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La Liga studying offer to host Real Madrid, Barcelona fixtures abroad

As La Liga considers an offer to play in the U.S., the FC crew consider the impact on Spanish and European football.

La Liga president Javier Tebas is studying an offer from U.S.-based promoter Relevent Sports to have Real Madrid and Barcelona play regular-fixture matches abroad starting in the 2018-19 season.

Charlie Stillitano, chairman of Relevent Sports, the event organiser for this past summer's Real Madrid-Barcelona matchup in Miami and the founder of the International Champions Cup, told the Soccerex conference in Manchester that the group is among the promoters who have been pitching the idea of overseas matches to football leagues in Europe.

"It would only a maximum of one or two games per season, just as the NFL and the NBA do," Tebas told EFE on Friday. "It's an issue of promotion regarding these markets [USA and China]. If we want to compete with the Premier League or the Bundesliga we have to create value.

"This is something that we are seriously studying because it has a legal factor regarding authorisations, a financial component too and lastly, a social one regarding the games and the competition that would be involved.

"We would also have look at what [kickoff] time it could be. We are working and studying to know if we accept or reject the idea but it doesn't seem a bad one."

Tebas said La Liga's plans if the proposal goes ahead is for one of two regular season fixtures to be played outside Spain as early as the 2018-19 campaign.

"It could well be for next season," he said.

Speaking at Soccerex, Stillitano, who heads up the promotional company backed by Stephen Ross, the billionaire owner of the NFL's Miami Dolphins, said the proposal is to adopt a plan similar to that used by the NFL, which has broadened its fan base by holding games in London for several years.

"The future [for Relevent] is to do games that are official games in the U.S., China and other places ... There are already leagues -- and I can't say [which], because they are confidential conversations -- that are talking to us about potentially doing something in the future," Stillitano said.

The Financial Times, citing two sources, reported La Liga's plans are to have regular season fixtures played outside Spain as early as the 2018-19 campaign.

The Premier League is the most profitable competition in Europe, with clubs generating €4.9 billion in revenue in the 2015-16 season, while La Liga is a distant second having made €2.4bn.

Since taking the helm of La Liga in 2013, Tebas has been working on strengthening the finances of the country's 42 first- and second-division teams and pushing for the league to catch the Premier League in order to match its economic strength.

According to the Financial Times, the Premier League has no plans to hold an international round of matches.

This summer's International Champions Cup preseason tournament in the United States, which included a Clasico, gave an indication of the strong interest overseas in hosting games involving leading Spanish clubs.

La Liga champions Real Madrid were without Cristiano Ronaldo and lost to Barcelona 3-2 on July 30 in a game that was sold out, with 66,000 people in attendance at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.

Barcelona and Real Madrid have huge fan bases around the world.

It was the first time the teams met in a friendly since 1991 and only the second time outside of Spain.

The potential is there as, according to La Liga, the last competitive Clasico in April was aired in 185 countries and reached 650 million TV viewers worldwide.

Ronaldo has 158.6 million followers on social media while Barcelona's Lionel Messi, who unlike Ronaldo has no twitter account, has 79.6m followers alone on Instagram.

Ronaldo became the world's highest-paid footballer -- and highest-paid team athlete -- for the second straight year, according to Forbes, while Messi was third on the list behind basketball star LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Tebas knows just how valuable Ronaldo and Messi are for La Liga and said earlier this year that losing one of them would be an "irreparable loss."

"When one travels, you get to see how important the big clubs and their stars are," Tebas said. "Right now, we [La Liga] are undergoing international growth and it would be an irreparable loss for the next seasons. In the Spanish league, we've had the best footballers of our time, Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, and we want to keep them."

La Liga's plans are likely to be met with opposition from club fans who would have to travel overseas for games that would otherwise be played nearby.

Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.

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