European league games in America move a step closer after setback for Fifa

European league games in America move a step closer after setback for Fifa

European league games in America move a step closer after setback for Fifa

European league games in America move a step closer after setback for Fifa

European football clubs are a major step closer to staging league matches in the United States after an American court indicated Fifa bans may violate the country’s laws.

La Liga and Serie A clubs are set to lead the charge, but Premier League executives are monitoring, as the world governing body comes under intense legal pressure to allow the precedent.

Relevent Sports, controlled by Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, was this week granted permission by a US appeal judge to take its lawsuit against the governing body and US Soccer to trial.

Fifa is now likely to enter out-of-court discussions with Relevant, as legal experts warn the governing body could face enormous payouts if it continues to refuse to allow European fixtures to play across the Atlantic.

Relevent is fighting the case on the basis of antitrust laws, having signed a 15-year partnership with La Liga in 2018 to work on commercialising the league in North America.

Attempts to bring a game between Barcelona and Girona to Miami were thwarted by a Fifa policy in response to stop fixtures from taking place outside the participating teams’ home territory. Barcelona later withdrew from Relevent’s plans, with the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) and La Liga also at odds over the proposal.

The agency also tried to organise an Ecuadorian league fixture in the US, with permission from LigaPro Ecuador. But US Soccer also declined to sanction the match, prompting Relevent to file a lawsuit against both parties.

The involvement of Girona in early plans is significant for English football as the club is 47 per cent owned by the City Football Group. The American market for the Premier League is booming but England’s top tier is likely to reserve judgement on potential progress made by La Liga and Serie A in staging matches in America.

In 2021, US District Court judge Valerie Caproni dismissed Relevent’s case, stating the agency had failed to prove an illegal conspiracy between Fifa and US Soccer.

However, a ruling from the second US Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed this decision. In a decision written by Judge Raymond J. Lohier Jr, a three-judge panel disagreed with the lower court judge who said Relevent needed to have evidence to prove that the football entities had agreed in advance to adopt the 2018 policy.

“Relevent plausibly alleges that the 2018 Policy reflects a contractual commitment of head-to-head competitors to restrict competition,” the appeals court said. It added that Relevent’s lawsuit alleged that the policy itself violates antitrust laws and its implementation provides direct evidence of collusion among the parties.

Relevent Sports Group CEO Daniel Sillman said of the ruling: “Today’s ruling is an important victory for both American soccer and the global growth of the game. By paving the way for the best teams and players from football clubs around the world to compete in competitive matches in the United States, more fans will have the chance to witness the sport being played at its highest level and directly experience all that it has to offer.

“While there’s still additional work ahead to make this vision a reality, today’s decision validates what Relevent has been working towards for the past three years, and we are proud to be leading the fight to bring new opportunities to American soccer fans.”

Fifa announced its foreign match policy after Relevent arranged with La Liga to host a regular-season match between Barcelona and Girona FC in Miami.

Barcelona eventually withdrew. Fifa said in a statement that it “will review the written decision by the US Court of Appeals before deciding next steps.”

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