Spanish court to decide fate of La Liga game in U.S.


Athletico Madrid's Emiliano Insua, right, duels for the ball with Villarreal's Mario Gaspar, left, during their La Liga soccer match at the Madrigal stadium. (AP Photo/Alberto Saiz)

MADRID — A Spanish court will decide whether the Spanish league will be allowed to play the Villarreal-Atletico Madrid game in the United States next month.

A court hearing is scheduled for Thursday in Madrid to hear arguments from the league and the Spanish soccer federation, which is against taking the regular-season match abroad.

The league has called for an injunction to force the federation to give its approval. It accuses the local soccer body of unfair competition. The league also needs the approval of UEFA and American soccer bodies to be able to play the match, which is scheduled for Dec. 6 in Miami.

The commercial court hearing the case is expected to issue a ruling within the next few days, and approval is needed soon for the league to have enough time to organize its first match ever match held outside of Spain.

Last season it unsuccessfully tried to take the Girona-Barcelona game to the United States, an attempt also hindered by the federation’s lack of approval.

The dispute is the latest between league president Javier Tebas and federation president Luis Rubiales, two outspoken figures in Spanish soccer who have been at odds over a series of issues.

The league has complained the federation opposes the game but at the same time is organizing its own matches abroad, like the four-team Spanish Super Cup that it will host in January in Saudi Arabia. The Spanish Super Cup also was played abroad last season, in Morocco.

The federation argues it is different to play a league game abroad because it would affect the other 18 clubs participating in the competition.

Real Madrid this week reportedly sent a letter to the federation expressing its opposition to the game in the U.S. because it would be played in neutral ground, thus favouring Atletico, the away team.

"If we were to be so strict about the integrity of the competition, we would have to play every match at the same time and under the same weather," Tebas said Wednesday. "It’s impossible to do that."

Villarreal season ticket-holders would be compensated for losing out on a home game. They could receive a 40% discount on their next season ticket purchase, free entry and travel for up to 3,000 fans to the away game at Atletico’s Wanda Metropolitano or a paid-for trip to Miami for up to 600 people.

Similar compensation packages were offered to Girona fans last season, and many had already accepted them when the game in Miami was called off.

The league has a 15-year partnership with the group Relevent to promote soccer and bring games to the United States. The group operates the International Champions Cup, a tournament played around the globe during the European off-season in July and August.

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