LaLiga goes to the United States
"If need be, we'll charter flights to take 3,000 season-ticket holders out there," LaLiga's president, Javier Tebas, said to me yesterday to underline his enthusiasm for a plan I'm sure you've heard all about by now. As El País revealed yesterday lunchtime, something Tebas has been chewing over for a while is set to become a reality this very season: holding LaLiga fixtures - at least one, possibly two - in Miami, as part of a wide-ranging agreement with Stephen Ross, the owner of the Dolphins and a devotee of football. A 15-year deal aimed at promoting LaLiga throughout Canada and the United States. Establishing the league as the kind of global brand that can't be superseded by its leading clubs (and the temptation they have to break away into a European superleague) is Tebas' obsession.
The fan on the street is resistant to the new, be it the players' haircuts, their tattoos, LaLiga's staggered kick-off times or the video assistant referee system (VAR). As far as the major changes that have been brought in are concerned, though, I think they've had a direct and positive influence on the game, and for me that includes VAR (despite my initial misgivings), and matches being spread across the weekend - something which hasn't, as many thought, led to empty stadiums, and has seen international broadcasting rights cause TV revenue to rocket. Overall, these things have benefitted our league, which is no longer just Real Madrid and Barcelona, but rather boasts a collective strength reflected in its Uefa coefficient.
Even if it does only affect one or two fixtures out of 380, this is a more revolutionary step, one that undermines the rights of the season-ticket holder. There are those who haven't missed a home game in 40 years; we're talking about a supporter-club bond that's nigh-on sacred. But, at most (i.e. in the case of Real and Barça), gate receipts account for just a quarter of clubs' income and, in the main, less than 10%. That alone simply won't pay for the stars we enjoy watching every week. To preserve that, we have to keep on looking for new avenues of income beyond these shores. What doesn't help, admittedly, is that this deal wasn't agreed upon with the FA beforehand. The body's president, Luis Rubiales, told me yesterday it was news to him. Another quarrel is in the offing there, then.
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