Last updated: December 10, 2015 11:43 pm
FC Barcelona takes a shot at €1bn revenue goal
Tobias Buck in Barcelona
Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring at Camp Nou stadium
FC Barcelona aims to become the first football club in the world with €1bn in revenues, as part of a six-year business plan that will see the Catalan side expand both its Camp Nou stadium and its commercial presence around the world.
Details of the strategy will be formally unveiled to club staff today. But in an interview with the Financial Times ahead of the presentation, club president Josep Maria Bartomeu makes clear the scale of Barcelona’s ambition.
“There are no other clubs in the world, whether in football or in other sports, that think ahead more than one or two seasons. But here at Barça we do,” he says. “We want to be the first club to reach €1bn in revenues.”
Mr Bartomeu was elected president of FC Barcelona in July, after a tumultuous season that saw the club win a rare treble — the Spanish league title, the Spanish cup and the Uefa Champions League. But it was also marked by deep internal strife, such as the contentious battle for the presidency and a series of judicial probes against players and executives, including Mr Bartomeu himself, over allegations of tax fraud. He denies any wrongdoing.
His desire to increase revenues from €600m now to more than €1bn by 2021 also reflects the need to counter the growing financial clout of the English Premier League. Following the Premiership’s lucrative £5bn three-year deal, teams such as Manchester United and Chelsea earn far more from television rights than even the most successful clubs on the continent.
According to Deloitte Football Money League, however, only Manchester United is among the top five clubs by revenue, ranking number two based on figures for the 2013-14 season. Barça was ranked fourth with revenues of about €485m.
Mr Bartomeu’s plan foresees a string of new projects, including the creation of a fee-generating FC Barcelona University and a push into women’s sports. In financial terms, however, the most relevant actions will be the expansion of the club’s presence abroad and the €600m overhaul of the Camp Nou stadium.
Barça is a global club . . . but the world is a big place and right now we are occupying very little space- Josep Maria Bartomeu
“Our rival is the Premier League. It is not a specific club, it is the strength of the Premier League itself,” Mr Bartomeu says. He insists that, contrary to recent speculation in the British press, FC Barcelona will always have the resources to fend off English bids for its main stars, including the famous “trident” of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suárez.
The real danger for the club, he adds, is that teenage players from its La Masia academy are being snapped up by Premiership teams before they have the chance to grow into Barcelona’s first team: “The 16 year olds constantly receive offers from the Premier League that are very tempting. Every year there are some who go.”
With a six-year mandate ahead of him, Mr Bartomeu says he is determined to translate the club’s recent sporting triumphs into lasting economic success. “The famous formula that has made clubs grow in the past was this: sporting success leads to social success which in turn leads to economic success,” he says. “But we want to develop in a way so that not everything hangs on victories or defeats. We want to make sure that the club remains a reference around the world even when there is a failure.”
“Barça is a global club . . . but the world is a big place and right now we are occupying very little space,” Mr Bartomeu says, pointing out that the club has an estimated 450m fans around the world, and more than 200m social media followers. FC Barcelona has only one commercial office abroad (in Hong Kong) but is planning to open three more by 2017 — in New York, São Paulo and Shanghai. “Those are the markets where Barça is pushing for growth,” he says.
The club’s Camp Nou stadium, meanwhile, is being readied for a major transformation. Already the largest stadium in Europe, its capacity is due to rise from 97,000 to 105,000.
It will also be covered with a roof, and the number of lucrative VIP lounge seats will increase from 1,800 to 10,000. The area around the stadium is also earmarked for redevelopment.
Mr Bartomeu says he is in talks with Qatar Airways to renew the company’s shirt sponsorship deal, which is due to expire at the end of this season.
The club, which is owned by its 145,000 members, earns €33.5m a year from the shirt endorsement — a figure that again lags far behind the sums paid to clubs such as Manchester United and Chelsea.
Whatever the result of those talks, Mr Bartomeu is adamant that the days when Barça distinguished itself from other teams by refusing to carry a sponsor’s logo, or giving the space to Unicef as a gift, will never return. “Today we compete with clubs that are owned by great corporations or by multimillionaires with huge resources. So it would be utopian to want to go back to Unicef.”