The coronavirus threatens the millionaire business of Spanish club summer tours

The prolongation of the state of alarm decreed by the Pedro Sánchez government at least until April 26 complicates the return of football and seems to condemn the Spanish League, if it can be resumed, to have to change the shorts for the swimsuit to play in july. With Covid-19’s revenue taps to a minimum, this delay in the return of the ball causes a new and growing concern in the clubs. They count the calendar and see very much in the air being able to carry out the usual pre-season tours away from Europe, an absence that can leave flagships such as Barcelona or Real Madrid without many millions of euros. America and Asia, however, are much more than a check for playing matches. Contact with fans is key in the commercial strategy to position brands on other continents. “Without the tours, the clubs lose the opportunity to approach in person and dilute the ability to impact the market they are looking for,” Sergi Vieta, former CEO of Granada CF and now in charge of a major German agency in Spain, told this newspaper. sports marketing that organizes tours of teams from the continental elite.

With closed borders and confined countries, predicting the end of the 2019-20 League and venturing summer tours is a house of cards. With the coronavirus it is obligatory to speak conditionally, but the calendar is compressing more and more every day and everything suggests a tight turn of the ball: end of the championship, holidays and the start of a new League. A road map that would leave no margin for summer tours, an increasingly important source of income for the greats of European football. “The objectives for a tour are mainly two: to make cash, thanks to the payment of the caches of the teams in the participation of matches and trophies, and to strengthen the brand position of the entity in the market or region chosen for that tour ”, explains the person in charge of Onside Sports Iberia, an agency dedicated to facilitating the preseason for professional clubs, including the organization of sports gatherings and the management of summer tours. “Beyond their collection end, the tours aim to develop the brand’s value in the target markets, interacting with fans, holding meetings with the local business sector, promoting themselves in the media. Everything is part of the club’s international expansion strategy in each market, ”hence its importance, says this expert.

20 million in the air

The cache of Barça and Madrid, according to sources consulted by ABC, is no longer below 3.5 million per game when they leave Europe, while Atlético is already over one million. In summer, however, it is also sought that fans from other continents can enjoy exceptional duels such as the classic played in Miami (United States) in 2017, a match for which Barca and Whites pocketed 6 million euros each. “Those teams can stop entering between 15 and 20 million euros this summer, just for playing, if they do not go on tour,” a marketing manager for a major league club predicts.

However, the fundamental thing for the entities, far beyond the checks for playing games away from home, is the substrate that remains after the tour and that ends up being translated
in important income the rest of the year in the form of merchandising and, especially, television rights. The clubs decide their destination based on the projection that the market they choose has. In the early years, Asia became the highest bidder both for the emerging monetary capacity of a country like China and for the passion with which fans live soccer in Japan or South Korea. Now, the United States monopolizes that role. Another interesting market is the Middle East, but the high temperatures make it impossible to play in the summer and teams like Atlético prefer to move there taking advantage of the winter break.

“America and Asia are currently the most attractive markets for European teams, the choice of one or the other, or both at the same time, depends on the club’s strategy at all times. Entities seek to develop their brand in markets with the greatest potential for generating income from fans and companies. In this sense, both China, with more than 1,500 million inhabitants, and the United States, due to the high per capita income of its population, are clear targets, “says Vieta. This Barcelona player is a perfect connoisseur of what moves around the world of football because he was also responsible for operations of the LFP World Challenge, a project created by LaLiga in 2014 with the aim of taking advantage of friendly matches for small and medium First Division teams to organize business missions in different countries in collaboration with ICEX, the public entity that promotes the internationalization of Spanish companies.

Europe is no longer profitable
Summer tours are no longer idyllic stays in rural and mountainous areas of the interior of Europe. “Only clubs with an established brand and a continued presence in continental competitions can generate a profit once the increasingly high costs of travel are covered. In recent years, the payment in the form of participation caches and audiovisual income for friendlies in Europe have been declining “, insists Sergi Vieta, whose company has been working for years with Villarreal, the club that he managed last season his summer stay in Austria.

The caches that are paid for the majority of clubs on tours of Europe barely cover travel and money is no longer an irrefutable excuse to convince the sports area when giving the go-ahead to the concentrations on the continent. For this reason, intercontinental and joint trips such as Valencia, Seville, Betis and Eibar, for example, have become increasingly necessary in recent years, the American adventure that the coronavirus leaves in the air this summer. .

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