La Liga clubs want greener grass for more appealing television broadcasts

MANCHESTER, England -- The grass is getting greener in Spanish football.

In an attempt to catch up with the financially dominant Premier League, Spain's top teams are coming up with new ways to promote the sport in their country and improve its global audience share.

And it's all about the look, beyond the silky skills of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

The league introduced an audio-visual rule for this season, forcing clubs to make their stadiums look better on TV if they wanted to cash in on Spain's improved broadcasting deals. That meant giving a lick of paint to some of the more run-down stadiums, moving spectators to certain areas to ensure they are in camera shot, brightening up advertising hoardings and, yes, making the grass greener on the fields.

"The problem with Spain," Adolfo Bara, the Spanish league's marketing director, said on the sidelines of the SoccerEx convention, "is that it's really hot in summer. If you look, in September in some of the stadiums, the grass was yellow. We now talk to the clubs on how the groundkeepers must make sure it is proper green."

Comply with these new audio-visual rules and a club gets more money out of Spain's new TV broadcasting contracts, which gives the smaller teams a greater share of overall revenue compared to previous years when Real Madrid and Barcelona hogged the earnings.

Borja Gonzalez, stadium business manager at Athletic Bilbao, told The Associated Press at SoccerEx that among the changes at his club's renovated San Mames ground was changing the color of the sponsor's messages on hoardings surrounding the field to make them red and white. They are the colors worn by Bilbao.

Spain, like other countries, looks on enviously at the Premier League recent influx of money. This season marks the start of a new three-year broadcasting deal for England's popular and lucrative top division worth £8.3 billion ($10.75 billion).

Spain's annual broadcast revenue is €1.6 billion ($1.8 billion) a season, which is double the amount in the previous deal.

Bara said the English model is something Spain is looking to follow.

"You see La Liga and sometimes the light is good, sometimes not; some grass is green, some grass is yellow. The problem is, it's not consistent," Bara said. "For us, it's very important that when someone watches a football game, they know it's La Liga no matter which team is playing.

"It's going to take another year, but we will get there."