February 12, 2019 / 5:28 PM / 5 months ago

Soccer: Barca president says La Liga should play three games overseas

MADRID (Reuters) - Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has suggested that La Liga, Spanish soccer’s top flight, should host three games per season overseas.

Soccer Football - FC Barcelona's Clement Lenglet Presentation - Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain - July 13, 2018 Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu during the presentation REUTERS/Albert Gea/Files

The prospect of staging games abroad has been contentious in Spain ever since La Liga signed a 15-year agreement with entertainment company Relevent Sports designed to promote the sport and La Liga in North America in August last year.

That deal included hosting one regular season Spanish league game on American soil per season – with Girona’s home match against Barca earmarked to be played on Jan. 26 at the home of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.

Those plans were met by opposition from the Spanish Football Federation, however, in addition to European and world governing bodies UEFA and FIFA, with Barca ultimately pulling out of the commitment in December due to “a lack of consensus surrounding the proposal.”

Bartomeu believes La Liga should seek to revive the proposal next season though, and look further afield as well.

“If we want La Liga to be strong, we are to play in these games,” Bartomeu said in an interview with the BBC.

“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 (Spain): 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.”

A La Liga spokesman told Reuters: “We strongly support any club’s international ambitions as we certainly share the vision of bringing La Liga action closer to fans everywhere and making La Liga a stronger international brand.

“We continue to work towards playing a La Liga match outside of Spain and want to do that as soon as possible. We are working with all stakeholders to make it happen.

“We see this as a logical next step in the growth of our league and as a clear benefit to everyone involved.”

Barcelona did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Reporting by Joseph Cassinelli; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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