Players and fans bodies critical of LaLiga plan for US games
The AFE, the Spanish soccer players’ union, has hit out at LaLiga over its plans for regular-season matches in USA, declaring “the most energetic protest” to the groundbreaking project.
The Spanish league yesterday announced a 15-year tie-up with Relevent Sports, the organiser of the International Champions Cup, the multi-continent pre-season exhibition tournament, to launch LaLiga North America, a New York-based 50-50 joint venture to promote soccer in USA and Canada.
This will entail annual LaLiga games in USA, the first time such fixtures have been held outside Spain, albeit details, including the first season this will take place, have yet to be confirmed.
LaLiga president Javier Tebas has been pushing for overseas games as part of a well-established strategy to elevate Spanish soccer internationally, but the AFE is disappointed at the lack of consultation, and accused the league of self-interest.
In a statement, the union said: “As usual, LaLiga has ignored the opinion of players and compromises them with actions only the league benefits from, without showing any consideration for the health of players and much less the sentiment of fans of the clubs.”
David Aganzo, the president of the AFE, added: “Footballers are not currency that can be used in business deals that only benefit third parties.”
The proposal has also come under attack from FASFE, a body representing Spanish soccer fans, which said in a statement: “It is inadmissible, even considering ourselves as mere consumers, the abusive treatment that involves changing the continent of where some games are played for which the supporters of clubs have paid in advance, thus preventing us following our teams.”
It has called on the RFEF, the Spanish football federation, and the CSD, Spain’s Higher Sports Council, to intervene to prevent league games being “played beyond our borders.”
Luis Rubiales, this year elected as the president of the RFEF, is the former head of the AFE.
It is thought that the LaLiga fixtures to be played in USA would likely involve Real Madrid or Barcelona, Spain’s two biggest clubs, but will not be an ‘El Clasico’ between the pair.
However, the plan still faces several hurdles, with Fifa, US Soccer and Concacaf, the governing body for soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean, having to give their approval.
The issue was raised at a board meeting of US Soccer yesterday, and it is reported that some executives have concerns about the prospect of league matches from another country being played in USA.
However, USA has been the main location of matches in the International Champions Cup, which was launched by Relevent in 2013 and takes place at the same time as North America's top-tier Major League Soccer.
The LaLiga plans have prompted talk that other European leagues could look to stage matches outside their home countries although it is understood that England’s Premier League is not presently interested after the major backlash from clubs, fans and media to the proposal it raised in 2008 for a ‘39th game’, a full round of overseas fixtures, each season.