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England’s top flight was rebranded under its current name in 1992 when the country’s 22 top-tier teams broke away from the Football League.
La Liga has a more continuous history. Founded in 1929, it steadily grew from a 10-team competition into its present 20-side format.
Many of the world’s most popular clubs play in the Premier League and La Liga, which also provide a home to several of the greatest players around.
This guide compares the two divisions across many different categories.
The Premier League and La Liga are often ranked in terms of on-pitch quality, but we have sought to provide a more thorough contrast by taking factors such as earnings, attendance and viewership, and salaries into account.
The Premier League is the richest soccer league in the world. Using the most recent figures available, it generated revenues of $6.04bn in the 2017/18 season.
Over the same period, La Liga posted revenues of $4.84bn, an impressive 20.6 percent growth on the previous campaign.
Clubs from both leagues earn money predominantly from sponsorship, prize funds, ticket sales, stadium naming rights, broadcast deals, and player sales.
Unlike MLS, which takes a more collectivist approach by sharing revenue and holding players’ contracts centrally, the Premier League and La Liga afford their clubs much greater autonomy.
England’s leading competition does put its collective bargaining power to use when it comes to negotiating broadcast contracts. All international broadcasting revenue is equally shared between its 20 sides, as is half of the domestic broadcasting revenue.
The remainder is given out depending on where a club finishes in the league table and how often their matches are shown live on TV.
Premier League clubs are otherwise left to their own devices in the pursuit of income. According to the Deloitte Football Money League. Manchester United has the highest revenue among Premier League outfits and sits third of all clubs in world soccer, with figures of $811.7m for 2019.
The Premier League’s extraordinary growth is neatly evidenced by the change in clubs’ shirt sponsors since the 1990s.
When the league was first launched, many teams were sponsored by a local company, such as Dagenham Motors for West Ham United and Sanderson for Sheffield Wednesday. Today shirt sponsorship is a lucrative market: Manchester United earns $80m a year from Chevrolet.
It is the same story in Spain, where Real Madrid receive a similar sum for displaying the Emirates logo on their jerseys. Barcelona and Madrid are the two clubs that sit above Manchester United in Deloitte’s revenue ranking, with an income of $959.3m and $864m respectively in 2019.
There is more wealth inequality in La Liga than the Premier League. Aside from Barcelona and Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Valencia are the only other Spanish sides among the 30 wealthiest in European soccer.
Barcelona makes six times more money than the fifth-richest La Liga club. Conversely, England has 11 representatives in Europe’s top 30, including West Ham, Leicester City, and Crystal Palace.
Historically, a big reason for that was La Liga’s more individualist approach to broadcast revenue, which allowed clubs to negotiate their own deals. The league implemented a centralized, more egalitarian model for the 2016/17 season, and income from TV deals is now distributed more fairly.
Nevertheless, La Liga still lags behind the Premier League in this regard. In 2017/18, Barcelona and Real Madrid received around 30 percent of the total $1.51bn broadcast revenue. Conversely, the two highest earners in the 2018/19 Premier League season – Liverpool and Manchester City – received 12 percent of the combined $3.1bn.
|Rank||PL Team||AVG Annual/Player||La Liga Team||AVG Annual/Player|
|2||Man United||$7,657,000||Real Madrid||$11,154,693|
|9||West Ham||$3,777,800||Real Sociedad||$1,567,008|
|10||Crystal Palace||$3,609,375||Real Betis||$1,477,190|
In the 2019/20 season, Premier League clubs paid a total of $1.97bn in player salaries. According to the 2019 edition of the Global Sports Salaries Survey, England’s top soccer competition ranks fourth of all global sports leagues for the amount it spent on wages, behind the National Basketball Association (NBA), cricket’s Indian Premier League (IPL) and Major League Baseball (MLB).
The average salary at Manchester City, the biggest spenders, was $8.73m, while last-placed Sheffield United paid an average of $910,000 per player.
That is a difference of $7.82m from highest to lowest payers. The average salary per player across the league as a whole was $3.97m, a 6.1 percent increase on the previous year. The median salary was $2.93m.
