Ian Hart: La Liga’s US game could be the start of a rocky road

Will Premier League games soon take place abroad? Picture by PW Sporting Photography
Will Premier League games soon take place abroad? Picture by PW Sporting Photography

My dear old Gran used to use that well-known saying about the road to hell being paved with good intentions.

News this week that Girona’s January La Liga clash with Barcelona will be played in Miami has received a mixed reaction.

A couple of weeks ago there was talk of players striking in Spain if the proposed foreign fixture went ahead, so clearly an intervention has occurred – a lucrative appearance pay structure perhaps?

To a degree I can see why they’ve elected for Miami, there are more Spanish speaking people in Florida than those that speak English. And with Barca being a global brand, the stadium will almost certainly sell out quickly. But if, or perhaps when, it’s an overwhelming success, what will that mean for the Premier League and the Albion?

The ‘39th’ game has been mooted for several years and while not totally ruled out by the powers-that-be, it wasn’t exactly welcomed with open arms by the fans – and that’s putting it mildly.

The fans in this country that is, think the concept of the 39th is unworkable. But as the January game is Girona’s home game, if their share of the take now drastically outweighs what they would have earned for the same game in Spain, will that open up a whole new can of worms for our domestic league?

The Premier League is a global product now, the big six would effectively fill, or very nearly fill, most stadiums, outside the traditional footballing nations.

It will probably come down to the small print in the contracts, then again if clubs are getting £100million-plus in revenue each season, the phrase ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune’ springs to mind.

Legally, could the Albion refuse if say, for example, they were scheduled to play a future home game against Manchester United in the national stadium in Thailand?

Clearly it would sell out, and be beamed around the globe. Albion would make money on the deal but, for me, it would be the beginning of the end.

Your ‘HOME’ games are exactly that, games played at home. The Girona faithful are the ultimate guinea pigs in this whole experiment. A big part of me hopes it flops, or doesn’t happen, but the Messi factor and the huge Hispanic community represent a huge advantage for the ‘experiment’.

Hopefully even if it does succeed, the Premier League and our clubs, including the big six, will realise that there still are boundaries regardless of the apparent riches on offer?

On the subject of boundaries (sorry I couldn’t resist it), I couldn’t let this week’s events at the Oval pass without paying tribute to the retiring Alastair Cook, perhaps the greatest opening batsman in the history of English cricket.

With increased family commitments and clear fatigue after a record 160 Test matches, 158 of them consecutively, I can understand why he’s made this decision.

But at 33, has he gone too early?

It’s been hard enough to find a regular opening partner to play with him, let alone finding one good enough to replace him.

Hopefully the well-deserved knighthood won’t be that far off (though best not mention that to Geoffrey Boycott).

One thing is for sure, if he returns to Essex in April, still scores runs in abundance and England haven’t effectively replaced him, the clamour for a retirement reversal in time to face the Aussies in August will be defeaning.