The President’s Box in La Liga

The president’s box in La Liga is a unique thing in sports. Do the Spanish La Liga owners always have to sit together during the matches? In any other professional sport or league does this take place? The president’s or team owners sitting next to one another during an intense game. I can’t really imagine seeing that in a professional sport in the United States. But it’s great. It’s unique. It may even only something that La Liga does.

I don’t think I’ve seen it in the English Premier League. What patience and calm it takes or must take for these team presidents to see their team get dismantled by Barcelona but not even shed a tear. Or if their team actual scores against Barcelona they can’t even clap or stand up to cheer.

I don’t think owners or club presidents of other professional sports teams could handle sitting next to other owners during the game, whether that’s in the NBA, NFL, or MLB – maybe baseball, it has a lot of tradition, but I still don’t think it would fly. Has an owner ever gotten up to, ostensibly, go get a beverage and then not come back as his team is getting slaughtered and just can’t endure the contained glee of the other owner? Or has a president ever just not returned to his seat at halftime?

And the presidents don’t have a VIP box necessarily. They don’t site separate from the other fans but sit side by side in a section of the stands that’s not enclosed or set apart from the other fans. Rather, it’s more front and center, for all fans to watch the president’s watching. See their reactions or efforts at holding back their reactions.

Of course, they have the best seats in the house, center stage and at the perfect height to see the whole field, not seated far away from the game on some type of upper throne. However, the two leaders of the teams do sit like kings ready for the gladiator battle of a performance in their sharp suit in ties.

In the recent derby between Barcelona and Espanol I thought there’d be a bust up within the club president’s seating area just like in the stands. Espanol’s fans broke through one of the fences and ran on to the field after it appeared like Barcelona fans from above had thrown down a flare into their area. The president of Barcelona, Joan Laporta, was visibly pissed off at the Espanol president and staff. There didn’t seem to be any police and not enough security. Everyone was looking at one another and trying to place the blame. The game was stopped and delayed for about 10 minutes.

The stoppage in play didn’t hurt Barcelona, they came back to win the match in the last minute after Eto’o was taken down in the box, enraging the Espanol fans even more and I’m sure the club’s president – which he couldn’t show. Messi stepped up and put the ball into the back of the net and seconds later the Barcelona players were celebrating as they quickly made their way to the tunnel and out of the stadium. Meanwhile, two president’s were politely shaking hands.

But there’s a certain classiness in La Liga, in a country still with a King and Queen, they still like to have a certain hierarchy, drama, etiquette, dignity, and general respect for the game that they love so much. I think that’s why the tradition of having club presidents sit together during matches has been maintained. It does take a degree of patience and discipline to refrain from maybe showing too much joy or too much distain whe one’s team is winning or losing.

Yet, how are things worked out when an opposing team is on the verge of demotion and playing a team that’s near the top of the table and the game doesn’t really matter for them? Is the club president of the team at the bottom of the table slipping some cash to the other president, bribing hiim so they’ll play their second team? That never happens, of course not, well let’s at least hope it doesn’t.

Fortunately, the system is setup so teams are always chasing something, perhaps a Champions League or UEFA place, so even the top teams have something to play for towards the end of the season.

It’s amazing though that a club president, and painfully I’m sure, has too endure a shellacking or a last minute goal while sitting next to the other team’s now smug owner. There’s no doubt that when Real Madrid’s president Ramon Calderon has to sit in the Camp Nou along side Joan Laporta I’d say he’s gritting his teeth when Barcelona score two goals in the late ten minutes to win the match.

Barca Fans Chanting

Barcelona fans chanting for Laporta to go – it’s no easy job being president of a top club: