The English Premier League (EPL) may be considered by many to be the most competitive soccer league in the world, but Spain’s La Liga is probably the most prestigious, with teams like Real Madrid and Barcelona to the fore.
Only a few days ago, La Liga announced details of a deal they have made with Facebook that will permit soccer fans on the Indian sub-continent to watch every single top-flight La Liga game live and free online for the next three years.
In effect, this means that a total of 380 games will be broadcast to soccer fans in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, The Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. What it boils down to is that the approximate 270-million people who use Facebook in these countries will be able to see games including Atletico, Barcelona and Real Madrid, free of charge while the deal lasts.
It is not yet known just how much the deal is worth financially. However, it is likely to be a significant amount of money. The previous agreement for La Liga coverage in the area with Sony, cost the picture network as estimated 32-million Euros for the right to show matches from 2014 to 2018. The new deal will be worth even more.
Facebook has long had its sights set on establishing themselves in the global sports broadcast arena. It is such a lucrative market. This latest deal with La Liga follows on from an agreement negotiated with the Major League Baseball clubs to broadcast games via its website across the US.
With online sports betting now being legalised in many states across North America, the staging of top European football matches on US soil is likely to increase the predicted boom in online gambling popularity even further. More media coverage does not only mean more money for the big football leagues, it will also have a profound effect on the online gambling industry. Online bookmakers cover just about every game in every national league, as a look at a site like sportingbet illustrates.
For their part, Facebook is not ignoring the English market. They have obviously got the bit between their teeth. They have also negotiated a deal here in the UK covering 11 sports, and this will include showing lives games this season from Spain’s La Liga and Italy’s Serie A.
But its not just about Facebook’s future. It suits La Liga’s aims to publicise their presence further afield in the footballing world too. Their next foray into spreading the word will see them become the first European league to actually stage league matches in the States, and it could even begin as early as this season.
According to the latest news reports, the Spanish league have agreed a 15-year deal with “Relevent,” the sports media giant. As well as the USA, the project will also encompass Canada.
La Liga’s executive chairman, Charlie Stillitano, has admitted that this latest initiative is another step on the road in trying to make their league more popular than the English Premier League, although the teams that will be taking part, and at which venues, have yet to be decided.
Stillitano agrees that the duration of the agreement is unprecedented, but he says that La Liga is not prepared to hang around waiting any longer. They want to take action now, and the deals they have recently put in place, show that their intentions are real.
There are still a few problems to be ironed out, one of which is the fact that no clubs will be keen to relinquish a home game. This is precisely what stopped the EPL 10 or so years ago when they were considering playing a round of matches on foreign soil – three potentially being in the US. They conceded the idea following an angry response from English fans.
But if the EPL wants to maintain its pride of place in the soccer world globally, they may have to revisit their plans. But they do have one thing in their favour – it will be hard for anyone to replace the passion that English Premiership football engenders.