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Spanish clubs to beautify stadiums as league seeks to compete for global TV share

“For us, it’s very important that when someone watches a football game, they know it’s La Liga no matter which team is playing,” said Adolfo Bara, the Spanish league’s marketing director.

Daniel Smith/Getty Images for Soccerex

The grass is getting greener in Spanish soccer.

In an attempt to catch up with the financially dominant English Premier League, Spain's top teams are coming up with new ways to promote the sport in their country and improve its global audience share.

And it's all about the look, beyond the silky skills of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

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Spain's La Liga introduced an audio-visual rule for this season, forcing clubs to make their stadiums look better on TV if they wanted to cash in on the country's improved broadcasting deals.

That means giving a lick of paint to some of the more run-down stadiums, moving spectators to ensure they are in camera shot, brightening up advertising hoardings and, yes, making the grass greener on the fields.

"The problem with Spain," said Adolfo Bara, the Spanish league's marketing director, said on the sidelines of the SoccerEx convention, "is that it's really hot in summer. If you look, in September in some of the stadiums, the grass was yellow. We now talk to the clubs on how the groundskeepers must make sure it is proper green."

Compliance with these new audio-visual rules entitles a club to more money out of Spain's new TV broadcasting contracts, which gives the smaller teams a greater share of overall revenue compared to previous years when Real Madrid and Barcelona took the lion's share of earnings.

Borja Gonzalez, stadium business manager at Athletic Bilbao, told The Associated Press at SoccerEx that among the changes at his club's renovated San Mames ground was changing the colour of the sponsor's messages on billboards surrounding the field to the club's red and white.

Spain, like other countries, looks on enviously at the Premier League with its 96.2 per cent capacity attendances, its passionate fans, its international popularity, its colourful stadiums and its money-making ability.

This season marks the start of a new three-year broadcasting deal for England's popular and lucrative top division worth £8.3-billion, or $14.2-billion.

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Spain's annual broadcast revenue is €1.6-billion, or $2.7-billion a season – double the amount in the previous deal.

Bara said the English model is something Spain is looking to follow.

"You see La Liga and sometimes the light is good, sometimes not; some grass is green, some grass is yellow. The problem is, it's not consistent," Bara said. "For us, it's very important that when someone watches a football game, they know it's La Liga no matter which team is playing."

"It's going to take another year, but we will get there."

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