La Liga strike looms over US league match plan

Spanish league strikes deal with US media company,but players are unhappy

Sergio Ramos Spain World Cup
Sergio Ramos has made more than 400 appearances for Real Madrid and has 161 Spain caps
(Image credit: Juan Mabromata/AFP/Getty Images)

Spain’s top players could go on strike in protest at plans to stage a top-flight league match in the United States, reports BBC Sport. La Liga agreed a 15-year deal with US media company Relevent last Friday and they are keen to have a match played Stateside to boost interest.

“If we play one game in another country, we’ll go hand in hand with the clubs and institutions,” declared La Liga president Javier Tebas in announcing the deal. “La Liga excites millions of fans around the world. Let’s build bridges and grow while transmitting the values of football and of our country.”

But that hasn’t gone down well with the players’ union, particularly as they haven’t been included in the talks. Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos and Barcelona vice-captain Sergio Busquets were among the players present at the meeting in Madrid on Wednesday to air their concern over the TV deal.

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Also in attendance were the Atletico Madrid pair of Koke and Juanfran, Real Madrid’s Nacho and players from all 20 clubs in La Liga.

Keen to rival the Premier League

La Liga is “keen to compete with the Premier League in the lucrative North American television market”, says The Guardian. Currently the English top-flight enjoys a six-year TV deal with NBC worth about $1bn while since 2012 La Liga has been broadcast by beIN Sports, which only reaches into a quarter of households and has been recently jettisoned by the Comcast Xfinity cable system.

The players’ union - the AFE - is led by president David Aganzo and he told reporters why they had called the meeting: “The problem is the lack of common sense, a schedule where only the export of soccer benefits - nobody counts on the fans. We need to fix it with the bosses. The captains are outraged, they’re against it, they are unanimous... we are talking about an agreement that has a validity of 15 years without consulting the players.”

Strike if necessary

The meeting terminated without any definite outcome but Aganzo said the players would meet again in September. Asked about the possibility of strike action, he replied: “We will try not to reach that extreme but we are willing to go to the end if necessary.”

BBC Sport says that when they contacted La Liga they refused to “confirm the teams, match, date or season” of the proposed fixture in the States. But in a statement to reporters following the players’ meeting, the league said they “will meet with AFE in the appropriate forum to discuss the plans to play a match outside of Spain.”

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