Last week it was announced that the top flight of Spanish soccer, La Liga, had reached an agreement with Relevent to host regular season matches outside of Spain for the first time. The agreement states that there will be a handful of regular season La Liga matches scheduled to take place in North America even as early as this season.
As you may expect, this news did not sit particularly well with the league’s players. On Wednesday afternoon, captains from around the league held a meeting in order to discuss how to approach the plans to play games in the United States. Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos and Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets were among those in attendance.
The players concluded that they are unanimously against the idea of taking games out of Spain, and they have not ruled out the idea of potentially going on strike in protest of the deal. David Aganzo, the president of the Spanish Footballers’ Association, said after the meeting, “The players are outraged, very surprised, and are all against it. It’s unanimous.”
“The players don’t want to play overseas,” he continued. “Things have to be done in a more coherent way and with common sense. A decision of this magnitude, that affects players, referees and fans, was taken unilaterally and is a lack of respect.”
Aganzo refused to rule out the notion that the players could go on strike, which would instigate a work stoppage. He said, “I have information that there are certain clubs that are in favor and others against this, but I represent the players. 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.”
He concluded, “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 options if it is necessary.”
The agreement between La Liga and Relevent is a 15-year pact. While there have not yet been any matches scheduled to take place on American soil this season, neither side ruled out the possibility. Relevent is the company that organizes the International Champions Cup, which pits some of the world’s best clubs against one another all around the world before the regular season begins every summer. Most International Champions Cup fixtures take place in North America. Relevent is based in Miami.
Hosting games in North America would have potentially huge financial benefits for the Spanish league, which was obviously the driving force in the agreement. The La Liga schedule is currently constructed to pit each team against every other team twice, once at home and once on the road. Obviously, some teams would have to forfeit at least one home game in order to accommodate the deal to play games in North America.
Aganzo addressed this, adding, “This agreement that La Liga has reached without consulting anyone shows a lack of respect. It’s not just the game as such, in terms of health and travel, it just makes no sense to have a game played in the United States and have one team have to give up a home game. It cannot be that a person takes a decision of a 15-year agreement, which affects many people and without consulting. We are fed up with not being valued.”
Most major European leagues hold the majority of their matches on the weekend. La Liga is a bit different. There are still plenty of weekend fixtures, but there are also games scheduled Monday through Friday every week. The rigorous schedule often leads to teams losing players through fatigue or injury earlier than they otherwise might.
Aganzo wasn’t done. He also said, “We are getting accustomed to things that are not natural, like having a game on a Monday, and there is a time to say enough is enough. I ask [La Liga President] Javier Tebas to one day put on his football uniform and put himself in the shoes of a footballer.”
La Liga had no comment following the meeting or Aganzo’s comments. The player’s union is set to meet with La Liga sometime in September.
The current deal stipulates that one of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Valencia or Sevilla will have to play in the first match in the United States. It’s hard to imagine the likes of Barcelona or either of the Madrid-based clubs giving up a home fixture, so if the games do come to pass one would imagine the Spanish giants will be going up against a lesser side forfeiting a home match of their own.
The 2018-19 La Liga campaign got underway last week. Barcelona and Real Madrid took all 3 points in their respective matches, while Atletico had to settle for a draw. Matchweek 2 gets going on Friday, August 24, with Getafe playing Eibar. Leganes will face Real Sociedad afterward. Atletico Madrid and Barcelona will be back in action the following day, with Real Madrid facing Girona on Sunday.
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