Real Madrid protests La Liga’s Miami match plan

Real Madrid has written to the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) to register the club’s opposition to La Liga’s plan to stage a league match between Barcelona and Girona this season in the US.

A statement from Director General Jose Angel Sanchez Perianez said the move affects the “integrity” of the Spanish league.

“Real Madrid CF expresses its opposition to the request from La Liga to authorize a match at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami (United States), January 26th 2019, between Girona Football Club SAD and FC Barcelona, as it affects the integrity and equality/fairness of the competition,” he said.

La Liga hopes of staging the Miami match has been met by strong opposition, notably from the Spanish Footballers’ Association (AFE).

Despite this, La Liga president Javier Tebas recently told CNN Sport: “I would bet $10,000 that the game will take place.”

“I know both Spain and the sports world and therefore I knew it would not be easy and that there would be unrest,” added Tebas.

Professional leagues have been playing competitive matches abroad for the best part of three decades.

Since 2007, the NFL has held annual regular season games at Wembley Stadium, London, while the NBA took its first competitive fixture to Tokyo, Japan as far back as 1990.

For the most part, the leagues and their chief executives have been supportive of the move, intent on taking the sports outside of North American in an attempt to make them truly global.

However, the notion of Europe’s top football leagues taking a competitive match overseas has been met with near-unanimous disapproval.

England’s Premier League first tested the water in 2008 with chief executive Richard Scudamore’s proposal of playing an additional 39th round of fixtures abroad, though last year he acknowledged the overall reaction to the proposal would need to improve before the move went ahead.

Scuadamore’s counterpart in Germany’s Bundesliga, Christian Seifert, has also dismissed the idea, categorically stating: “We will never play a league game outside Germany.”

‘Resistant to change’

Girona season ticket holders have already been offered compensation packages as the club would be forfeiting a home game to play at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium, potentially as early as January.

“It is an industry that is resistant to change, so other things we have done have also been hard. It’s almost sure that we are going to play in Miami,” said Tebas.

“As I’ve said before, I know my country well and its sporting institutions and therefore we knew that this unrest was going to take place.

“I am not surprised by it. We have a strategy, we have a plan and we are going to keep working with the goal of being in Miami on January 26 at the Hard Rock Stadium.”

Previously the AFE said that Tebas and La Liga did not consult them before agreeing a 15-year deal with Relevant, the company behind the pre-season International Champions Cup.

Likewise, the Spanish Football Federation has sought to delay the match, demanding more information about a fixture which would need ratification from the United States Soccer Federation, CONCACAF and UEFA.

“I think they (the AFE) are just in accordance with the Federation to oppose the initiative,” Tebas said. “I think the Barcelona and Girona players want to play in Miami.

“I think they would be happy to solve this issue. It doesn’t make sense that they would not want to play an official league game at the United States.

“The people who know me, know that I don’t take a ‘no’ for an answer. I know these organizations very well and I can guarantee that many people who say that they don’t want this match to take place, they privately accept the initiative.”

Premier League dominance

The main driving force behind Tebas’ proposal is the attempt to bridge the financial gap between La Liga and the commercial behemoth of the Premier League.

In the 2016-17 season, Premier League clubs reported record revenues of £4.5 billion ($5.9 billion) largely thanks to the astronomical £5.13 billion ($6.9 billion) TV deal paid for by Sky and BT for 2016-19.

For that same season, La Liga clubs brought in a comparatively meager €2.86 billion ($3.3 billion), while second place Atletico Madrid earned less ($114.5 million) than the Premier League’s bottom club West Brom ($123.1 million).

While this is partly due to the discrepancy in distribution of TV money between La Liga two biggest clubs — Real Madrid and Barcelona — and the rest of the division, Tebas knows his league has much catching up to do.

“We need to look at North America as a key element for growth,” he explains. “The sports industry there is huge compared to others.

“We for sure look at Asia in the medium-run and in the long-run we look at Africa. In the short-run however, we have our efforts placed in the United States.

“I think that economically speaking, the Premier League has better numbers,” he admits. “But in that sports/economics equilibrium which is necessary, I think that we overcome the Premier League.

“Spanish teams have a better performance in European competitions. After evaluating the sports/economics equation, we are the best league in the world.”