In the past we’ve seen American sports moving over to Europe to play regular season games namely the NFL which is played at Wembley Stadium every season in London and Basketball. Could European football be next?
In truth, playing a regular season game abroad has been edging closer by every passing year. The Spanish Super Cup was not played in Spain and the FIFA World Club Cup is regularly played at the other end of the world. But a proper domestic game has never happened.
More than a decade ago Premier League chief Richard Scudamore’s ill fated 39th Premier League game to be played abroad never materialised with clubs voting it down but now in Spain, La Liga’s president Javier Tebas is very confident that the first game for Spanish sides will be played as early as January in Miami.
That game has been pencilled in to be the Catalan derby between Girona and Barcelona and as a sweet spot fans of Girona who have season tickets have even been offered free plane tickets to attend the match. But is moving a game away from your host country destroying the lifeblood and the soul of football?
There are of course two answers but surely anyone that has followed the game and knows its roots knows this is a venture steered only by money and profit. To take a fiery local derby game away from the fans- because many even if offered free flights won’t be able to take that up with family/work commitments feels like a bit of a sin. If the game does go ahead where will it all end? To add to this, Girona would also lose their home advantage as Barcelona playing to a packed stadium would feel like a home match by proxy- and with all due respect how many American fans have heard of or ever followed Girona?
Tebas says that there is a 90% chance the game will happen but there is opposition including even some Barcelona players. Both Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique have spoken out about moving the game, and other players from other teams have also been vocal.
The Spanish FA are against the idea also and the proposed match could see La Liga go on strike. Whilst the idea of playing a game deep rooted in one country and changing that for another seems exciting that excitement should last for only seconds and never have got this far. And yet on the international stage we have seen example of this happening.
A decade ago Brazil played Argentina in London, Argentina also played Croatia at West Ham’s old ground of Upton Park in 2014 and there have been other examples. Each of those games were friendlies but they were also underlined by the fact that the teams had come with their star studded players in tow. If those players had refused to play would those games have gone ahead? There will be some pressure then on Lionel Messi to speak up after all his teammates have.
To add fuel to the fire if Girona and Barcelona do meet in Miami it has already been confirmed that all Catalan flags would be banned from the stadium- in what is a Catalan derby. If that isn’t ripping the heart and soul out of the game, what is?