commercial LaLiga legal North America

Court Decision Expected Soon Over Staging of La Liga Games Outside Spain

A Court decision in Spain expected this month.

Past two La Liga matches in Miami were cancelled.

MIAMI, Fla. (February 5, 2019) —

Back on November 19, 2019, the plans by La Liga to play Villarreal’s home game against Atlético Madrid on December 6, 2019 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami were abandoned.

The decision came after a Spanish court, the Madrid Mercantile Court, decided not to grant “interim measures” to allow La Liga to stage the game as there was already a decisive case on the issue of matches being held abroad scheduled to be decided in February 2020.

The planned game was blocked by the Real Federación Española de Fútbol (RFEF), the Spanish Football Association.

This was the second year in a row La Liga, under the direction of president Javier Tebas, has attempted to play a regular season match in the United States. The staging of a match is part of a 15-year contract La Liga signed with media company Relevent Sports to grow the league’s fan base in North America. Last year Barcelona abandoned plans to play a game against Girona in Miami because of a “lack of consensus.”

The Issue To Be Decided By The Court

A Spanish court will make a final ruling on whether the FA can prevent La Liga from holding a game in the US in February, 2020. The litigation centres around the holding of league games abroad and will come down to whether, under Spanish law, the FA has the right to block La Liga – the top league in Spanish football – from holding matches in the US.

Who’s who in the argument?
  • La Liga – the Spanish League, which represents the top-flight clubs and wants to take a game to the US
  • RFEF – the Spanish Football Association, which governs the sport in the country and is currently blocking the US games
  • AFE – the Spanish players association, an interested observer

The Spanish Football Association (RFEF) and players’ union (AFE) were vocal in their objections to the Girona-Barcelona game. Approval is needed from RFEF, which controls regulations and matches throughout Spanish soccer, including the top two tiers, La Liga Santander and La Liga Smartbank. The U.S. Soccer Federation would also have to sanction the game being played on its territory.

Ahead of the planned game last season, the Spanish players’ union had objected. Before the most recent attempt, La Liga said it had been consulting the players union. In a statement, the league said: “The players and coaches of both teams have been informed and have shown their enthusiasm for being able to play in front of fans in the United States. “The Association of Spanish Footballers has also been informed of the request.”

After the decision of the Madrid court not to intervene, the league said: “La Liga respects this decision, which does not prejudge the substance of the matter, which will be permanently settled in February 2020. 

“We hope that from February forth La Liga will be able to organise an official match beyond Spanish borders.”

Both Villarreal and Atletico had agreed to the game at NFL side the Miami Dolphins’ Hard Rock Stadium, but the RFEF had not granted permission. The game was played as scheduled on December 6, 2019 in Villarreal’s Estadio de la Ceramica and ended in a 0-0 draw.

Under plans created and pursued by Tebas, La Liga has planted its flag across the globe, opening offices distant cities — from markets like New York and China, but Belgium and Singapore and South Africa, among others — in a bid to develop new fans, as well as television and sponsorship dollars for its brand. In January, he unveiled the league’s latest overseas venture, a new British television channel dedicated to La Liga.

The Supercopa de España was recently held in Saudi Arabia, and, in sharp contrast to his support for expanding the Spanish league’s brand overseas, Tebas was not a proponent of staging that tournament in Saudi Arabia. “The Saudi Arabian government has a policy whereby they improve the image of the government through sport, whitewashing their image, and we all have a responsibility there,” Tebas told reporters at the end of last month in London.

Tebas was in Miami for Super Bowl LIV this past Sunday and later was interviewed by Ana Cobo of beINSports on the program The Locker Room. More on what he had to say can be found here.

By Ken Russo

While my background is in the legal industry, the skills acquired and fine-tuned in law practice are now applied to focus on the sport of football. Russo Soccer aims to inform, educate and engage on news and relevant issues in the game.

Um advogado por formação, concentro meu trabalho nos negócios, comunicações e operações de equipes no futebol mundial. | Abogado con fundación avanzada en comunicaciones, enfocado en los negocios del fútbol y las comunicaciones. | Je suis un avocat experimenté dans les affaires de football.