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Sevilla chief says La Liga used to be 'lazy' for not doing better job of exporting game

Shaka Hislop chooses not to get drawn into comparisons between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi following the Argentine's 33rd La Liga hat trick.

Sevilla's chief marketing officer said La Liga has been "lazy" and late to recognize the value of marketing to an international audience but is now focusing on growing its audience around the world, while adding matches played in the U.S. "will come."

Ramon Loarte spoke alongside Ramon Alarcon, Real Betis' chief business officer, at a breakfast organized by La Liga to promote Saturday's Derbi Sevillano.

"Honestly, I think we all have been very lazy understanding that the Spanish league is worldwide," Loarte said Tuesday, comparing La Liga with England's Premier League.

"Twenty years ago they started with an international strategy, creating branches, offices in different parts of the world," he said. "It's bad for us to be that lazy or to have been that lazy, but now everything's over and all the clubs are pushing La Liga, and La Liga is doing a great job in terms of internationalization."

International club football on U.S. television is dominated by England's Premier League on NBC and its sister networks, Germany's Bundesliga on Fox and Mexico's Liga MX on Univision, Fox and ESPN Deportes.

La Liga and France's Ligue 1 are on BeIn Sports, carried on a cable pay tier and with a much smaller distribution; it has 29 million subscribers. Italy's Serie A switched this season from BeIn to a deal that has it mostly on the digital streaming service ESPN+.

"It's difficult for some people to pay for content -- they have all the different options, like all the other sports and all the other international competitions," Alarcon said. "But if you want to run a long way, the first thing you have to do is the first step. So I think that La Liga is working step by step."

Both backed efforts by Barcelona and La Liga to play the Spanish league's first regular-season match in the U.S. The proposed meeting between Barcelona and Girona at Miami Gardens, Florida, on Jan. 26 fell through following opposition from the Spanish football federation and the Spanish players' union.

"Why not, to play an official game in the U.S.?" Loarte asked. "I think in the near future, it will come."

Loarte also favors La Liga changing its practice of not announcing match days and kickoff times until about two weeks ahead of games. The Premier League usually finalises each month's schedule approximately six to eight weeks in advance, allowing foreign fans time to plan trips.

"That's one of the disadvantages of our league," Loarte said. "I hope that in the near future, everything will be solved regarding that, because I truly consider that it will affect international people coming to Seville."

Alarcon said La Liga remains the most important competition in Spain, and that Barcelona and Real Madrid should not be enticed by any plans to increase European competition at the expense of the domestic league. Many top clubs want Champions League games to be played on weekends and more Champions League games against each other.

"In my opinion, Barcelona and Madrid, they will lose more if they leave the domestic league rather than they would win, because at the end the real passion for Real Madrid and Barcelona is from Spain," Alarcon said.

"I think it is a mistake and I think all the big clubs in Europe, they will find out the way to maintain the domestic competitions in good health."

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