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FIFA could consider allowing league matches abroad after lawsuit settlement with promoter

FIFA has opened the door to league matches being played outside a team’s home country as part of an agreement with promotion company Relevent Sports to remove the governing body from an ongoing lawsuit.

Relevent Sports is owned by Miami Dolphins chair Stephen Ross. They had challenged FIFA’s policy restricting official league matches from taking place outside a league’s home territory. The lawsuit also included US Soccer as a defendant.

According to a statement by FIFA, the dismissal applies only to them.  

“FIFA and Relevent have agreed to resolve this matter as it concerns FIFA, pending FIFA’s consideration of changes to existing FIFA policies with respect to playing official season games outside a league’s home territory,” the statement reads (via the Guardian).

“FIFA maintains they haven’t admitted any wrongdoing and denies the claims made by Relevent Sports.”

This dispute started when Relevent planned to host a La Liga match between Barcelona and Girona in Miami in 2018. 

FIFA’s ruling council implemented a policy to prevent the move, citing ‘the sporting principle that official league matches must be played within the territory of the respective member association’. Barcelona had to withdraw from the planned Florida match.

Relevent also faced more roadblocks when US Soccer denied permission for a league match between two Ecuadorian teams. These rejections forced Relevent to sue both governing bodies. They cited violations of anti-trust laws and tortious interference.

Relevent Chief Executive Officer Daniel Sillman expressed optimism about working with FIFA to support the global growth of the game and the best leagues in the world.

Meanwhile, the legal battle with US Soccer continues. A judge dismissed the anti-trust claim in 2021, but it was reinstated by a court of appeal in March 2023. 

US Soccer appealed to the Supreme Court, and the Joe Biden administration recently advised the court to uphold the reversal decision.

This agreement with Relevent may signify a shift in FIFA’s stance on international league matches. 

However, it is too early to determine if this rule change will materialise. It will be interesting to see the ruling’s impact on the future of hosting league games abroad.

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