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  • Writer's pictureNolan Hafer

FIFA & Relevent Sports Group Settlement

By: Nolan Hafer

April 24, 2024


Photo Credit: USA Today

Background on the Case

There have been recent legal turns in the battle that Relevent Sports Group (RSG) first waged against the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) and FIFA in 2019. This comes in the context of the USSF’s decision in 2018 after Relevent Sports Group intended to organize a La Liga fixture involving Barcelona and Girona at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium. At the time, the USSF responded that their ruling came in accordance with a FIFA policy, emphasizing that league matches must be played within the territory of the league, for both sporting principle and fairness of competition. Fast forward to earlier this April, FIFA worked to settle an antitrust law with Relevent Sports Group, which accused the largest governing body of international soccer of banning foreign clubs and leagues from playing competitively in the United States. A Court of Appeals decision in March of 2023 found that the United States Soccer Federation could be held liable if FIFA’s rule restricting foreign play would be held in violation of antitrust law. U.S Soccer has petitioned for the case to be heard in front of the Supreme Court. 


Outcomes for Relevent Sports Group

What does this all mean for Relevent Sports Group? RSG, a sports media company and live event promoter is owned and co-founded by Stephen Ross. Yes, that Stephen Ross. RSG owns and operates the International Champions Cup, a summer, pre-season tournament where the European elite play across the United States, Europe and Asia. Relevent Sports Group’s portfolio includes a 50-50 joint venture (LaLiga North America), which is the relationship between La Liga and Relevent. Both have worked to expand the commercial market and sponsorship assets within the United States, including a $1.4 billion deal with ESPN, the largest TV deal for a European league within the United States. When LaLiga signed a 15-year marketing agreement with Relevent Sports in August 2018, CEO Daniel Sillman was confident in his assertion: 


“I can assure you that before the 2026 World Cup, there will be official LaLiga games on North American soil.” (ESPN)


Domestic & International Response 

While Sillman’s vision looks more realistic in the wake of FIFA’s ruling earlier this month, this will certainly be met with discontent from local fans of European teams. It is true that both the Premier League and LaLiga are growing in popularity within the United States. Investors, such as RSG, see the appeal of bringing international soccer to the states. For local fans of European teams, meanwhile, backlash remains. The difficulty and unique schedule compared to other major professional sports means that each team plays an opponent twice, once home and once away. The reduced schedule and potential games internationally would create competitive advantages and disparities across the league. Owners and executives within the MLS may be opposed to the entrance and intrusion from European clubs. In their eyes, how would this grow our own domestic brand? There are still a number of ways to improve both the marketability and visibility of soccer within the United States without impeding on European domestic leagues. 

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