Author: Tom Maturi
On Friday 30 November, La Liga filed a lawsuit with a civil court in Madrid against the Royal Spanish Football Federation (the RFEF) seeking approval from the RFEF for a regular season match to be played in the United States. The RFEF is one of the governing bodies (along with FIFA, UEFA, US Soccer and the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) that, reportedly, will need to approve the proposal for Girona’s home league game against Barcelona to take place in Miami in January.
In August, La Liga agreed to allow one game a season to be played in the United States as part of a fifteen-year deal with media company Relevent. Relevent currently operates the International Champions Cup, a tournament played around the globe during the European offseason in July and August.
Following La Liga’s decision, Catalan neighbours Girona and Barcelona agreed to move their game, scheduled for January 2019, to the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. Girona are set to make around €4 million from this proposal and season ticket holders will reportedly be offered free flights to attend the fixture and free hotels for an overnight stay. Fans who do not wish to make the trip to Florida will be offered one of 5,000 tickets to the reverse fixture at the Nou Camp next season as well as a 20 per cent refund on their season ticket.
The lawsuit came only days after it was announced that the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final on Sunday 9 December was to be played in Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu stadium. It is also worth noting that earlier this season the Spanish Super Cup, organised by the RFEF, took place in Tangier, Morocco.
Despite the RFEF’s apparent willingness to support the idea of football matches transcending country and regional borders, it is believed that the RFEF, together with FIFA, will try to block any move to allow this league fixture to go ahead in Miami. In addition to the recent court case, La Liga had also previously responded to FIFA stating that it is prepared to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport if FIFA does attempt to block the proposal, as La Liga believes that it does not have legal authority to do so.
This is not an entirely new concept: the Premier League has previously discussed plans to play a “39th game” outside of England and Wales, although outgoing executive chairman, Richard Scudamore, has said that this will not happen “until the conditions are right”.
A decision on the RFEF/La Liga dispute is expected to be made in the Madrid commercial court later this month.