Back to the drawing board

The impressive Hard Rock Stadium would have been the venue.
The impressive Hard Rock Stadium would have been the venue. / SUR
  • a look at la liga

  • Plans for a La Liga game in the States this season have unsurprisingly been shelved

Cancel the plans to fly to Miami in January; the bold idea of playing a La Liga game in the United States has been shelved. (I say bold... in truth it was ill-conceived. It was like one of those ideas you have after a strong bottle of sangría with your pals.)

Let's all get on a plane, bring Lionel Messi and his pals from Barcelona with us, get the Americans to pay us loads of money; it will be a hoot.

The marketing men told us it was all about growing the brand globally, taking the game to football fans across the planet and spreading the word.

The theory was fine but in practice it was a disaster. The Spanish FA were not in on the act and ultimately became like Tory MPs in a Brexit negotiation.

The two clubs they'd persuaded to export a fixture were Barcelona and Girona. Taking Barça was obvious. It would sell out any stadium in the world. There were healthy crowds when the diluted Liga teams played pre-season friendlies in the States so a meaningful match was always going to capture the imagination.

Girona were content to sacrifice their biggest game of the season and their supporters were being offered incentives to sweeten them. Who wouldn't fancy a subsidised trip to Florida?

The example of the NFL was always cited. The American football roadshow rolls into many major cities around the world and everyone loves the circus.

Sadly the Liga version was just that... a circus! One of the selling points was the fact that it was a proud Catalan derby yet obviously the authorities didn't want it becoming a political rally. ("Hey man, I love that colourful flag. What's it all about?")

Everything was ill-considered. It was an ad-hoc plan. I have sympathy for the proper football fans in America because it was a chance to see the superstars with their own eyes on their own turf. The game has grown in the past four decades and MLS is now extremely well organised. The fans have a thirst for information and love the European leagues. When I was over in the summer I was astounded by the depth of knowledge from supporters who trawl for information.

The American fans deserve better than the mainly reserve teams who tour in the summer. I liken it to basketball: in Europe we want to see the Lakers, Bulls or Boston Celtic these days rather than the Harlem Globetrotters against a team of stooges.

For now the initative has been filed in Room 101. Maybe they should revisit it with the Spanish Super Cup or a Copa game.

But remember what a disaster the Super Cup was in the summer? They moved it to Morocco at the last minute. That is the problem, there is little strategy and the organisation is rudimentary. They are streets behind the best organised leagues. Here's an example. When you commentate on a Champions League or Premier League game there's an app for the broadcasters to get the team line-ups the minute they've been disclosed. This helps with graphics, programme planning and commentating.

When I'm trying to find a line- up for a Liga game I have to trawl Twitter to see if anyone has posted it from the bowels of the stadium.

And so, the idea of exporting Liga to America worked out as well as most ideas we have at a Christmas party or summer barbeque after a couple of cervezas. It's ended up in the sock drawer!