By Andrew Warshaw
December 11 – La Liga’s much-publicised – and also much criticised – plans to play a groundbreaking overseas game in Miami in January have been abandoned after Barcelona pulled out of the Catalan derby against Girona due to a “lack of consensus”.
The Spanish league signed a 15-year, €200 million agreement with entertainment company Relevent Sports back in August to play one regular season Spanish league game per season in the US starting with Girona’s “home” game with Barca earmarked for January 26.
But what happens now is anyone’s guess following a Barca board meeting which concluded all parties had to agree for the first of the annual fixtures to go ahead.
The idea to play games in the US to promote La Liga’s brand has been met with widespread criticism among players and clubs in Spain. FIFA and UEFA have also opposed it but La Liga said recently it was prepared to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) if the match was prohibited.
La Liga president Javier Tebas (pictured) insisted in September there was a 90% chance the game would go ahead but the deadlock over the various parties involved to reach an agreement ultimately led Barcelona’s board announcing the club is pulling out.
“The FC Barcelona Board of Directors have agreed to withdraw their willingness to play against Girona in Miami after seeing the lack of consensus surrounding the proposal,” read a club statement.
“Barcelona were and are willing to go to Miami in order to play a La Liga game, and accepted that the profits would be shared amongst all clubs in the first and second divisions, in alignment with the TV rights deal, but considers that while all the parties involved cannot reach an agreement, this project will not be able to prosper.”
La Liga also released a statement on Monday, bullishly declaring the idea was not dead in the water.
“We regret disappointing our fans in the US and will work to, in the shortest time possible, play an official La Liga game in the US, just like the major American leagues (NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL) play games abroad,” it said.
“La Liga will continue its court proceeding so an official league game can be played outside of Spain. La Liga believes strongly that The Real Federacion Espanola de Futbol (Royal Spanish Football Federation, RFEF) is not acting in accordance with the law.”
Tebas says Barca’s withdrawal would not affect the deal with Relevent to promote Spanish football in North America. Last month, La Liga filed a lawsuit in a Spanish court against the national federation, which turned down its application to have the game moved and whose president Luis Rubiales has been at the forefront of protests about the overseas game.
“I don’t see Barca’s decision as a betrayal,” said Tebas. “Of course I’d have liked to have played on January 26 but I have to congratulate the clubs for allowing us to get to this point as it will help us in the future.”
“This is not a victory for Rubiales, because all that has happened is this request has been withdrawn, but the demand to play a game outside of Spain is still there.”
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