Opinion: Reason why LaLiga club presidents and players should embrace the USA
On August 16, LaLiga announced a 15 year deal with the multinational media company Relevent Sports. Generally such a deal would be quickly washed away by transfer speculation and matchday previews, but this deal has been so contentious that LaLiga players are even threatening to strike.
The primary goal of the deal is to augment LaLiga's presence in the US and Canada. To do so, LaLiga and its new partner have decided to bring a regular season club match to the United States.
The exact language used in the announcement doesn’t specify how many regular season LaLiga games will be played in the US or when the marketing experiment will begin. Relevent Sport's executive chairman, Charlie Stillitano told sources that he wants to see a big three LaLiga club play in the US around January 1, with Miami the likely destination.
While US spectators are no doubt happy to hear that their heroes are coming to the US to play a meaningful football match, their idols don’t share the same enthusiasm. Players representing each of Spain’s top league clubs gathered for an emergency players’ union meeting on Wednesday in Madrid to discuss the controversial deal.
Speaking on behalf of the group, union President David Aganzo said;
“We need to fix it with the bosses. The captains are outraged, they’re against it, they are unanimous”
In a player’s union statement, the union was vehement in its condemnation of the actions of the league by stating;
“LaLiga is distancing the fans of the players, something that harms the show and the essence of football”
The league plans to meet with the players’ union in the near future to discuss the most recent deal. While players haven’t had much time to vent, the one grievance that has been vocalized repeatedly is that players felt as though they weren’t consulted on the matter, that once again LaLiga heads are making paramount decisions without heeding the advice and concerns of its players and club presidents.
Secondary arguments are that certain teams will lose a home game, and that clubs will lose money from ticket sales.
With nothing made official yet, there are still many ways in which a US match could play out. Clubs, players, and Spanish fans have a right to be angered. Home teams will play one less true home match, Spanish fans won’t be able to support their teams in the flesh, and clubs won’t receive ticket sales from match days. Yet on the flip side, there are convincing reasons why LaLiga should play games abroad.
First let’s address the concerns. While the logistics of the games are up in the air, one rumor that has circulated has been that a 39th game will be played so as to not strip one team of a home game. This would mean clubs wouldn’t lose money from home ticket sales, and home club fans wouldn’t feel cheated.
Even if a 39th match wasn’t played, clubs would still make a hefty sum from their match abroad, easily more than they’d make had the game been played at home. And as for upsetting club fans, playing a match abroad would do just the opposite.
For once US fans of LaLiga teams (of which there are plenty) wouldn’t feel the Atlantic wide divide they typically feel during game days. Playing a match in the US would solidify and expand fan bases abroad. This brings us to the next point.
According to a 2018 Gallup poll, football will soon become the third most watched sport in the USA. The poll showed 7 percent of Americans consider football to be their preferred sport. 7 percent doesn’t sound like much, but this number was just 4 percent four years ago, which means that while American football’s interest dropped by 2 percent, basketball by 1percent, and baseball by 4 percent, football is the only sport in America to have gained fans.
At this pace, football will be America’s second favorite sport in less than 8 years. Football also has the youngest fan base of all the sports mentioned. Now is the time to invest in football, with the EPL already vying for a piece of the market, LaLiga has finally decided it wants in.
LaLiga saw the US$1 billion dollar deal the EPL signed with NBC Sports from 2015 to 22, and realised there is money to be made in the US. LaLiga’s president, Javier Tebas has said that his chief endeavour is to bridge the financial gap between LaLiga and the EPL.
Tebas estimates that in 10 years his objective will be realised. While Tebas and others in LaLiga’s boardroom value landing on US shores in the attempt to conquer the football market, players and LaLiga presidents just aren’t on the same page, though this shouldn’t be the case for long.
Players and club presidents from Spain’s top league seem to be merely offended by not having been consulted when making the decision to play abroad. Once apologies have been made, and hands shook, all parties involved will see that there is money to be made from their journey East. Clubs will make more money, and as a result - so will players.
Money is the silent persuader. No matter the color, whether it’s American green or the purple of the Indian rupee, once club presidents eye the numbers, they’ll not hesitate to book a flight to the ends of the world if it translates to increased profit.