Manchester City encouraged Girona to move home match against Barcelona to the United States, claims La Liga chief

Manchester City encouraged Girona to be part of the first La Liga match to be played in the United States early next year, the competition’s president Javier Tebas has claimed.

Last month La Liga announced a 15-year deal with Relevent Sports, the US entertainment company that runs the International Champions Cup preseason tournament, to stage top-flight Spanish league matches in North America from this season onwards.

Girona have accepted La Liga and Relevent’s offer to move their home match against Barcelona in January 2019 to Miami, and Tebas suggested that they did so partly at the urging of City, who became joint-majority shareholders in the Spanish club along with manager Pep Guardiola’s brother and agent Pere last year.

“The game is designed to help teams that don’t have a very big fan base,” Tebas said in an interview with Spanish radio station Onda Cero.

“Girona are partly owned by City and together with [Miami Dolphins owner] Stephen Ross, they told us Girona were interested in playing this game.

“Now several teams with a similar profile to Girona have shown interest because they see it as an opportunity. Season ticket holders will be compensated and there is an opportunity to travel to Miami. Relevent will pay the costs.”

Javier Tebas, president of Spanish football league La Liga, speaks during a promotional event in New Delhi (Getty)
Javier Tebas, president of Spanish football league La Liga, speaks during a promotional event in New Delhi (Getty)

Tebas also revealed that the deal with Relevent will bring 200 million Euros (£180m) into La Liga’s coffers over the length of the agreement, which has been criticised in some quarters as prioritising financial gain over the integrity of the league.

“Girona-Barcelona will 90 percent be played in the United States, but the agreement is not about just one game, it’s about a process which is much bigger.

“We held a bidding process and various companies got involved. There’s no obligation for teams to play one game a year in the United States, only the clubs who volunteer to go will go.

“But this is much more than a game, it’s about strategy and sponsorship.”

In a statement on their official website, Girona said: "The club has accepted this offer, understanding that it is a great possibility to expand and grow, not only for the club but also for our city and our territory.

“Three years ago, the club was fighting against going out of business and now our objective is to consolidate ourselves in La Liga.

“This action would be another step in competing in football’s elite after all the efforts we have made and which has led to us being promoted to the top flight.”

The proposed Miami trip could still be in jeopardy, however. La Liga's announcement of the deal with Relevent was met with hostility by the Spanish Footballers' Association (AFE), who claim they were not consulted by Tebas, while Spanish FA president Luis Rubiales warned on Friday that the agreement "means nothing without our authorisation".