La Liga confirms plans to stage fixtures overseas

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo could be playing league football in the likes of China and the United States sooner than you think.

That’s because of ongoing discussions concerning the future of Spain’s top tier, with plans afoot to stage some La Liga matches overseas.

“Clearly, La Liga is global entertainment and we want to grow the international appeal,” said a league spokesperson in a statement sent to CNN.

“As part of that effort we are discussing the option of playing some of the league matches outside of Spain.

“These discussions are still in early stages, but as La Liga we support the idea.”

El Clasico abroad

Many clubs already play their preseason fixtures on foreign soil in search of increased revenue and exposure.

The 2017 International Champions Cup was the fifth edition of the annual preseason tournament, and featured elite clubs from the Bundesliga, Serie A, La Liga and the English Premier League.

It also saw Real Madrid play Barcelona at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium, in the first El Clasico to be contested outside of Spain for 35 years — a “major event,” according to La Liga.

The 66,014 fans in attendance were treated to a protracted halftime show with fireworks and musical performances, as well as 90 minutes of football.

Barcelona marketing director Manel Arroyo called it “a crucial chapter in football history,” but it remains to be seen whether such a spectacle could be repeated involving the division’s smaller clubs.

The NFL blueprint

If the city of Miami is typically accustomed to hosting baseball, basketball, hockey and American Football, the NFL is certainly one competition that has enjoyed increased exposure abroad.

Sixteen competitive matches have been held at London’s Wembley stadium since 2007 and all have attracted crowds of over 80,000.

“London has done not only everything that we expected but more than we expected. They are responding to the game better than we ever dreamed with more enthusiasm, more passion,” commented NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

“You see it every year, the passion, the understanding of the game — every event that we have explodes with interest.”

The NFL International Series has also stopped off at Twickenham, home of the England rugby team, and Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.

‘Game 39’

But not all football fans have been so receptive to the game’s increasingly global outlook.

The English Premier League’s proposals to introduce a 39th game, played abroad, were eventually shelved after condemnation by domestic fans.

“The commercial imperative perhaps isn’t there like it was seven or eight years ago, Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore admitted in a 2015 CNN interview.

“I don’t think it’s as likely as it was then only because I think the fan reaction to it has been so negative in the UK.”

The Premier League’s plans were initially conceived to safeguard the commercial future of the competition.

Now benefiting from the biggest television broadcast deal in the history of the sport, the risk of censure from season ticket holders outweighs the potential financial gain for Premier League clubs.

Earning just a fraction of the revenue, La Liga clubs approach the debate from a different position.

“Last season more than 2.5 billion people around the world tuned in to watch La Liga,” a spokesperson told CNN. Should plans to stage fixtures abroad go ahead, don’t bet against that figure rising.

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