For the members of the media, club staff, and matchday officials in attendance, the cavernous Nou Camp, without the presence of its usual 90,000-plus spectators, will have never felt so empty when Barcelona hosts Real Madrid in the first ‘El Clásico’ of the LaLiga season on October 25.
However, whilst the ongoing restrictions on fans attending games will be striking for the few hundred able to watch the world’s most famous footballing rivalry in person, the importance of LaLiga’s work towards optimizing the viewing spectacle for those tuning in from afar in recent years will be amplified.
LaLiga’s Television Broadcasting Regulations came into force in the 2016-17 season with the goal of improving the audiovisual perception of LaLiga when viewers watch matches on screens.
The regulations, which are applicable for clubs, producers, broadcasters, and anyone involved in delivering match coverage, have enabled LaLiga to establish a pattern for production and direction and have helped to create a ‘LaLiga style’, with its own unique and consistent identity.
The impact has been spectacular. In 2018 alone, before the regulations were updated, no other football competition anywhere in the world had grown as much as LaLiga had in the digital environment.
It is in these unusual times of empty stands though that the fruits of LaLiga’s long-term efforts to become a benchmark in audiovisual innovation by investing in state-of-the-art technology and focusing on the viewing experience have become clear to a wider audience than ever.
Grass is greener
Every possible detail that could enhance the perception of LaLiga is considered in the 101-page Television Broadcasting Regulations.
The document outlines various stadium and television infrastructure specifications, as well as numerous other requirements in relation to content, camera and microphone positions, graphics, match procedures, advertising elements, and floodlighting. There are even specific guidelines for the appearance and quality of the pitch, illustrating the standards that are now expected.
For example, clubs are told that the grass should be mowed in straight lines across the width of the pitch, perpendicular to the touchlines, and the lines must be cut in opposite directions two days before the match, with a total of nine strips in each half. The first four strips must be 5.5 meters wide and the other five strips must have a uniform width.
Clubs must ensure that the ball rolls perfectly, with the height of the grass cut between 20 and 30 millimeters, and the pitch must maintain the same shade of green throughout.
The pitch requirements raise different challenges for clubs, depending on their geographical setting. For example, in the north of Spain, the likes of Athletic Club have introduced artificial lighting and a unique pitch drainage system to maintain perfect conditions at the San Mamés Stadium in Bilbao.
In central Spain – in and around Madrid, which is the highest capital city in Europe – nutrients are added to counter the harsh winters at stadia such as Getafe CF’s Coliseum Alfonso Pérez. Meanwhile in southern Spain, fertigation and mowing are required at the likes of Sevilla FC’s Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán stadium, given the high summer temperatures.
In the most recent regulations, LaLiga clarified the requirements for 4K-HDR productions, demonstrating the desire to push the boundaries in technological innovation. As part of this, floodlighting requirements cover specific details such as vertical and horizontal illumination, color temperature, glare, and flicker.
4K-HDR production is used regularly for the most high-profile fixtures. Earlier this year, for example, LaLiga worked with content partner Mediapro to ensure El Clásico was simulcast in 4K HDR-HD through 33 production cameras inside the stadium.
In terms of camera positions, LaLiga splits games into four production ‘types’: A+, A, B, and C. The Type A+ productions, reserved for the most high-profile contests