SBC’S ON THE BALL – LA LIGA CONTINUES QUEST FOR US EXPANSION
After a frantic start to the club season, we head into an international break for the inaugural round of fixtures from the much-maligned UEFA Nations League.
This edition of On The Ball looks at potential rule changes to the Premier League, as well as some significant progression to La Liga’s US expansion.
Catalan Derby in Miami?
After protests from both players and fans, it seems that La Liga has decided to take Barcelona’s away game to Girona to Miami as the first step of its US marketing expansion plans.
The news comes after the League agreed a 15 year deal with the US media company Relevant, to host a minimum of one La Liga game in the States each campaign.
Girona have confirmed that the club is working with La Liga for the January tie to be played in Miami, with it being reported that the club will offer 1,500 free flights for Girona season ticket holders wishing to travel to the States to attend. However, those not wishing to attend will be reimbursed 20% of the price they paid for their season ticket.
That being said, putting the plans in place cold still hold a variety of complications, with many questioning La Liga’s decision to make the inaugural game in the US, one between two Catalan clubs. The event would of course be seen as something of a ceremony of Spanish football and Spanish culture, something that may cause agitation and unrest amongst Catalonian Barcelona and Girona fans.
La Liga would need to get FIFA’s go ahead for the plans something that may not be straightforward, given football’s governing body rejected the Premier League’s previous proposals for a 39th game to be hosted abroad.
Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde also questioned the decision to play a league game abroad at a recent press conference: “It sounds strange to me to play a domestic league game abroad,” Valverde told reporters.
“But by the same token, it also sounded weird to play the Spanish Super Cup abroad and we did that…maybe some day the Moroccan Super Cup will be in Spain, but that will still be strange.
“That being said, football has already crossed borders as a sport, becoming something else…we will see what happens, because as for now this is just an idea.”
Premier League to get the VAR treatment
The English Premier League is set to trial Video Assistant Referees (VAR) in 15 matches after the international break, with a view to fully integrating the technology next season.
Domestically, the technology has already been trialled in the FA Cup and the League Cup, however, the first time it will make its Premier League debut after the international break. It was also used at the World Cup in Russia, where it received largely positive reviews.
The end of the away goals rule?
At a meeting of some of World Football’s most highly regarded club coaches, UEFA has been urged to review the away goals rule in major club competitions.
The managers in attendance at the UEFA Elite Club Coaches Forum, were Jose Mourinho, Massimiliano Allegri, Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, Paulo Fonseca, Julen Lopetegui, Thomas Tuchel and Arsène Wenger.
Commenting on the potential of disbanding the rule, UEFA deputy general secretary Giorgio Marchetti told those in attendance: “The coaches think that scoring goals away is not as difficult as it was in the past… so they think the rule should be reviewed and that’s what we will do,” Marchetti told reporters.
“They consider the situation in football has changed and the weight of the away goals is not the same as many years ago when the rule was introduced.”
Former England captain, David Beckham has confirmed his Miami football team will be called, Club Internacional de Futbol Miami – or Inter Miami CF.
Inter Miami will enter the league in 2020, after gaining the approval of MLS commissioner Don Garber.English football icon Beckham emphasised: “This is such a proud day for myself and for the entire team.”
Managing owner Jorge Mas added: “Our city and our fans draw their strength from the dreams of a global population that calls Miami home. It is only fitting that our name pays tribute to the inclusiveness that makes us who we are.”
Man United go mobile
Manchester United and HCL Technologies, the Club’s Official Digital Transformation Partner, have reached another milestone in transforming the club’s digital offering to its 659 million global followers, by launching the Manchester United Official app on iOS and Android.
Following on from the successful launch of the club’s new website, manutd.com, and making MUTV available to be streamed via the internet, United supporters can now look forward to a comprehensive fan experience via the club’s official mobile application.
Manchester United’s Group Managing Director, Richard Arnold, commented: “This app will allow our 659 million Manchester United followers to easily connect to the club they love, wherever they are in the world. Fans will now have the opportunity to follow all Manchester United matches through the app with up-to-the-second notifications and updates.
“Just days after launch, the Manchester United Official app reached number one in the App Store’s sports category download charts in 68 markets around the world. The app was also top ten within the sports category in a further 123 markets.
“The app was created by a dedicated project team from HCL Technologies and Manchester United, ensuring a truly collaborative approach to the project. The team not only built the new app and website, but also created an advanced underlying platform that will give the club the ability to adapt as new technologies emerge.”