Thu, Aug 11, 2011 - Page 18 News List

Spanish soccer to kick off a little earlier

AP, BARCELONA, SPAIN

In hot and humid Spain, soccer has traditionally been played after the sun goes down. That is now set to change so the financially troubled Spanish league can boost its international television revenues.

The Spanish league announced on Tuesday that in the first two weeks of the season, games will be played on Sunday at noon and then be staggered throughout the day.

Like last season, Saturday’s games will start at 6pm, with one game still reserved for Monday night.

The new schedule should equal more income for TV, but it may also mean a culture shock for Spanish soccer fans.

Spanish sports talk radio was buzzing with the news and not lacking in disgruntled voices at what one pundit on Radio Marca called “the end of the Spanish tradition of eating lunch, having a gin and tonic with a cigar before the game” on Sunday evening.

However, traditions may have to be bent with the Spanish league in the midst of a financial crisis. With the league set to get under way on Aug. 20, six of the 20 topflight teams are under bankruptcy protection, while numerous lower division teams are insolvent.

Last season, four or sometimes five games were played simultaneously at 5pm local time on Sunday, reducing their profitability.

Now, most games will have their own time slot, increasing the number of matches on offer for TV viewers around the world.

So far, the players are accepting the new timetable, but some want to make sure that all the teams — including powerhouses Real Madrid and Barcelona — get their turn to play in the heat and sun.

“We have to adapt like we always have and play when we are supposed to each week,” said Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz. “The only thing we hope is that these slots apply to everyone, when it is less appropriate for playing football, above all in August and September.”

During the summer months, temperatures in Spain can reach over 40°C during the day.

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