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How Barcelona bankroll their expensive side

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Barcelona are admired throughout the world for their ability to create a team, which has won 13 of the last 16 trophies they have been entered into, on the strong foundations of home grown players, from their illustrious “La Masia.” La Masia is arguably the best at what it does – consistently produce young players year upon year for the first team – and in 2010 its strength was highlighted as three graduates of the youth academy made the final three-man shortlist for the Ballon d’Or: Lionel Messi, Xaxi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta.

La Masia itself is a dynamic hub of activity that houses the boys as they become men, that take the prodigies of 13-years-old from La Cantera, the part of the academy responsible for players up until 14-years-old, and instils the philosophy of the club’s motto, “mes que un club” which gathers a whole new meaning, far from the philanthropic and family image it displays, when you delve into how FC Barcelona bankroll their team of stars, that may well be saturated with home grown players but still demand high wages.

La Masia, located adjacent to the 90,000 capacity Camp Nou, is a lavish construction that served as a boarding house for the academy players that live outside the Catalonian capital and has housed Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina, as he learned his trade, World Cup final goalscorer Andres Iniesta and Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola, as well as his entire backroom coaching staff, among many others. Here, future multi-million pound footballers train for six hours a week, play weekly fixtures in front of League 1 sized crowds, and have done since their days as 8-year olds at La Cantera, or the quarry – a fitting name, and relax in the evenings together in their dorm rooms.

They’re furnished with PS3s, pool tables and period décor fitting of the original building – an ornate country residence. However, as the club grows even bigger, it has outgrown its original site and now La Masia is the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper and includes 5 grass pitches, 4 artificial grass pitches and three gymnasiums. With this in mind, it is understandable that Manchester City’s owners now want to emulate such a complex make-up all on site, entitled the Etihad Campus.

However, as English clubs seek, or more realistically fans encourage them, to build their future on plans of a “Barca Model” in which players are coached on, not only football, but their attitudes and lifestyle, as well as health and well-being, the cost of it all should be considered. In a rare occurrence, former vice-president of Barcelona Ferran Soriano, reveals how they managed to display a severe increase in their fortunes on and off the pitch since 2003, including their training facility and youth academy multi-million pound relocation which remains only a distant dream to most Premier League clubs and dwarves any residential academy set-up in England, thanks to La Masia.

Despite The Premier League remaining the richest football league in the world, with five of its clubs (Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal) among the top 30 best paid sporting teams globally, the recent revelation of FC Barcelona, have seen them rocket up to 1st, when just 8 seasons ago, their income was just €123m, with wages at 88% of that and a bank balance €63m in the red. They’ve done this, as Soriano says, by, “analyzing Manchester United.”

When Barcelona broke their 106-year history of never displaying a shirt sponsor, it outwardly seemed like a trend bucked on good grounds: they signed a sponsorship agreement with the worldwide charity UNICEF in which Barcelona paid the sponsors (€1.5m per annum) rather than the normal procedure of the sponsor paying the club. However, bringing a whole new meaning to “More than a club”, Soriano revealed that it was nothing more than a ‘strategic decision’ motivated by an aspiration of long-term profit, when Barcelona made UNICEF their shirt sponsor. “It is fair to think that the UNICEF-Barcelona brand synergy was one of the key factors in the spectacular growth of the fan base and the club’s earnings during 2006 to 2010,” said Soriano, speaking of the deal they made, resulting in Barcelona growing to be the 2ndhighest earning club in the world behind “Los Galacticos” Real Madrid.

When Barcelona then broke their 111-year history and were finally paid to advertise on their shirts, it raised few eyebrows: after all, the majority of clubs have a shirt sponsor – it is a major income stream. However, maybe it should’ve raised more than a few: the five-year, €150 million deal with the non-profit Qatar Foundation, arose tentatively close after Qatar’s successful bid for the 2022 World Cup: a week exactly, in fact. As well as Pep Guardiola acting as a paid ambassador for Qatar in the bid, it was further aided by an alleged Spain-Qatar voting pact involving numerous FIFA Executive Committee voters. Despite claims by FIFA that the pact between Spain and Qatar had been investigated and sufficient evidence to take further action had not been found, it was never going to be, was it?

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Budding Football journalist who blogs at www.maycauseoffence.com/ daily as well as writing here for ThisisFutbol and on www.onehellofabeating.com/ the England fan's page. Outside of writing is more football. I work at Southampton F.C and I manage a men's football team on Saturdays.

5 comments
  • buj says:

    And that is bad because….? Football is a business so of course they have to find some way to keep it going, if not afloat. It’s not like UNICEF, Qatar or whatever that saw them win trophies after trophies. It’s the players they develop and acquire at a hefty cost.

    They could go Man City’s, Man U’s, Chelsea’s, Liverpool’s way but what excuse will people use then if they continue to succeed? At least they keep themselves from being at the mercy of their sugar-daddies whims. Qatar can’t tell them Guardiola needs to go should things go south. They are just the sponsor, nothing more.

    • UnbiasedBarca says:

      Well, if the sponsorship, quite a lucrative one, was secured through ill-gotten gains, such as the pact that Spain and Qatar supposedly had in the voting, then Barcelona are benefiting from an illegal act.

      The article doesn’t suggest so, which is wise, and the writer doesn’t suggest it is a bad thing: he’s just providing information on how they’ve funded such an expensive side through seemingly “charitable” sponsors in UNICEF and a “Foundation.”

      Your point is a good one buj, but the writer hasn’t done wrong in this article.

      • buj says:

        It has to be mentioned that Real Madrid too was courting Qatar at that time. Zidane, their emissary, endorsed their candidacy too. So if Spain and Qatar were colluding in something illegal, then it is obvious that it’s not just Barca who stands to gain from it.

        Article like this, lacking any hint of verifiable facts, is just aiming at painting a bad picture of a club/team that he may well have a disliking for. In fact, if this had been a respectable paper, this can be considered libelous.

        Thanks for the reply anyway.

        • Thanks for your reply Buj: i’d like to make a couple of points.

          Firstly, with a Spanish Barcelona supporting Grandfather, Barcelona are my second side and I consider myself a supporter and therefore I am in no way attempting to paint a bad picture, just highlighting something of interest.

          Secondly, the article is full of verifiable facts straight from the horses mouth, regarding all the sponsorship activity of Barcelona.

          Lastly, if Real Madrid were too courting Qatar, then it is supporting the claim that there was a voting a pact and secondly, purely shows that their is no financial fairplay in La Liga, already highlighted through TV money allocation in La Liga, with Qatar acting in a corrupt manner.

          When Qatar got the World Cup 2022, there was a fair amount of controversy, yet now controversy is being displayed with some support of how they won it and how they are advertising it, you’re defending it.

          Thank you for your time to comment

  • clarity says:

    great reply ^^

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