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The Spanish league launched a campaign yesterday in a desperate attempt to show that US fans are behind its plan to host a regular-season football game in the United States.
The league and its US partners began asking fans to sign an online petition to show their support for the planned Barcelona-Girona game near Miami in January.
“In an effort to showcase the public support to bring this match to the US, we are launching a petition campaign to encourage US football fans to make their voices heard,” the league and sports and entertainment group Relevent said in a statement.
“The #BringUStheGame campaign will show the sports world that this match is good for the fans and good for the game in the United States and that US football risks alienating millions of fans if they choose to block this game.”
The league’s idea to play games in the US to promote its brand has been met by criticism from football officials and some fans and clubs in Spain. The dispute has become a tug-of-war among the several stakeholders, with all sides trying to weigh in and defend their ground.
The Fifa Council recently opposed the plan after receiving a request to take a stance from CONCACAF and the federations in the United States and Spain, which have a say on whether the game can be played, along with Uefa. Fifa’s permission for the match is not mandatory, but its opposition was a setback for the league.
The league said it is prepared to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport if Fifa somehow prohibits the match and it is also ready to go to court in Spain if the local federation denies its request to play abroad. The Spanish federation has already hinted it opposes the match but hasn’t yet made a final ruling.
Staging the game in the US is seen as an important step for the Spanish league to continue expanding internationally and to close the gap on the powerful Premier League. The Spanish league has a 15-year deal with Relevent to promote football and bring games to the US. The group operates the International Champions Cup, a tournament played around the globe during the European off season in July and August.
“All of the top US sports leagues — the NBA, NFL and MLB — have played regular season games all over the world to reach international fans and have great success popularising these sports globally,” said Relevent founder Stephen Ross, owner of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins.
“We hope all of our partners in the football community recognise and support the positive impact of bringing the highest level football to the US will have on turning more people on to the sport.”
The January 26 game would be played at Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Dolphins.
The league said it will use social media to spread the new “grassroots campaign,” asking fans to upload videos expressing their support and engaging their friends.
“We just want to give an opportunity for fans to talk about this game because we feel that so far the conversation has been very one-sided,” said LaLiga North America CEO Boris Gartner.
“We want to give a voice to the fans.”
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