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How many professional divisions are there in LaLiga?

Both LaLiga Santander and LaLiga Smartbank form the two professional Spanish soccer leagues overseen by LaLiga.

SEVILLE, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 18: Guido Rodriguez of Real Betis competes for the ball with Oriol Romeu of Girona FC during the LaLiga Santander match between Real Betis and Girona FC at Estadio Benito Villamarin on September 18, 2022 in Seville, Spain.
Fran SantiagoGetty

Like many other major footballing nations (Italy, Germany, England...) two bespoke governing bodies oversee the running of football. In the case of Spain, the league is managed by LaLiga (formerly Liga de Fútbol Profesional) run both the Spanish first division (LaLiga Santander) and second tier (LaLiga Smartbank).

The Spanish FA (Real Federacion de Futbol [RFEF}) in parallel oversee lower league levels, match officiating, indoor/beach football, the Spanish Copa del Rey and the national side.

At present, 41 clubs form LaLiga from the 20 top flight sides and 21 of the 22 teams from the second division with Villarreal the only club to have both their A and B team in the top two divisions with the organisation presided by lawyer Javier Tebas.

LaLiga president Javier Tebas.
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LaLiga president Javier Tebas.LALIGADiarioAS

Pyramid structure

Despite the first and second divisions being recognised as top flight or professional football clubs, many teams that compose the third tier of Spanish football (now known as 1A RFEF) such as Deportivo la Coruña, Numancia, Hercules, Atletico Baleares (to name just a few) are 100% professional with their players solely employed to play football.

Four teams from this category automatically get promoted to the second division with fours sides dropping down from the ‘segunda’ to RFEF.

The RFEF also oversee the fourth tier (2A RFEF) and fifth tier (3A RFEF) with any levels lower in the pyramid structure being administered by the local federations pertaining to Spain’s autonomous communities.

This, sometimes grey area in responsibility for certain aspects of the game has led to much highly publicized tension between both governing bodies (LaLiga and RFEF) with the government CSD (essentially the sports ministry) having to intervene and resolve spats between both sides with tit-for-tat exchanges between Tebas and Luis Rubiales common place in the Spanish media.