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Spanish football steps up export drive with US fixture

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Barcelona played in the International Champions Cup in the United States, soon they might return for a game in La Liga. © GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File / Lachlan Cunningham

MADRID, Spain, Aug 16Spain’s La Liga plans to stage a match in the United States, its first venture outside Europe, as part of a north American expansion drive, the league said Thursday.

The teams and the venue for the match were not disclosed in the statement from the league which has formed a joint-venture, LaLiga North America, to boost its profile in the United States and Canada.

El Pais newspaper said the match would take place over the coming 2018-19 season and would probably feature either Barcelona or Real Madrid as one of the teams.

The plan was immediately attacked by Spain’s professional footballers union (AFE) which released a statement saying neither players nor fans had been consulted.

“As usual, La Liga ignores the opinion of footballers and commits them to events which only benefits (La Liga) without taking into account the health of the players and the risks involved for them…” the statement said.

Supporters including those holding shares in league clubs also protested, calling for mobilisation against the plan.

La Liga has been criticised in the past for its overseas expansion plans, notably for authorising a morning kick-off for the Barcelona-Real Madrid “Classico” last December to cater for the convenience of television viewers in Asia.

However, the opposition has failed to dent La Liga’s drive, encouraged by its president Javier Tebas, to gain a bigger share of the global football pie, notably competing for market share with the powerful English Premier League

Last season la Liga took 3.6 billion euro, or $4.1 billion, in receipts, 40% from TV rights, with a pre-tax profit of 234 million euros. It hopes to break the 4 billion euro mark for the first time in the coming season which opens Friday.

The North American move further confirms Spanish football’s export ambitions following Tuesday’s announcement of a deal with social media platform Facebook to broadcast La Liga matches live in South Asia.

La Liga is planning strategy for its North American drive with Relevent Sports, the promotor behind the International Champions Cup, a close-season tournament for top European clubs.

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