La Liga is positioned seventh in the aforementioned table, behind the National Football League (NFL) and the National Hockey League (NHL). In 2019/20, the division’s 20 clubs spent a combined $1.25bn on salaries.
La Liga’s relative inequality is again on display here. With average annual pay of $12.3m and $11.2m respectively, Barcelona and Real Madrid spend more money on wages than any other sports teams on the planet. Yet despite the big two’s tremendous outlay, La Liga as a whole is outstripped by the Premier League.
Eight Spanish sides paid a lower average salary than Sheffield United, with last-placed Osasuna spending $452,806 per player. That is a staggering $11.8m less than Barcelona.
The average salary per player across La Liga in 2019/20 was $2.55m, a 7.4 percent decrease on the previous year.
The median salary was just $983,705m – lower than Italy’s Serie A and the Bundesliga in Germany, as well as the Premier League.
The Premier League has earned a reputation for extravagance over the last two decades. Indeed, clubs from other European countries – most notably Germany – have at times looked at their English counterparts and shaken their heads.
That is understandable, as a spendthrift approach to transfers has not always been matched by high performance in European competition (more on which later).
The Premier League’s 20 clubs spent around $1.75bn on transfers in the 2019 summer window. It was the fourth year in a row that the total exceeded £1bn ($1.24bn using today’s exchange rate). In the 2020 January transfer window, English top-division sides paid out $300m on new players, increasing the tally for the season to more than $2bn.
In the 2019 summer transfer window, La Liga’s 20 teams had a combined outlay of $1.45bn. Remarkably, the league smashed its own all-time spending record within just two weeks of the market opening for business. La Liga’s previous highest spend came in 2018 when $1bn was splashed out on player recruitment.
Most Recently Completed Season
|Best Ever AVG Attendance
|Season of Best AVG Attendance||% of Tickets Sold in 2019 to Foreign Visitors|
Data taken from the “Global Sports Salaries Survey 2019”
The average attendance at a Premier League game in the 2018/19 season was 38,168. That’s not too far off the best-ever figure of 38,776, set in 1948/49. In 2018/19, the Premier League was the second-best attended soccer league worldwide, with Germany’s Bundesliga claiming top spot.
The average attendance at a La Liga match in the same season was 26,811. The best ever figure from Spain’s first division came in 1994/95, when a total of 30,532 fans went to games. In 2018/19, La Liga was the third-best attended soccer league worldwide.
It is also instructive to consider attendances in relative terms – i.e. as a percentage of stadium capacity. In 2018/19, 14,503,954 fans attended games in the Premier League.
The maximum possible figure based on stadium capacity would have been 14,971,896, which means stadiums in England’s top tier were 96.87 percent full that season.
Over in La Liga, 10,188,198 supporters attended live matches. The maximum possible figure based on capacity would have been 13,881,153, which means grounds were 73.4 percent full in the 2018/19 campaign.
|Overseas % of
Data taken from the “Global Sports Salaries Survey 2019”
According to the 2019 edition of the Global Sports Salaries survey, the Premier League generates $1.75bn per year from overseas television rights and more than $2bn from domestic television rights. The sums for La Liga are $1bn and $1.27bn respectively.
Both competitions have a global reach. The Premier League broadcast to a cumulative audience of 3.2 billion in the 2018/19 campaign, a six percent rise from 2017/18. That works out as an average of 8.4 million per game, although high-profile matches involving the most successful teams were obviously more popular.
The Premier League was shown in 188 of the world’s 193 UN-recognized nations in 2017/18, with North Korea, Cuba, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Moldova the only exceptions.
La Liga has opted against releasing such detailed figures, a policy that is in line with many major sports leagues around the world.
However, president Javier Tebas told the Guardian in 2019 that the league had a cumulative global audience figure of more than 3.2 billion.
As we have seen in other categories, Real Madrid and Barcelona are far ahead of their domestic rivals.
