Spanish league makes request to play match in Miami
MADRID (AP) — The Spanish league has requested permission from the national soccer federation to play a regular-season match between Girona and Barcelona at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami on Jan. 26.
Staging the match abroad is part of the league’s goal of promoting soccer and its brand in other countries, but the idea has drawn criticism from some players, fans and clubs.
Spain’s players’ association said the athletes were never consulted about the league’s plan and ultimately they will have the final say on whether to play the game. Spanish league president Javier Tebas met with the association on Monday and planned to give players a detailed description of the project in the coming days.
The league said Barcelona and Girona were on board with the plan and also signed the permission request sent to the soccer federation.
The league said a compensation package has been offered to season-ticket holders of Girona, the small Catalan club which will be relinquishing a home game.
Fans will be able to choose one of four options as compensation: a trip to Miami with plane ticket and game ticket included; a weekend in Miami for an extra 450 euros ($520) with two nights of hotel and transportation to the match included; a free ticket for the Barcelona-Girona match at Camp Nou Stadium in September and reimbursement of 20 percent of the season-ticket purchase; reimbursement of 40 percent of the season-ticket purchase.
There was a limit of 1,500 packages for the first and second options, and of 5,000 tickets for the third.
The league said a local association of fan groups has welcomed the compensation packages.
Girona, in its second season in the first division, said the game will help promote the club and the city, which has a population of about 100,000 people and is located a little over an hour from Barcelona in northeastern Spain.
The league last month announced its plan to play in the United States as part of a new 15-year partnership with sports and entertainment group Relevent, which operates the International Champions Cup, a tournament played across the globe during the European offseason in July and August.
Relevent was founded and is owned by Stephen Ross, owner of the Miami Dolphins, the NFL team which plays at Hard Rock Stadium.
The Spanish league has been expanding internationally for some time, hoping to close the gap on the powerful Premier League in England.
The Association of Spanish Sports said it was in favor of the league’s actions to promote soccer abroad.
“With this type of event, (the league) is showing the way for our country on what it should be doing regarding sports worldwide,” Spanish soccer association president Jose Hidalgo said.