Spain’s bosses hail success of anti-fan campaign

The Spanish FA have announced that this season’s campaign to have as few people as possible watching the country’s football matches has been a “stunning success” and has exceeded all previous expectations.

In a press conference held at the organisation’s Madrid headquarters in front of two journalists, spokesman Alberto Gómez praised the contribution and support of the game’s many partners for playing big parts in the campaign’s early goals being achieved.

“It’s been quite moving,” confessed Gómez. “Normally, it’s really hard to bring people together in Spanish football and get them to pull in the same direction. But not now. I can’t think of another time when so many have worked so hard so that so few can watch football.”

In defending the controversial aim of the ‘Switch Off’ initiative, which was launched in July, Gómez said that the FA had taken advice from leading marketing agencies to make their product of league and international football as exclusive as possible.

“Besides,” added the spokesman, “do you know how much of a pain supporters are deal with?”

“Currently, our national side is one of the most attractive teams around and favourites to win the World Cup,” explained Federation president Angel Villar.

“What’s more, we have some of the biggest names in football in our league. And this is why we wanted to enhance the value of our product by making it nearly impossible to see.

"It’s like trying to get into a really, really cool club. They don’t let any old piece of scum in and that’s why they are successful.”

The latest step in the ‘Switch Off’ campaign sees Spain in action on Wednesday night in a match that could see them qualifying for the 2010 World Cup – in some style, if Saturday’s 5-0 victory over Belgium is any indication.

And this is why the FA has seen the encounter with Estonia as the perfect moment to ensure as few fans as possible can watch the match in person by playing it in the 14,000-capacity ground of third division Merida - a town near the Portuguese border.

“What’s particularly pleasing about this latest initiative - aside from the tiny attendance for such a high-profile game - is that it is almost impossible for anyone to get to Merida, even if they could get their hands on tickets,” said Gómez.

He also admitted he had to Google the town’s name just to confirm that “it wasn’t in Portugal itself. FIFA would have given us all sorts of crap about that.”

The ‘Switch Off’ campaign continues this weekend in la Liga’s second round of matches.

Atlético Madrid and Barcelona’s games against Racing and Getafe respectively have been scheduled at the same time, on Saturday afternoon, and it is likely that neither will broadcast due to ongoing squabbles between two TV companies, a bank, the local council and the clubs themselves.

“If they are eventually televised then it will be announced about half-an-hour before the kick-off, like last week, to make sure no one can order it on pay-per-view,” revealed Gómez, who says that all bases have been covered in Barcelona’s clash with Getafe in the Coliseum.

“We’ve got all our sh*t sorted,” added the spokesman.

“We’ve worked together to ensure that as few people as possible will see the encounter, which often throws up one or two surprises,” said Getafe club president Angel Torres.

“That’s why we are charging our own season ticket holders an extra €30 to get in to the ground and up to 120 for everyone else.”

Down in the Canary Islands, there were fears at the Spanish FA that a sell-out crowd at Tenerife’s first home game since the club’s return to the top flight would be a setback to the ‘Switch Off’ campaign.

However, a start time of four in the afternoon is expected to keep most potential supporters away from the ground.

Those who brave the high-thirties temperatures during the encounter will “probably die,” claimed an unnamed source in Spain’s governing body.

“Week by week, we are one step closer our ultimate goal,” claimed Angel Villar.

“And that’s football in its purest form. Back to basics. Just 11 men against 11 without the intrusion of cameras, fans and all the other razzmatazz blights our game. It will be tough, but we are definitely making progress.”

TV might not welcome you, but FFT does. La Liga Loca will be Twittering (well, tweeting, what-ev-errrr) from Atlético Madrid vs Racing Santander at the Vicente Calderón on Saturday from 17.45 CET.

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