For the first time, FC Barcelona has put down the mantle for where it sees the future of La Liga, and beyond.
Speaking to the BBC, Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu declared that he wants to see the league play as many as three games abroad. Barcelona previously agreed to face Girona in the match that was set for Miami on January 26. However, the decision to play the game in Miami was rescinded and was instead played in Girona due to opposition from the Spanish Football Federation.
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“If we want La Liga to be strong, we are to play in these games,” Bartomeu told BBC Sport. “At Barca we have sometimes been talking to La Liga and have been telling them that if you want to promote La Liga more and more, then we should have three games of the year outside – one in America, one in the Middle East and one in Asia.
“We have to go and be closer to the fans. We do the summer tours in July and August to go closer to the fans. It’s us showing respect to them, going to Miami would have been respect to our fans in the USA.”
It’s the first time that a club has agreed with La Liga’s preference to bring league matches abroad. La Liga’s decision to sign a marketing rights deal with Relevant Sports without consultation with other stakeholders, such as the players union or the Spanish Football Federation angered those parties and set off a political row that shows no signs of ending any time soon.
Bartomeu’s statement though is a true sign of the times. After more than a decade of clubs across the world going abroad for preseason training, as well as some minor cup matches taking place abroad, it was only a matter of time before leagues started petitioning their federations to go abroad – in part to please fans, but more likely, for the bags of money those matches bring.
With a 90,000+ seat stadium, Barcelona can make plenty of money selling tickets to its Cules. But taking games to the U.S., the Middle East and East Asia can mean marketing contracts, plus selling seats and suite packages that can help every team’s bottom line.