LaLiga ‘continuing to work’ on US game as part of global push

LaLiga ‘continuing to work’ on US game as part of global push
LaLiga is still exploring the possibility of staging a top-flight Spanish soccer game in the US as part of wider plans to grow internationally, according to Keegan Pierce, the league’s UK and Ireland delegate.

The Spanish soccer body signed an extensive 15-year deal with US entertainment company Relevent Sports back in August 2018 to roll out a number of initiatives in North America, including the potential to stage a regular season match in the region.

Barcelona were slated to take on Girona in Miami in January in the first instalment of that partnership, but the club withdrew from the plans due to a lack of consensus between the league, the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and FIFA.

LaLiga has since said that it will “strongly support any club's international ambitions”, and Pierce reasserted that the league remains committed to building its profile in North America.

“We continue to work really hard to make the idea of an overseas match in North America a reality,” said Pierce, speaking to members of the press in London on Thursday.

“We know we have a lot of work ahead in North America, and that’s one of the reasons why we signed a 15-year joint venture with an organisation like Relevent, to bulk up our presence and our understanding of the North American market.”

LaLiga’s broadcast director on Eleven Sports, Asia and catching up with the Premier League

Pierce’s comments came shortly after Barcelona President Josep Maria Bartomeu reaffirmed the club’s desire to play LaLiga games outside of Spain.

In an interview with the Observer, Bartomeu said that he wants LaLiga to play three games abroad each year, with one in the US, one in the Middle East and one in Asia.

Pierce did not go as far as saying that LaLiga’s plans for overseas fixtures currently extend to the Middle East or Asia, but emphasised that both markets represent significant opportunities for growth.

“We’ve made considerable strides in Asia and particularly within China in recent years, and we continue to have a pretty strong position within Latin America,” said Pierce.

“Then I think an interesting space to watch would be the Middle East and Africa, in terms of an area where LaLiga has some intrinsic advantages, but also has a really interesting competitive landscape if you look at the Premier League and the success of some of its clubs there.”

LaLiga has been taking significant steps in recent years to boost its international profile in an attempt to close the revenue gap to England’s Premier League, including opening offices abroad and launching a global network initiative which sees more than 40 delegates represent the Spanish league in countries around the world.

LaLiga’s latest financial report released this week showed that revenue has climbed to a record €4.479 billion (US$5 billion), and Pierce said that the league’s international push will play a key part in closing the gap to English soccer’s top flight.

“The first and perhaps the most important step is recognising that the gap exists, and recognising that LaLiga and its clubs need to remain competitive if we want to ensure the sustainable growth of Spanish football,” said Pierce.

“Certainly the effort that’s being made to increase the value of our broadcast rights, that’s not only being done by the process of selling those rights, but the whole idea behind LaLiga Global Network is to have people on the ground who understand the market and can be adding additional value to the broadcaster who purchased those rights.

“In terms of the commercial side, again there’s a virtuous circle here in place that if you’re increasing the value of your rights and the exposure of your television product, then suddenly you have the opportunity to get more commercial exposure.

“That, plus really trying to create a base upon which clubs can do more to activate and to send their message around the world, are some of the key things that are happening to make sure that we continue on a growth trajectory, and that we are bit-by-bit closing that gap.”

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