Daniel Etchells ©ITG

La Liga President Javier Tebas certainly did not mince his words at last week's SPORTELMonaco convention, describing opposition to plans to play a match in the near future in the United States as "sporting puritanism".

The proposed "home" match for Girona, a city in the north-eastern Catalonia region, would take place at Miami's Hard Rock Stadium on January 26.

But the plan hit a major stumbling block on Friday (October 26) after FIFA President Gianni Infantino confirmed world football's governing body was against the idea following a Council meeting in Rwanda's capital Kigali.

"The FIFA Council of course discussed this matter and this proposal to host an official game of La Liga outside of Spain, in Miami in particular," Infantino said.

"The Council emphasised the sporting principle that official match leagues must be played within the territory of the respective member association.

"So the Council has clear views on that."

In response, a La Liga spokesperson told insidethegames that they will take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport "urgently" if FIFA delivers an official notification that it prohibits the match taking place in the US.

Although the two clubs involved support the idea, Barcelona's arch-rivals Real Madrid are among those to have also expressed strong opposition.

Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) President Luis Rubiales is another to have spoken out against the game, along with the Association of Spanish Footballers.

The Spanish Super Cup may have been held outside the country for the first time this year, with Barcelona beating Sevilla 2-1 at the Stade Ibn Batouta in Moroccan city Tangier.

But taking a league game, and especially title challengers Barcelona, abroad has proved to be a much more contentious move.

La Liga has agreed to play one game a season in the US as part of a 15-year deal with Relevent Sports, which was founded by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and Matt Higgins and which works with the top international football entities in brand development, grassroots planning, corporate strategy and international touring.

Tebas claims the resistance to the controversial plans is "cultural".

La Liga President Javier Tebas does not understand the opposition to a game in Spain's top division being played in the United States ©Getty Images
La Liga President Javier Tebas does not understand the opposition to a game in Spain's top division being played in the United States ©Getty Images

"There is resistance, but it's not really a surprise for me," he said at SPORTELMonaco, which is described as the must-attend convention for sports marketing and media industry leaders.

"There's a cultural reason, it's a story of bureaucracy, because it's new.

"It's a bit like video refereeing - the football family rejected it for years and all of a sudden at the World Cup in Russia we realised that it was fantastic.

"When we play a Super Cup in Morocco, everyone thinks it's all right, but then, because it's a league game, it’s 'no'.

"We don't want to take all of the teams in the league to the USA - we just want to play one match.

"That would be to ignore the football industry and all that it brings to Spain.

"We're continuing to work on the project for a re-located match and on the development of the La Liga brand in the United States."

In their letter to the RFEF, Real Madrid said it was "fundamental" teams play "home and away at each other's stadium" for "the integrity and equality" of La Liga.

Call me boring Mr Tebas, but I have to agree, 100 per cent. 

If you are going to have one match played abroad, the reverse fixture should also be played in the US for the sake of fairness.

It might be a simplistic argument, but it is one that is very difficult to make a case against.  

Incidentally, it would not be possible in the first instance for both games to be played in the US as Barcelona have already met Girona this season, drawing 2-2 at the Camp Nou last month.

And to be clear, my suggestion that both games should be played in the US by no means reflects that I agree with the proposal whatsoever.

Far from it.

I firmly believe that holding domestic league matches in the US, or wherever it may be in the future, will take something very special out of football.

For players, it is the indescribable buzz of playing at their very own "fortress" in front of a passionate and partisan home crowd (I do not think for a second that Uruguay’s Luis Suárez, for example, had been dreaming of playing for Barcelona at the Hard Rock Stadium before signing from Liverpool in the summer of 2014).

And for the fans, it takes away the unique aspects of what it means to watch their team play in a home game or an away game.

It could be argued that Girona supporters would have the opportunity to generate a more intimidating atmosphere for Barcelona's superstars at the Hard Rock Stadium, which has some 51,000 more seats than their 13,500-capacity Estadi Montilivi home.

But by the same token, I am sure the majority of them would much rather have the likes of five-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi travelling to their cosy little stadium, full of raucous fans that watch their team through thick and thin. 

What is more, although it must be said that small support is a prevalent theme of away fans for Spanish clubs, I am also convinced that Barcelona's avid followers would get a much better sense of that distinctive "away day" vibe by backing their team amid a more compact, hostile atmosphere at the Estadi Montilivi than at the pristine setting of the Hard Rock Stadium - even if it is a much shorter journey. 

In England, we forever hear about the magic of the FA Cup and how the Premier League's so-called big boys can often come a cropper when faced with the unfamiliar surroundings of a lower-league team's small, unfashionable stadium and boisterous fans.

I am of the opinion that Girona, who were promoted to La Liga for the first time in their history at the end of the 2016-2017 season, lose that potential advantage by supporting the idea to hold the game in Miami.

Does that mean I am surprised that they, along with Barcelona, signed a request agreeing to it?

Not one bit.

Football is now a business and all about money-making, with fans increasingly being exploited to the benefit of clubs' coffers.

