary things together, so I would like to leave a word of thanks to Javier Tebas, who has always been available to help us with our difficulties. The centralisation of audiovisual rights will happen, as a result of this convergence of ideas. There must be financial control and stringent rules for clubs to abide by, as well as a medium/long term vision that goes beyond the results after each matchday. If we can thread a path together through this process, we will quickly reach success. We want to be in the top five European Leagues and Javier Tebas will continue to help us significantly in that regard."
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