LaLiga president Javier Tebas defended his plan to play a regular-season match in the USA against the concerns of Fifa president Gianni Infantino.
LaLiga clubs Barcelona and Girona are set to play each other in Miami on January 26 next year under a 15-year deal agreed between the league and Relevent Sports, the agency behind the International Champions Cup pre-season friendly tournament.
Speaking at the inaugural SportBusiness Summit in Miami today, Tebas said that Fifa “had no decision to make”, adding: “The responsibility of Fifa and federations is to grow the sport, not one league or game”.
He said: “There is 90 per cent likelihood for the match on January 26. The entire conflict with the media that has been generated – that had been foreseen. This has been more than a year in the making.
“We have to ask for authorisations. Fifa has no decision to make here because we use Fifa rules for international matches. Theoretically there should be no opposition. We just played a final in Morocco. Imagine if we could go to Morocco to play. How could we not play one match in the US? Then there is the American federation [US Soccer]. Then fourth you have Concacaf.
“There are some hurdles I’m sure we can overcome. At 2.45pm on January 26, there is no reason we won’t have this match.”
Speaking at the same event, Charlie Stillitano – executive chairman of Relevent Sports – said: “First and foremost, the role of these federations is to grow the sport. We had El Clásico here two years ago. It was the highest gate ever for a game here in the US. It shows you the desire people had to get tickets to the game.
“It’s important to look at it both ways. All these clubs are looking to be global brands. You can’t do this without the clubs and the players. They want to do it. They want to get their brand in the US. A lot of what we see is everyone trying to catch up with the Premier League, how much they have made from TV rights and how they present it. These other leagues want to share the wealth of the Premier League.”
He added: “We got a lot of criticism about the fans. Peter Moore [chief executive of Premier League club Liverpool] says Liverpool are local but also global. I’m a Milan fan. Riccardo Silva is a Milan fan. I feel like I’m more of a Milan fan than the next guy. Why is it that only local people can be fans of a club? I would argue that there are a number of fans out there that are just as rabid as the local fans.”
When asked whether or not Major League Soccer was supportive of the Barcelona-Girona match, Tebas said: “How is MLS harmed by one match? Because if someone tells me it could harm them then we would have to stop broadcasting the Premier League and Serie A on TV – that’s in people’s homes every weekend. We can’t think there will be any harm. I think this will lead to more people watching soccer.
“You will need a better argument to convince me. If MLS asked me for a match in Spain, I would say yes and help it happen to promote MLS. I don’t see them as a competitor when they come to play one match. We need to be more open to this.”