Yes, a "compensation package" was provided by La Liga to Girona, including free flights for up to 1,500 fans, as well as 5,000 tickets for September's reverse fixture at the Camp Nou.

But I seriously doubt that this peace offering would have continued well into the future if hosting matches aboard was to become more commonplace.

Despite Tebas' insistence on one game a season, I think this would have been very likely to happen had it been given the green light, especially within the 15-year duration of the deal with Relevant Sports. 

We should not forget that it was only eight years ago that the Premier League scrapped plans for "game 39", a proposed extra round of matches, beyond the normal 38, to be played at neutral venues outside England.

Premier League clubs agreed in February 2008 to explore the option of playing the matches overseas at five different venues, with cities bidding for the right to host them.

Four Premier League teams would have travelled to each venue, with a game played at each on Saturday and Sunday.

Then-UEFA President Michel Platini called it a "nonsense idea" and the Football Association later rejected the proposal.

FIFA, meanwhile, opposed the plans in March 2009, with then-President Sepp Blatter stating: "This idea to play a 39th round outside the country does not work."

It is not often that I say this, but I totally agree with Mr Blatter.

Why? Because the Premier League would not have been a fair competition had it been implemented.

Just like La Liga would not have been a fair competition had it staged one game a season in the US.

It might seem like I am nitpicking, but nobody can argue that fact.

Imagine if the Premier League title race had gone down to the last day and one contender had profited from a more favourable fixture than another?

Chaos would almost certainly ensue.

It had been hoped that the likes of five-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi could be showcased to America in a regular La Liga game ©Getty Images
It had been hoped that the likes of five-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi could be showcased to America in a regular La Liga game ©Getty Images

Speaking of the Premier League, Tebas also used his talk at SPORTELMonaco to criticise the two-hour broadcast ban that still exists in the United Kingdom after the traditional kick-off time of 3pm on Saturdays, saying "the reason for this blackout, in my personal opinion, does not exist any more".

The revenue of the league he heads has grown rapidly in recent years, since its belated move to a collective bargaining approach for broadcasting rights from the 2016-2017 season.

The success of this approach, according to accounting organisation Deloitte, has been such that "broadcast revenue growth of 20 per cent, following on from 26 per cent growth in the 2015-2016 season, has seen collective La Liga revenue increase to a record €2.9 billion (£2.3 billion/€2.5 billion) in 2016-2017."

There is no doubting that these impressive figures could get better and better by regularly hosting a game in the US and Tebas need look no further than the success of America's National Football League (NFL) since it started hosting its annual International Series at London's Wembley Stadium back in 2007.

NFL television ratings continue on an upwards trajectory in the UK and more young fans are getting into the sport as well as playing the game up and down the country.

Before answering questions over the US match, Tebas also sought to explain to SPORTELMonaco delegates about another recent deal in India between La Liga and Facebook.

He outlined how the agreement was the perfect example of how Spain's premier domestic league is transitioning and adapting to a new environment, and how this environment is making its way into the entertainment industry.

The landmark deal will allow viewers in the Indian sub-continent to watch every game over the next three seasons for free on the social network.

All 380 league matches for the 2018-2019 season are available to viewers in India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The deal is La Liga’s latest effort to broaden its fan-base in India, where it opened an office in New Delhi in 2016.

"This is the first step for us," Jose Antonio Cachaza, La Liga's country manager for India, said in August when the deal was signed.

"We're excited to see it and we want make it as successful as possible so we can unlock other territories around the world."

SPORTELMonaco attracted more than 3,000 participants this year ©SPORTELMonaco 2018/Flickr
SPORTELMonaco attracted more than 3,000 participants this year ©SPORTELMonaco 2018/Flickr

As a regular speaker at SPORTEL, there is every chance Tebas will be on hand to speak at next year's events.

He could even be heading to Miami himself following the launch of the Sports Decision Makers Summits, a new series of global sports industry conferences, during SPORTELMonaco.

SPORTEL and SportBusiness will join forces to deliver the Sports Decision Makers Summits having announced on Monday (October 22) a new multi-year partnership.

Next year, Miami will play host to a Summit on May 6 and 7, while London will take its turn on July 9 and 10.

"I think it's a good opportunity for SportBusiness and SPORTEL to collaborate in the future on this new event," Laurent Puons, chief executive of SPORTEL and Monaco Media, told insidethegames.

"SPORTEL has a very good experience about the management of the events.

"SportBusiness is one of the most important media involved in its field.

"So I'm convinced, 100 per cent, that the association between them and us will provide to all the decision-makers involved in sport the best, and I mean the best, conference programme in the world."

By the time the Miami event comes round, Tebas could be reflecting on the reasons why the first-ever La Liga game to be held in the US never came to fruition.

While the idea certainly makes sense in terms of expanding La Liga's appeal on the other side of the Atlantic, there was always going to be major question marks over how in practice it would go down with both players and fans alike.

These two groups, as well as the need for fair competition, have to be put first in all of this and I am glad FIFA have recognised that.

It could have been a watershed moment for football, but I personally do not believe that it is one that would have boded well for the future of the beautiful game that so many of us love.