The View from Empordà: Girona and La Liga in the USA

Girona FC were founded 88 years ago and for 87 of those years bounced between the 2nd division (now known as Liga 123) and the regionalised Catalan 5th tier of Spanish football. Being a Girona fan has been an unrewarding task for most of their history, especially considering the fact that most people in the city are fans of their bigger, wealthier and far more successful neighbours 100km down the coast at the Camp Nou.

Upon winning promotion from the second division at the end of the 2016/17 season the first fixture every Girona fan looked for was Barcelona at home. Last season the match finished 0-3 to Barcelona, in a game notable for Pablo Maffeo’s man marking job on Leo Messi, and this season the Blanquivermell will be looking to improve on their loss and dreaming of getting a historic win over Barça.

However those fans who have supported the team and seen them rise from playing against Empordàn neighbours Palafrugell and Palamós as recently as 2007 will probably have to watch the match against Barcelona on TV. After the announcement that La Liga wanted to host a match in the US this season it appears that that match will in fact be Girona’s home game against Barcelona. Obviously Girona will generate far more income by staging the game in Chicago and the North American exposure will have City Football Group (Girona’s majority owners) licking their lips, but it begs the question as to what the point of following your local football club is, if at the the first sign of success it is taken away from you.

Profit and brand exposure won’t mean anything to the fans if their club are relegated and they have to wait another 87 years to play in La Liga again. Gironistes have already paid their for their season tickets for this season and they have lost Pablo Machín, their well-liked manager, to Sevilla. It also looks like top scorers Cristhian Stuani and Portu will move on before the end of the transfer window, which, coupled with a severe lack of investment in the club by its super rich owners, makes relegation a very real threat this season.

La Liga’s decision to take matches away from the communities that deserve to see them leaves a nasty taste but the complicity of City Football Group and Girona Football Group (owned by Pere Guardiola) in allowing this to happen shows a blatant contempt for those people who have spent their lives following Girona CF. The most depressing thing about this news however, is the fact that most La Liga clubs would probably sell out their own fans in order to add a few zeroes to the balance sheet. With ticket prices rising and clubs spending more time and energy placating super agents than fans it can only be a matter of time until the biggest clubs turn football into a travelling circus of mega brands facing off across the globe.

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