La Liga is coming to the U.S.! Thursday’s announcement of a 15-year partnership with Relevent, a multinational media, sports and entertainment company, means Lionel Messi and his Barcelona teammates could line up for a league game in America.
But how do fans in Spain feel about the news? ESPN FC’s La Liga correspondents and bloggers have their say, and you can too by voting in the poll.
Sam Marsden: In theory, the idea has some good elements (and we’ve seen it work relatively well with the NFL in London), but in practice there are some major issues. Who will play the game(s)? Who will give up home advantage? Will Americans want to watch fixtures that don’t include Barcelona or Real Madrid?
Fundamentally, it’s the Spanish league, and while tapping into foreign markets is something which should be encouraged, taking league fixtures abroad is dangerous ground.
I think Barca will embrace the decision, though. President Josep Maria Bartomeu told ESPN this summer the club are keen to keep growing in the U.S., and Jordi Mestre said that, as a global club, the La Liga champions are open to playing competitive games in North America. Besides, as we’ve seen on recent tours to the U.S., any game Barca play, perhaps excluding a Clasico, will be like a home game for them in terms of support.
Richard Martin: The announcement can come as no surprise. La Liga has been talking publicly about its desire to export regular-season games for years and has taken a lot of steps in its bid for international expansion, as it plays catchup with the Premier League. Barcelona and Real Madrid have huge fanbases in the States, as the popularity of their International Champions Cup games shows, but the appeal of other Spanish teams there is less clear. La Liga’s desire to increase the popularity of teams outside the top two make the likes of Sevilla, Real Betis, Valencia and Villarreal the likely candidates for a game abroad, but it remains to be seen how popular a game not involving one of Real or Barca would be.
Barca’s local fans are used to having their rights trampled upon and will no doubt be furious about the move, especially if it does take away a game from Camp Nou. But the reality is that their fanbase spreads way beyond Catalonia, and the people in charge of the club are desperate to see it continue to expand, making playing games abroad inevitable.
Robbie Dunne: It’s indicative of the way football is going and while I don’t necessarily agree with it, there is something almost inevitable about it as the idea of globalisation continues to erode the community spirit of many fanbases. They use the NBA and the NFL as examples of how international games can improve growth, but they are leagues that are systematically different from football in ownership, player agreements, sponsorships and everything else. The contest to win international fans and get attention is not going to slow down any time soon, and fans will suffer in the long run.
The big clubs in Spain are international businesses, but you have to wonder what football fandom looks like in 10 years’ time and whether there is any end to football’s growth. Will they explore a La Liga “franchise” based in the States, like they have done with the NFL? What’s the next step?
Joe Walker: It’s not for me. I am not surprised given La Liga’s determination to compete against the Premier League on a global scale, and understand that clubs have worldwide fanbases they want to reach out to — but there are other ways to do so, such as preseason tours and friendlies.
Granted, if you’re a small club and you get a clash against a Madrid or Barca in America, the exposure will be great, but if they pit two mid-to-lower table sides against each other as guinea pigs, with all the logistics and costs involved, it might be a pointless exercise. There is also the potential for you to upset local fans and season-ticket holders who feel you’re selling out and short-changing them.
How I feel about Atletico in America? I am not in favour of them playing games over there, but think it would work well for the club. They are the nearest challengers to Real and Barcelona, and it could help cement them in that top bracket of world football that right now they probably just sit outside.