BARCELONA: Josep Maria Bartomeu, the president of Barcelona, has not only reaffirmed the club’s commitment to playing LaLiga games outside of Spain but proposed that the Spanish league should play three games abroad a year.
The Spanish champions were due to face Girona in Miami in January in the first instalment of a controversial 15-year deal between LaLiga and US entertainment company Relevent Sports but the club withdrew after opposition from the Spanish federation and prohibition by world governing body FIFA.
Bartomeu, however, says Barcelona are still behind LaLiga’s proposal to take games to the US, adding that the league needs to stage matches in a number of international markets to strengthen its brand and be closer to its global fanbase.
He told BBC: “If we want LaLiga to be strong, we are to play in these games.
“At Barca we have sometimes been talking to LaLiga and have been telling them that if you want to promote LaLiga more and more, then we should have three games of the year outside – one in America, one in the Middle East and one in Asia.
“We have to go and be closer to the fans. We do the summer tours in July and August to go closer to the fans. It’s us showing respect to them, going to Miami would have been respect to our fans in the USA.”
LaLiga president Javier Tebas has been vocal in his support for taking matches outside of Spain, but the plans have been the subject of contentious debate ever since they were announced, with players from the Spanish soccer’s top flight even threatening to go on strike.
A petition was launched in the US in an attempt to garner support for the concept among fans in the country, while supporters in Spain choosing not to go to Miami for the fixture between Barcelona and Girona were to be promised reductions on season tickets.
Despite the opposition it has faced, LaLiga welcomed Bartomeu’s latest comments and said in a statement on Tuesday that it will continue to push ahead with plans to take games oversea.
“Of course, we strongly support any club’s international ambitions as we certainly share the vision of bringing LaLiga action closer to fans everywhere and making LaLiga a stronger international brand,” said Joris Evers, the league’s chief communications officer.
“We continue to work towards playing a LaLiga match outside of Spain and want to do that as soon as possible. We are working with all stakeholders to make it happen.
“We see this as a logical next step in the growth of our league and as a clear benefit to everyone involved.”
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