Last week, a partnership between La Liga (Spain’s national soccer league) and sports marketing company Relevent Sports (the same company who promotes all those Summer friendlies as the International Champions Cup) was announced that would see some of Spain’s biggest soccer teams play regular season games in the United States over the next 15 years. While it would only be one game per season, and would specifically not include the Barcelona vs. Real Madrid “El Clasico” match, the Spanish Footballers’ Association (AFE) player union spoke out this week and are firmly against the idea.
“The captains are outraged, they’re against it, they are unanimous,” said AFE president David Aganzo said, according to the BBC.
Players from the league, including team captains and some of the most popular players from Real Madrid and Barcelona, met on Wednesday to discuss the deal. Some of the players who attended included Sergio Ramos, Nacho, Koke, Juanfran, Sergio Busquets, and Sergi Roberto. They relayed their conversation through Aganzo.
“The problem is the lack of common sense, a schedule where only the export of soccer benefits – nobody counts on the fans,” Agazno continued. “It does not make sense. We are talking about an agreement that has a validity of 15 years without consulting the players.”
A reporter asked Aganzo whether players would consider a strike or boycotting the games in the United States, and it sounds like that is a possibility.
“I have information that there are certain clubs that are in favour and others against this, but I represent the players,” Aganzo said. “We need to sort this out with the union, and we will tell them all of our problems. If, from then on and after a few days, they don’t answer, then we will have to solve the situation.
“We are going to try to see that it doesn’t reach that extreme [of a strike]. But we are willing to go right to the last option if it is necessary.”
As Aganzo said, he only speaks for the players. But there have also been reports that Real Madrid will refuse to play any of their matches in the United States, and would stand up to the Spanish Football Association if they are asked to set a good example.
Other major sports leagues already have similar deals set up, with the NFL playing regular season games in London, the NBA holding games in Mexico City, and MLB playing special games in Puerto Rico. However, it appears that La Liga entered into this 15-year deal with Relevent Sports without consulting either the players or the 20 clubs that make up the Spanish top flight. Even stranger, this deal was supposed to start this season, which just began last weekend.
At this rate, we think the chances of seeing Atletico Madrid vs. Valencia in New York (or Miami or where ever) are looking pretty slim.