La Liga kick-off times leave fans, clubs in spin

The dispute over broadcasting rights ownership that almost delayed the start of the La Liga season last week has been resolved, but the resulting muddle of kick-off times is causing indignation among clubs and fans in Spain.

The second round of fixtures sees Champions League participants Malaga and Valencia both kick-off their matches, against Real Mallorca on Saturday and Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday, at 23:00 local time.

Last week's deal, that appeased the feuding rights holders Canal+ and Mediapro who share the broadcasting of La Liga in Spain, has led to the professional league (LFP) spreading games across a dizzying set of times on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

There were fan protests at a number of grounds last weekend, with three games finishing close to 01:00 local time.

"We have up to 10 different kick-off times for La Liga. It's madness," Spanish TV pundit Michael Robinson, the former Ireland international, said on his Twitter feed on Wednesday.

Valencia, who finished third last season, drew 1-1 away at the champions Real Madrid last weekend.

They host promoted Depor in a clash between the only two sides to have won La Liga outside of Real and Barcelona in the last 16 years.

"It's a time for sleeping," Valencia's Portugal international Joao Pereira said this week.

"How are you going to take a 10-year-old kid to see a game at this time? It isn't good for football."

Malaga boss Manuel Pellegrini joined the chorus of complaints before Wednesday's 2-0 Champions League play-off victory over Panathinaikos.

"Because of the strange programming of games due to television, we play on Saturday and finish at around one in the morning, and on Tuesday play the Champions League," the former Real coach told a news conference referring to their return leg in Greece.

"Let's see if Madrid, Barcelona or Valencia receive the same treatment. The four teams all represent Spain and should be treated the same."

TRANSPARENT SYSTEM

Part of last week's emergency meetings, presided over by the government, was the scheduling of matches.

Clubs had demanded that the LFP institute a "transparent and regulated" system for fixing kick-off times and accused officials of offering some clubs favourable slots to the disadvantage of others.

The LFP have defended the new late kickoffs as being only for the first two rounds of matches in August when it is very hot in Spain. Another related issue, at the heart of the problem, is the wider debate over the sharing of television revenues between clubs.

There is no system of collective bargaining in La Liga similar to those that exist in rival European leagues.

Most La Liga sides are unhappy that Real and Barca dominate proceedings with individually negotiated deals, taking almost half of the 600 million euro pot between them, which helps make them the world's richest football clubs by income.

The scheduling furore has led to a lot of empty seats at the games shoved to the more anti-social times, in another blow to heavily-indebted sides trying to keep up with the top two.

Real and Barca, who play the Spanish Super Cup first leg on Thursday, featured at 17:00 and 19:00 (GMT) last Sunday, traditional kick-off slots in recent years, and do so again for the second round of games.

Early leaders Barca, who thrashed Real Sociedad 5-1, visit Osasuna while Real travel to local rivals Getafe.


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