El Clasico, the name of any match between the two teams, is among the most viewed sporting contests on the planet, but James P. Curley and Oliver Roeder estimated that an average La Liga game in 2016 attracted 2 million worldwide viewers in their paper, English Soccer’s Mysterious Worldwide.
For this category, we will compare the Premier League and La Liga since 1992, the year the former was launched.
In the 27 seasons that have been completed since then, six different clubs have won the Premier League title: Manchester United (13), Chelsea (five), Manchester City (four), Arsenal (three), Blackburn Rovers (one) and Leicester City (one). Liverpool, 25 points clear at the top of the table at the time of writing, is on the verge of adding its name to the above list.
Over the same period, five clubs have triumphed in La Liga: Barcelona (14), Real Madrid (eight), Valencia (two), Atletico Madrid (two), and Deportivo La Coruna (one).
The two most successful clubs in the Premier League have won 18 of 27 titles or 66.66 percent. The two most successful clubs in La Liga have won 22 of 27 titles or 81.48 percent.
By this measure, it is harder to win La Liga – unless you are Real Madrid or Barcelona.
Since the 2017/18 season, the top four teams in the Premier League and La Liga have qualified automatically for the Champions League group stage. That number has gradually increased over the years. Indeed, just one team per country took part in Europe’s foremost competition until 1997/98.
In the 27 seasons that have been completed since then, the Premier League has had 88 Champions League spots (including for the qualifying rounds) which have been filled by 11 different clubs. Seven sides – Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City, Tottenham, and Newcastle United – have qualified for the tournament more than once.
Over the same period, La Liga has had 92 Champions League spots (including for the qualifying rounds) which have been filled by 14 different clubs.
Ten sides – Barcelona, Real Madrid, Deportivo La Coruna, Atletico Madrid, Valencia, Mallorca, Sevilla, Villarreal, Athletic Bilbao, and Real Sociedad – have qualified for the competition through their league position more than once.
Therefore, it is harder to qualify for the Champions League via the Premier League than La Liga.
The predecessor to the Champions League, the European Cup, was created in 1955. It was initially a straight knockout tournament before it was reformulated and renamed in 1992. Since then there has been at least one group stage prior to the knockout rounds.
Spain has been the most successful nation in the history of the tournament, with its clubs winning European soccer’s biggest prize on 18 occasions.
England is in second place with 13 triumphs, followed by Italy (12), Germany (seven), and the Netherlands (six). Spanish sides have finished as runners-up 11 times, while English teams have participated in the final but left empty-handed on nine occasions.
Since the 1992 rebrand, Spanish clubs have enjoyed 11 victories, while their English counterparts have lifted the trophy five times.
Interestingly, all 18 of Spain’s successes came either between 1956 and 1966, or 1992 and 2018. England’s first triumph arrived in 1968 before its teams won seven of eight editions in a remarkable run between 1977 and 1984.
As you may have guessed, Spain’s 18 triumphs are split between just two clubs: Real Madrid (13) and Barcelona (five). England’s 13 are shared between five sides: Liverpool (six), Manchester United (three), Nottingham Forest (two), Aston Villa (one), and Chelsea (one).
The Europa League was launched as the UEFA Cup in 1971, before undergoing its own rebrand in 2009. It is the continent’s secondary competition, usually contested by clubs that finish outside the top four places in Europe’s five major leagues (it also draws participants from other countries across the continent).
Spain again tops the list with 11 champions, with England in second place on nine. Both countries have supplied 16 finalists, more than any other nation.
Four different La Liga clubs have won the tournament: Sevilla (five), Atletico Madrid (three), Real Madrid (two), and Valencia (one).
Five English sides have collected the trophy: Liverpool (three), Tottenham Hotspur (two), Chelsea (two), Ipswich Town (one), and Manchester United (one).
The Cup Winners’ Cup ran from 1960 to 1999 and pitted domestic cup winners from around Europe against each other. English clubs scooped the prize on eight occasions, while Spanish sides did so seven times.
Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, and the Premier League and La Liga are the two biggest domestic competitions around. It is no surprise, then, that the pair have employed players from all four corners of the globe.
