SBC’s On The Ball – La Liga plots controversial US growth

With football fans all over the world already enthralled by the club season, this week’s edition of On The Ball looks at some major stories from the business of football. Taking a deeper look at La Liga’s US expansion, as well as some big news from broadcasting.

Spanish La Liga seeks stateside expansion

In a proposal that could come to fruition as early as this year, La Liga is planning on hosting regular season games in The United States.

The League has not currently revealed which clubs, or how many it plans on taking to the States, but should the deal go ahead, it seems highly likely that at least Real Madrid and Barcelona will be utilised by the League as it looks to boost its US footprint.

La Liga president Javier Tebas commented: “We’re devoted to growing the passion for soccer around the world. This groundbreaking agreement is certain to give a major impulse to the popularity of the beautiful game in the U.S. and Canada. Relevent has filled stadiums across the U.S. with the International Champions Cup, [and] we’re thrilled to partner with them on a joint mission to grow soccer in North America.”

Relevent chairman and owner Stephen Ross added: “This extraordinary joint venture is the next giant leap in growing soccer’s popularity in North America,” . “This unique relationship will create new opportunities for millions of North American soccer fans to experience the most passionate, exciting, and highest level of soccer in the world.”

Furthermore, The Spanish Footballer Association has responded to the plans: “Like usual, La Liga has not consulted the opinions of the players and has made a move that only benefits themselves. This overlooks players health and even more so the feelings of fans who are forced to watch their team abroad.”

The news has sparked much speculation that the English Premier League could look into a similar venture, however the dwindling attendances of Premier League clubs in the States over the summer may lead to reluctancy from the league over making this decision. As well as this, the backlash over the previously touted 39th game is likely to be replicated amongst English fans, should the league propose such plans again.

ESPN+ well up for the cup

Leading US broadcaster, ESPN has reached an exclusive, multi-year rights agreement in the United States for the US on Emirates FA Cup to be broadcast on ESPN+.

The agreement will bring 79 FA Cup matches to the US,  kicking off with the first round in November and running through the final, which will be exclusively shown on the subscription streaming service.

Additional content will be featured across ESPN+ and other ESPN platforms, including FA Cup highlights shows following match days, FA Cup preview shows and live coverage of the FA Cup draws. Furthermore, the semifinals and final matches of the FA Youth Cup – contested by registered clubs featuring players under 18 years of age – will be carried live on ESPN+.

Tom Gracey, The FA’s Senior Broadcast Manager outlined: “The Emirates FA Cup remains the world’s most famous domestic cup competition, with unrivalled appeal both at home and abroad. Thanks to ESPN+, we are delighted that football fans throughout the U.S. will be able to enjoy premium coverage of the competition from the First Round, through to The Final.”

BT brings French football back to UK screens

After much worry that French football wouldn’t be broadcast in the UK, BT Sports has extended its broadcasting deal with Ligue 1, recommencing this weekend and running until 2021.

BT hosted an abundance French action last year, however the opening round of fixtures weren’t broadcast in the UK last weekend, leaving many fans to fear the UK platforms had turned their back on the French League.

Commenting on the BT Sports website, Andy Haworth, managing director of strategy and content, BT Consumer, said: “We’re delighted to continue as the home of Ligue 1 Conforama until 2021 and we look forward to bringing our viewers comprehensive coverage of all the action from France, with live matches every weekend on TV and mobile via our award winning BT Sport App.

“Combined with our lineup of exclusively live matches from the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, Premier League, Emirates FA Cup, SPFL, Betfred Cup, FA WSL and Bundesliga, BT Sport is the best place to be for your football fix across all the major competitions, and using the latest broadcast innovations whether it’s UHD with Dolby Atmos on BT TV or on the award winning BT Sport App.”

British Chairmen warn over Brexit backlash 

British football Chairmen have warned that Brexit could have a significant impact on English football clubs, specifically when it comes to lesser clubs signing top European players.

Speaking to The Mirror, Burnley Chairman Mike Garlick emphasised: “The destructive Brexit path being pursued by the government threatens to have a hugely damaging effect on clubs across the country. It threatens to make the widening inequality gap in our top division even worse.

“The hit to the value of the pound against the euro, largely caused by Brexit uncertainty, is already making it harder for clubs to sign players. And ending freedom of movement will make it much more difficult for teams to attract the right talent, if the government brings in more restrictive conditions for work visas for players from Europe.”

Stoke was also a region that voted heavily to leave the EU in June 2016, however the club’s long serving Chairman Peter Coates also spoke out about the possible implications of Brexit: “The politicians are failing to sort out this mess, and they are not listening to the voices of employers and businesses up and down the country. If this goes badly, it will be places like Stoke that suffer the most.”

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