'Outraged' La Liga players willing to strike in response to league's U.S. plan

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Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos was among the La Liga players present for a meeting in the wake of the league’s announcement of its U.S. plan. (Getty)
Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos was among the La Liga players present for a meeting in the wake of the league’s announcement of its U.S. plan. (Getty)

La Liga players have not ruled out going on strike if the Spanish league follows through on its plan to take one match per year to North America.

The Spanish players association expressed its opposition to the plan immediately following the league’s announcement last week. On Wednesday, captains or representatives from a majority of La Liga’s 20 clubs met to discuss how to proceed, and affirmed that their opposition is unanimous.

David Aganzo, president of the players association, subsequently relayed their message. “They are surprised and outraged to see that such important decisions have been made,” Aganzo said. “The players are against it, not one of them is in favor of it. It was unanimous. Some clubs are in favor and others against. I am speaking on behalf of the players.”

Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos, Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets and Atletico Madrid’s Koke were among the players in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting.

La Liga’s U.S. plan, and its problems

La Liga announced its intentions last Thursday, the first European league to take a plunge that had been explored for over a decade. But it had announced them very prematurely.

It did so without any semblance of a firm plan in place, seemingly in part to promote a groundbreaking 15-year partnership with U.S.-based media company Relevent. Officials expressed confidence that the first game could occur as early as this season. However, there are roadblocks.

In addition to opposition from the players, La Liga must clear the games with multiple governing bodies, which serve as sanctioning organizations. Due to the difficulty of navigating those roadblocks, sources told Yahoo Sports’ Doug McIntyre last week, it is unlikely a La Liga game will ever be staged on U.S. soil.

There’s no chance in hell,” one source told McIntyre.

La Liga now has a fight on its hands on multiple fronts. Aganzo said he would meet with La Liga chief Javier Tebas next month to share player complaints.

Why do La Liga players oppose the plan?

The players oppose the travel, and balk at the prospect of being inconvenienced as part of a commercial ploy. They also want to assert their power, and have taken issue with the league’s failure to consult them prior to announcing the plans.

“The players don’t want to play overseas,” Aganzo said Wednesday. “Things have to be done in a more coherent way and with common sense. A decision of this magnitude, that affects players, referees and fans, was taken unilaterally and shows a lack of respect.”

“It cannot be that a person takes a decision of a 15-year agreement, which affects many people, without consulting [them]. We are fed up with not being valued.”

There is also the biggest flaw: Holding a game stateside disrupts competitive balance. The players, understandably, don’t like that either.

“It’s not just the game as such, in terms of health and travel,” Aganzo said. “It just makes no sense to have a game played in the United States and have one team have to give up a home game.”

Players won’t rule out strike

La Liga players are also unhappy for other reasons. Whereas games were once played exclusively on weekends, the 2018-19 season’s opening “weekend” featured two games on Friday, three on Saturday, three on Sunday and two on Monday. Some kicked off at 10:15 p.m. local time. Many match-going fans hate the arrangement. Real Madrid attracted its lowest attendance in nine years. Players have qualms as well.

Asked about the possibility of strike, Aganzo said, “We need to sort this out with the union and we will tell them all of our problems. If from then on and after a few days they don’t answer, then we will have to solve the situation. We are going to try to see that it doesn’t reach that extreme [of a strike]. But we are willing to go right to the last option if it is necessary.”

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Henry Bushnell covers global soccer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell, and on Facebook.

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