La Liga 'steals a march on the Premier League' in new North American expansion

La Liga has announced a first-of-kind, 15-year joint venture with Relevent, a multinational media, sports, and entertainment group to promote the Spanish soccer league on American soil.

Among the terms worked out between parties: a plan to bring a regular-season La Liga match to the United States for the first time, the formation of La Liga North America to “work to cultivate soccer culture in the US and Canada” through usage of the leagues teams like Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and others.

Another stated goal for the two partners, as said in a statement: “Moreover, North America will be exposed to the unparalleled Spanish soccer culture.”

La Liga North America has appointed Boris Gartner as its chief executive. An executive who has led strategy and operations for Mexican broadcaster Televisa, and held top roles at US Hispanic outlet Univision, Gartner has added a team to help grow the La Liga brand and establish new business opportunities, including Nicolas Garcia Hemme of La Liga as his vice president of business development.

Stephen Ross, chairman and owner of Relevent said in a statement “This unique relationship will create new opportunities for millions of North American soccer fans to experience the most passionate, exciting, and highest level of soccer in the world.”

La Liga President Javier Tebas added: “We’re devoted to growing the passion for soccer around the world. This groundbreaking agreement is certain to give a major impulse to the popularity of the beautiful game in the US and Canada. Relevent has filled stadiums across the US with the International Champions Cup, we’re thrilled to partner with them on a joint mission to grow soccer in North America.”

According to Misha Sher, vice president of MediaCom Sport & Entertainment, this push by La Liga has broken ground for the sport and not just the Spanish-based league.

“After the Premier League failed to drum up any support for matches played abroad a few years ago, this represents a big feather in the cap for the Spanish league and a strategic win to bridge the gap with the English game,” said Sher. “Not only will La Liga be the first to do this, but they will do so in the most lucrative consumer market. For all the talk of Asia’s potential – which shouldn’t be underestimated – it’s North America where the fans have a far greater disposable income to spend on tickets, merchandise and subscriptions.”

Sher added: “From a commercial point of view, this is a no-brainer. It will help La Liga and its clubs bring in more sponsors and allow those clubs to charge them more money. This deal goes much further than a one-off game, though. It appears there’s a clear plan to engage young people, so over time, this is a strategy that will tap into a new generation of fans as well laying a foundation to identify future players.

“It’s not often that anyone steals a march on the Premier League, but this is exactly what La Liga has done; playing matches abroad will almost certainly become the norm for big leagues in five years’ time.”