Posted May 24th, 2012 by Colin in Granada, Spain
Despite not being world-renowned as are Real Madrid and F.C. Barcelona, Granada C.F. is a storied club. Recently things have looked pretty rough, and by recently I mean to say that since 1976 Granada has had to play in the Second Division or lower. In Spain and the other European countries, there are usually three leagues and the intrigue stems from the Relegation/Promotion system, a system in which Granada C.F. is well versed. Each league has twenty teams, and every year, the bottom three teams are relegated to the Second Division, or Liga Adelante and the three best teams from this league are promoted to the First Division, or La Primera.
This is all relevant because this season our hometown team, Granada C.F. has been playing in the Primera. The best teams in Spain haven’t treated the newcomers kindly however, and Granada has spent the majority of the season flirting with what is known as the relegation zone; those three dreaded spots destined to drop. Why is it so dangerous to drop? Imagine that one of the teams of the NBA did so poorly one season that it had to drop to the D-League for a season. That equates to an entire year in the no-man’s land; diminished endorsements, reduced attendance, and worst of all, a severe decline in attention and media coverage. It is essentially a business nightmare, one that 15% of the league experiences every year. In fact, I didn’t even know there was a D-League that fed in to the NBA, which highlights my point: people watch the main attraction, watch the big names and the heavy artillery do battle every week, not the wannabes scrap for a sliver of the limelight.
In fact, the money gained from winning La Primera pales in comparison to the revenue lost from dropping out of the top league. This may seem a strange notion, but considering that in Spain, TV rights (and therefore revenue) for airing soccer games are shared equally between all the teams in the league, and two of the largest sporting franchises in the world play in this league, it makes sense that any aspiring club would be loath to leave the party.
It came down to the final game of the season with four or five teams facing relegation for Granada to discover its fate. Whether Los Granadinos were to descend or not depended on the results of a handful of other games and the tension level was through the roof. By the skin of its teeth, this floundering newcomer to one of the richest and most-followed sporting leagues in the world gets to eat at the big kids’ table for another August-May. The importance of this feat is not lost on the people of the city. Without the 15,000 fans that stream every week into El Estadio Nuevo Los Cármenes, screaming themselves hoarse, being on their feet for two hours and choreographing spectacles resplendent in the traditional red and white, the players would have no incentive to perform, no reason to give pride to the badge on their chest.
The annals of the most-loved game in Spain portray a duopoly of startling consistency: Real Madrid and F.C. Barcelona have always been the big kids on campus and will continue being the big kids on campus in the foreseeable future. Regardless, the story of Granada C.F. is the real story of Spanish soccer. The true value of a league can be found in the clubs with loyal, passionate fans of desperately small-market teams dutifully supporting their players week in and week out, even when some of the finest contemporary athletes mop the floor with them. The passion for this game and this team is as much of the city as the Río Genil or the Sierra Nevada mountains. Although the jubilant crowds usually don’t sing until the wee hours of the morn about geography.