September 12 – Relevent Sports, the promoter of the International Champions Cup which is building a business on taking international clubs to play in the US, has filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation (USSF).
Relevent is still smarting from the refusal of the USSF to sanction a regular season league match between LaLiga’s Catalan rivals Barcelona and Girona – Relevent’s trade has previously been to stage friendly matches and tournaments.
Relevent is claiming that the USSF illegally conspired with FIFA to prevent foreign clubs and leagues from holding competitive matches in the US.
“This boycott has deprived fans of international soccer in the US of the opportunity to attend Official Season International Soccer Game Events in the US and is a blatant anti-trust violation,” the filing in US District Court in New York said.
The proposal to stage a regular season LaLiga fixture in the US sparked a global outcry with clubs, fans, leagues and governing bodies questioning the legality and integrity of playing another country’s competitive league fixtures outside its national borders and on another continent.
While the USSF remained for the most part silent during the furore, a key issue for the USSF governing body and the wider domestic football business within its country was what benefit or contribution would such a fixture make to the commercial and fanbase development of the game in the US. Probably very little with the revenues disappearing to Relevent and LaLiga and leaving the dubious legacy of waiting for the next fixture from the Spanish league to be scheduled.
This is the second suit filed by Relevent against the USSF this year over being prevented from staging league matches in the US and they are not unrelated.
In April, Relevent filed a similar lawsuit against the USSF in New York State Court claiming it is threatening Relevent’s soccer promotion business and has a conflict of interest in sanctioning professional matches.
Relevent had wanted to stage an Ecuadorean first-division match between Barcelona S.C. and Guayaquil City, on May 5 in Miami, for which it had written approval for the match from both Ecuador’s soccer federation and Conmebol (approvals it did not have from the Spanish federation or UEFA for the proposed Barcelona vs Girona league fixture).
US Soccer refused to sanction that match ostensibly over concerns around whether Relevent’s match agent Charlie Stillitano (also the company’s chairman) was a properly registered match agent.
Daniel Sillman, Relevent’s chief executive, said: “The US Soccer Federation continues to be delinquent in its responsibility to promote the growth of soccer, by instead protecting the bottom line of its business partner, Soccer United Marketing, the marketing arm of Major League Soccer (MLS).”
US Soccer has yet to make an official statement.
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