Speaking exclusively to Reuters, La Liga President Javier Tebas recently described UEFA’s proposals to alter the Champions League schedule as “catastrophic”.
The La Liga Chief accused UEFA of negotiating with the European Club Association (ECA) “behind closed to doors so that the others don’t know about the reforms which put national leagues in danger.”
Tebas’ criticism of the proposals escalated the continued unrest between La Liga and UEFA, which intensified throughout 2018. It began when LaLiga’s plans to hold a Spanish league game in Miami, USA, were disapproved of by football’s international governing body, FIFA.
La Liga had hoped to play the regular season fixture between Girona and Barcelona at the Hard Rock Stadium on January 26th, 2019. However, the fixture can not go ahead without the approval of the Spanish Football Association, FIFA, US Soccer and CONCACAF. In this case, the Spanish F.A. were also against the idea of the Spanish league game being played in another ‘territory’.
The La Liga organisation has vowed to take their case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport after FIFA’s objection to the idea.
The Hard Rock Stadium is the official home to the NFL’s Miami Dolphins team and has a capacity of over 65,000. Located on the south-east tip of the United States, it was hoped this would be the perfect location for Spanish football to integrate itself into the massive U.S. market.
With football – or soccer as its called in the States – still behind American Football, Basketball and Baseball in terms of popularity in North America, there seems to be a constant feeling that there is massive potential for the superpowers of European football to exploit the as-yet untapped market for the sport in the United States.
This has all stemmed from La Liga’s signing of a deal with Relevent Sports in which they agreed to play one Spanish premier league game per season in the U.S. over the next 15 years. Incidentally, Relevent Sports is actually belonging to Stephen Ross, the Miami Dolphins’ 78-year-old owner.
The proposal to play the Girona vs. Barcelona game in Miami did not go down well with the Spanish players’ union (AFE) either as they also objected to the plans. Yet, none of this seemed to deter La Liga as they certainly implemented an aggressive marketing plan through their full-page cover ad in the Miami Herald in mid-November. The ad included the message: “Bring US the game. Let’s do it together. For the game. For the fans. For Miami.”
Sure, it doesn’t get any cheesier than that but it’s the kind of call-to-action that often works, making people sit up and take notice.
FIFA was not going to be rolled over so easily, though. Speaking about the proposed Miami fixture, FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, commented: “Following a request of guidance from the Spanish FA, U.S. Soccer and CONCACAF, the FIFA council discussed this matter – the proposal to host an official game of La Liga outside of Spain, Miami in particular. Consistent here with the opinion already expressed by the football stakeholders committee, the council emphasised the sporting principle that official league matches must be played within the territory of the respective member association. So the council has very clear views on that.”
Following on from this, the LaLiga president, Javier Tebas, joked that everyone seemed to have an opinion on the Miami fixture and that he was just waiting to hear the UN’s thoughts on the matter!
While it looks like La Liga’s plans to expand into America will have to be put on ice, for now, it didn’t stop the Spanish league organisation from biting back at FIFA and UEFA at the earliest opportunity.
In early December, UEFA confirmed their plans to launch their ‘Europa League 2’, starting in 2021. It will be the third European club competition and will take participants from the main Europa League, cutting that tournament down to a size of 32 teams. The ‘UEL2’ will provide competition for clubs from the lower-level countries in Europe.
In response to this, La Liga’s Javier Tebas was again speaking out. This time against FIFA’s European underling, UEFA. Tebas said: “While the European Leagues have accepted the introduction of a third club competition, UEFA cannot make these decisions in isolation from the leagues that they affect.”
Tebas went on to call for a full review of how revenue is distributed among the European clubs and competitions to prevent the “over-allocation of funds towards Champions League participants.”
Exactly how much of Tebas’ ‘concern’ regarding the plans for the ‘UEL2’ is genuine remains to be seen. Would we be hearing quite so much about it from the La Liga President had the Miami game between Girona and Barcelona been given the green light by FIFA?
One thing’s for sure – it’s worth watching this space for now as this back-and-forth is likely to linger on and on and on.