Players of 115 different FIFA-affiliated nationalities have played at least one Premier League game since 1992 (since each has a separate soccer association, the United Kingdom is broken down into England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland).
The most recent country to be represented is Tanzania, through Aston Villa striker Mbwana Samatta.
La Liga has provided a home to representatives of 107 FIFA-affiliated nationalities. Although the competition has a much longer history than the 1992-founded Premier League, the vast majority of foreign soccer players entered Spain’s top flight from the 1990s onwards.
The most recent country to be represented is Benin, through Alaves defender Olivier Verdon (although he is still awaiting his first appearance for the club).
In the 2018/19 season, players of 67 different nationalities played at least one minute of soccer in the Premier League, and players of 53 different nationalities did the same in La Liga.
In the 2018/19 season, 210 English players featured in the Premier League for at least one minute. That figure is comfortably surpassed by La Liga, where 358 Spaniards played soccer in the same campaign.
That is a significant discrepancy given that each league has 20 clubs, and each of those clubs has a 25-man squad.
The Premier League’s tally increases to 235 players if you include those from Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, although that is still 123 fewer homegrown players than La Liga.
Such a substantial difference would seem to suggest that English players are more widely dispersed elsewhere, but that is not true either. Just 11 Englishmen ply their trade-in another of Europe’s top five leagues compared to 61 Spaniards.
La Liga has stricter squad rules that help to promote the use of homegrown players – although they also benefit players from other European Union (EU) countries.
Each club is permitted five non-EU players, but they are only allowed to name three non-EU players in each matchday squad.
As is often the case, England’s top-flight takes a more laissez-faire approach. Premier League clubs are allowed a maximum of 25 players in their squad, but if they take up their full quota eight of the 25 must be homegrown.
A homegrown player is defined as one who has been on the books of a club affiliated with the Football Association (FA) for at least three years before the age of 21.
They do not necessarily have to be English; indeed, Spain international Cesc Fabregas, who joined Arsenal from Barcelona at 16, used to qualify as a homegrown player.
Only players over the age of 21 must be included in Premier League clubs’ 25-man rosters. Teams can field as many under-21s as they like, regardless of nationality.
|Higher Revenue||Real Madrid and Barcelona – the 2 richest soccer clubs on the planet|
|Better Match Attendance|
|More International Players||More Homegrown Players|
|More Transfer Money|
|EPL pays more in salaries – Average Salary/Player $3,966,580|
|More competitive in the title race||Less competitive but more title wins|
The Premier League and La Liga are the two most popular soccer leagues in the world. Both competitions are broadcast all over the globe, and the leagues’ players and teams are among the most skilled and well-known around.
The Premier League continues to lead the way in the generation of revenue. Its matches are also better attended, both in absolute and relative terms. It pays higher salaries, spends more money on transfers, has greater competitiveness in the race for the title, and provides a home to players from a wider range of nationalities.
La Liga clubs have been more successful in European competition, though, and are more likely to give homegrown players a chance. Real Madrid and Barcelona are the two richest soccer clubs on the planet and spend more than every other sports team out there.
Given that the two La Liga giants outstrip even the Portland Trail Blazers and the Golden State Warriors, it is no surprise that they blow their domestic rivals out of the water. In some ways, the Spanish top flight is more unequal than its English equivalent, which is reflected in its recent list of title winners.
However, by another measure, the Premier League appears to be more uncompetitive. More Spanish clubs have qualified for the Champions League than their English counterparts, suggesting that La Liga has greater equality outside of its big two.
There is one area of comparison that is entirely subjective. Whether you prefer to watch La Liga or the Premier League is largely a matter of personal taste. In the end, you cannot go wrong with either.
If you’re as curious as us to see what are the main differences between sports leagues when it comes to salary, attendance, popularity, and more, have a look at more sports league comparisons on WSN. Here are a few of them:
After graduating from the University of New Hampshire with a BA in Journalism, Richard Janvrin has been covering iGaming and sports betting since December 2018. Richard has covered betting at Bleacher Report, Gambling.com, The Game Day, Forbes, and more.More info on Richard Janvrin
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