Kathakali has been a journalist for a decade and a half, working previously with The Telegraph and Times of India. An MA in political science and a Chevening Fellow, she writes on various themes--the business of sports, pop culture, startups, innovation--and co-produces the video series, From the Field. She is also part of the desk, editing, rewriting and putting the print edition to bed. Kathakali is a sports nut and collects autographs as a hobby. She enjoys travelling and music, and you'll often find her humming completely out of tune.
Vinicius Junior left winger of Real Madrid and Brazil and Ronald Araujo centre-back of Barcelona and Uruguay compete for the ball during the La Liga Santander match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid CF at Spotify Camp Nou on March 19, 2023 in Barcelona, Spain; Image: Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images
At the conclusion of its 2022-23 season on June 30, LALIGA, the globally-acclaimed Spanish football league, will adopt a rebranding with a new-look logo, and a new title sponsor as well. The elite league on Monday unveiled its logo for the coming season–a double L in red monochrome–that will replace that familiar rainbow ball nicknamed ‘el rosco’ (the donut). The earlier logo has been part of the league since 1993, with minor redesigns over the years, the latest taking place in 2016. “A number of things have happened in the LALIGA in the last 10 years–how we went from being a local league to a world corporation with presence in 41 countries through 11 offices, how we went from managing just the economics of our league to being one of the biggest ecosystems in football with units such as LALIGA Business School, operations like LALIGA Genuine (a tournament with mentally-challenged players) or LALIGA Promises (a tournament of academies). It's much more than what happens on match days. We went for a total rebranding to represent these,” says Jose Antonio Cachaza, the LALIGA India MD. Also read: If U2 could play in India, so can a Barca or a Real: LaLiga India MDStarting the 2023-24 season, the 42 clubs that make up the league will sport the new logo, which will also be visible across its stadiums, broadcasts and the digital universe.
The new season will also see EA Sports FC, a gaming platform, hold naming rights, replacing Banco Santander that has been sponsoring the league since the 2016-17 season. In 2021, Santander had extended the deal for two years, with an option to extend for another year. But that latter wasn’t exercised and the agreement was terminated on mutual consent. While EA has come in for a five-year deal, Cachaza refused to divulge its annual sponsorship commitments. “It’s positive for us in economic terms,” was all he would say. “We are also developing a number of programmes with them,” he further says. “We are creating an under-17 women’s academy in Madrid that will be financed by EA, and one of its students is an Indian international Kajol D’souza.” D’souza, who has represented India in the under-17 Fifa World Cup, has been training at the LaLiga Football School in Pune since 2018. The LaLiga Football School project is the league’s way of reaching out to the grassroots and grooming kids in the Spanish way of football. In two-and-a-half years since its launch in India in 2017, the number had reached close to 50 before shutting down operations due to Covid. Sessions have now resumed at around 25 institutions that include in-school and as well as after-school programmes. LALIGA’s growing expanse in India can be gauged from the fact that they have three Indian brands as sponsors–BKT Tires as a global sponsor and two regional sponsors–Dream11 and Hero Vired–for the Indian market. In 2019, it roped in cricket captain Rohit Sharma as the first Indian ambassador of the league. LALIGA India MD Jose Antonio Cachaza says the 42 clubs that make up the league will sport the new logo, and it will also be visible across its stadiums, broadcasts and the digital universe The Spanish league also remains the second-most watched football league in the country after the Premier League (PL), its English counterpart, says Cachaza. “It won’t be easy to catch up with PL because they have been in the market quite a few years ahead of us and, thus, their relationship with the fans is older,” he says. “But we work thinking we can.” In its latest valuation of football clubs, Forbes has ranked two LALIGA heavyweights–Real Madrid and Barcelona FC–among the top three, with the former remaining the world’s most valuable club at €5.7 billion and the latter coming at No. 3 with €5.2 billion. With both these clubs consistently featuring in the top three of the league standings over the past few seasons, along with Atletico Madrid, does it make the Spanish league lopsided? Also read: Dreaming big leagues: Can European elite clubs change grassroots football in India?Cachaza looks at it from two perspectives. “One, we have the two biggest clubs in the world, and it’s not a bad thing,” he says. “But we are aware of what you are asking and we need to keep working to make more people, especially in a country like India, aware of our next-level clubs.”Sevilla, for instance, is a seven-time Europa league winner, but there is little awareness about the club as much as there is about Everton or West Ham, for instance, the second-tier clubs in the PL after the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal or Chelsea. “We are trying to work with them, helping them to have a greater presence in the market,” he says. LALIGA has also hit the headlines for the wrong reasons over the past few weeks after Real Madrid’s Vinicius Jr was subjected to racial abuse during its match against Valencia on May 21. The team’s coach Carlo Ancoletti has suggested that the referee must be ready to stop matches if such episodes are reported. What is the league’s thinking on this front? Cachaza refers to a recent press conference by Javier Tebas, its global president, on the subject to assert that LALIGA has taken a strong stance against racism and has been the “only one to have reported abuses in 10 matches, eight of them to Vinicius”. “We are also asking for the capacity to take punitive decisions like sanctions, something we don't have yet,” says Cachaza. “But we are doing everything we can.”