Infantino draws line in sand, won’t approve La Liga game in U.S.

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Gianni Infantino seems dead set against La Liga bringing its league product overseas.

During a press conference after the FIFA Council met in Kigali, Rwanda on Friday morning, Infantino reiterated that FIFA would not approve La Liga’s request to move Barcelona vs. Girona to Miami in January.

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“I’m strongly opposed to this and I deny any permit to play the Girona-Barça game in Miami”. Infantino reportedly said. “Official games of a league must be played inside the country.”

Infantino’s comments mirror the statement on FIFA’s website after the FIFA Council discussed the proposed idea. “Following a request for guidance from the Spanish FA, US Soccer and CONCACAF, the FIFA Council discussed La Liga’s proposal to host an official 2018/19 regular season league match outside Spain (in Miami). Consistent with the opinion expressed by the Football Stakeholders Committee, the Council emphasized the sporting principle that official league matches must be played within the territory of the respective member association.”

It’s now clear that La Liga and Relevant Sports’ 15-year marketing right deal announcement was made before any behind the scenes discussions were done with all the parties necessary to bring La Liga matches abroad, including FIFA, U.S. Soccer and even the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF). La Liga president Javier Tebas has threatened legal action, but with the match scheduled for January 26 fast approaching, there is little time to conduct important negotiations, especially if FIFA will deny the project all together.

Ultimately, though, there may be a loophole that Tebas and La Liga could try to sneak through. The statement says that the FIFA Council emphasizes official league matches should be played within a member association’s territory, but there are examples where teams play across international borders for league matches. Think the Canadian clubs in MLS, Cardiff City and Swansea City in the Premier League (playing in Great Britain but outside of their local federation) and even Monaco FC plays in Ligue Un. San Marino has teams playing in Italy’s professional pyramid and there are further examples of teams playing outside of their borders.

However, the La Liga move is clearly more than playing a match in Gibraltar or Portugal, where it’s just across the border, as opposed to crossing the Atlantic Ocean or flying halfway across the world for a match.

In other news from the FIFA Council meeting, the organization approved CONMEBOL’s request to move the Copa America to even years, meaning there will be a pair of Copa Americas again in the next two years before the Copa America returns to a normal, four-year cycle beginning in 2024. It’s unclear where a Copa America in 2020 would be hosted on such short notice, but you can bet that the organization will see if it can bring it to the U.S. again.

In addition, FIFA will now be contributing $50 million towards teams participating in the Women’s World Cup, a 100 percent increase from 2015 but still a far cry from the money awarded to men’s World Cup teams.