Spanish federation withholds approval of match in U.S.
BARCELONA, Spain -- The Spanish league’s plan to play a regular-season match in the United States was put in serious doubt Friday after the national soccer federation refused to give its approval, according to a person with knowledge of the decision.
The person told The Associated Press that the federation sent a letter to league officials withholding its authorization of playing of a competitive match between Barcelona and Girona on Jan. 26 in suburban Miami unless certain conditions are met. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the person is not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
According to the person, the federation told the league it has failed to show that the overseas match would comply with Spanish and international regulations and TV broadcast contracts, and that it would not harm the other 18 league clubs and the fans of Girona and Barcelona.
The federation requested more documentation from the league on the proposal, but the person with knowledge of the situation told the AP that it believed the “holes” in the league’s proposal are “insurmountable.”
Shortly after receiving the letter, Spanish league president Javier Tebas said he still hopes to hold the match in Miami.
“The game is still on,” Tebas said. “We believe we are right, and we will try to show that to the relevant authorities. We are going to respond to everything they say and we will keep working.”
Tebas said that the match was critical to increasing the league’s global reach and rivaling the richer Premier League in England.
“This match is very important in our strategic plan in the United States,” Tebas said. “I can assure you that we are not going to just accept that they tell us no.”
Tebas did not explain what possible options the league could have of circumventing the federation’s refusal, other than convincing federation president Luis Rubiales to change his mind.
Besides the Spanish federation, the match would also need to be approved by the U.S. soccer federation, plus continental bodies UEFA and CONCACAF.
The league asked the federation for authorization to play the match last week.
The refusal by the federation was first reported by Spanish radio station COPE.
While the Spanish league manages the country’s two top divisions of men’s teams and the women’s league, the federation is the official governing body that sets the rules and regulations for all soccer played in the country.
The Spanish players’ union and some fans have been critical of the plan to play competitive matches abroad.
Even though FIFA’s permission is not mandatory, president Gianni Infantino also expressed his doubts about the game earlier this week when he said that he would “prefer to see a great MLS game in the U.S. rather than La Liga being in the U.S.”
The Spanish league has never played a match in another country, but the Spanish federation held its season-opening Super Cup abroad for the first time in August. Barcelona beat Sevilla in Tangier, Morocco.
The league’s plan to play games in the United States is part of a new 15-year partnership with sports and entertainment group Relevent, which operates the International Champions Cup, a tournament played during the European offseason in July and August around the world.