The global growth of football is a shared objective for LaLiga and Major League Soccer (MLS). With that in mind, the Spanish league welcomed representatives from the US competition to its Madrid headquarters to share its expertise on how the game can be managed and developed successfully.
During the visit the MLS delegation – made up of senior vice-president Jeff Agoos, technical director of competition Alfonso Mondelo and the professional referee organization’s general manager Howard Webb – learned how LaLiga Santander and LaLiga SmartBank operate in terms of scheduling, disciplinary matters and refereeing, as well as learning about the role of match directors and the audiovisual regulations that LaLiga applies to every match.
Leading figures from various LaLiga departments took part in the educational session, including director of competitions and player’s office Luis Gil, match director Antonio del Castillo, professional refereeing committee member Antonio Jesús López Nieto, professional competitions committee member Pablo Mayor Menéndez and grounds quality manager Pedro Fernández-Bolaños.
“Initiatives such as this can be very useful for other leagues to see how we run competitions with the worldwide impact of LaLiga Santander and LaLiga SmartBank,” Gil stated. “Visiting directors can gain an understanding of the work that goes on behind the scenes to ensure LaLiga Santander and LaLiga SmartBank matches run smoothly and efficiently.”
One example of this under-the-radar work is that of Fernández-Bolaños. As the league-wide groundskeeper, he holds a unique job in European football and works to oversee the maintenance of all pitches in the Spanish professional game. The role includes liaising with club groundskeepers to ensure pitches are well-maintained for player safety, the quality of the matches and for the audiovisual spectacle.
Another example of the knowledge shared with MLS officials came from a discussion on refereeing and VAR. LaLiga organised workshops and simulations with all stakeholders, from match officials to media, in preparation for the arrival of VAR in Spanish football in 2018/19, helping to ensure that the first season with the technology ran smoothly.
Other matters such as LaLiga’s standardised audiovisual guidelines, competition structure and fixture scheduling tools were also discussed to help the guests from North America understand how the Spanish league creates the optimum experience for fans in the stadium as well as those watching on TV.
As part of its internationalisation process LaLiga is committed sharing such information with partners from other leagues across world football. It has collaborated with other competitions on issues ranging from anti-piracy to youth development over the last four years to help the entire industry to professionalise. “If national leagues work together and share knowledge and expertise then we can all work more effectively to grow football as a whole,” Gil concluded.