An occasional feature where Tom Johnson, BFB’s business correspondent, examines the economic situation and ways to improve The Club’s management.
To clarify my position and wrap up the talk about the smarter way to manage club finances, I will address some of the issues raised in the comments of my last post. In the upcoming weeks the focus will shift to the large revenue The Club is generating and the ways of increasing it.
A burger-loving reader, Double Junior with Cheese, sees the players’ value as the key to the successful implementation of payroll cuts: “what is their priority, how much value do they assign to material compensation versus sentimental reward?”
Absolutely. That is why I like the term “higher cause.” A legitimate shot at truly special place in history overrides everything else. Note that I also said it “can only be done when there is a shared sense of urgency and commitment.”
In general, we need to do a better job of scouting players, and look for players who are ‘crazy’ for, and very passionate about the game. Like Pep — smart, versatile, humble, with a strong work ethic — players who will not care that much about money as long as their salary reasonably reflects the level of contribution.
Ladies and gentleman, I give you Pedro Rodriguez.
- 12 goals (19, 10 in total) scored in the La Liga from only 29 shots on target
- Recovered more than 60 balls, while playing in the forward line, registering a single yellow card in the process
- Tabloids are the last place you will find his name nor is he being represented by the Fat Bastard
- A 23 year old World Cup Winner who’s father works at a gas station
- Salary far below the top level
When asked to assign weight to Pedro’s contribution, The Philosopher quipped: “If Pedro was Brazilian the club would be struggling to find the money to sign him.”
Kxevin has his own doubts: “The Camp Nou will never have luxury boxes. It flies in the face of everything that they believe in. Heck, the Tribuna side where all the fat cats sit is bad enough. The cules like it how when they’re cold, so are the bosses. When it’s raining, it’s also raining on the bosses”
To clear any confusion, the purpose is to create revenue. Hence, the luxury suites are intended for special guests, to wow important business partners, and for the more pleasurable viewing experience of the wealthy fans. They are not meant to be used by the management.
I suggest a traditional box, close to the field as possible, but adjustments can be made. One would be to dress up a section of the stands into a VIP area. It can still have no roof or be glass-enclosed.
After consultations with the architect, management should try to strike a balance between the original style and local culture on one side, and contemporary and/or futuristic on the other. The marketing team would be wise to use the architecture as a tool in differentiating the product.
Of equal importance:
- It would increase the value of the property and, as a result, allow the club to borrow more, under more favorable conditions in times of need.
- I’d also propose that this renovation adds a few thousand regular seats, preferably as few “nosebleeds” as possible.
- When there are no games scheduled, the suites can be rented, creating even more revenue.
- I’d like to see more plants on the playing field and around the stadium, as well as solar panels, with respect to the Camp Nou aesthetics.
Rosell’s business ties to Qatar are deep and obvious, which makes an excellent opportunity to take advantage of these relationships, and lease one box to the Al Thani family, their friends and the Qatari business elite. Rest assured that rich people, Catalans or not, are more concerned about own vanity then the plebs’ opinion.
The Club also needs to identify markets it wants to penetrate, and the Middle and Far East would be a good direction in which to look. Also India and Brazil, with China soon to follow. These are developing countries in which, 5-10 years from now, the middle class, and more importantly the disposable income of that group, is going to experience significant growth, and the Club needs to position itself to reap the benefits. Senyor Rosell’s business connections in Brazil from his time as a Nike executive, should come in handy.
The U.S. Market
Other commenters suggested that the club should look to increase its presence in the United States, but two things are vital to consider:
- Football is a niche sport
- Majority of the fans are immigrants, a sizable group. More important than the sheer numbers is purchasing power. Affluent fans in the U.S. are predominately white, and of German or Irish descent. As such, particularly with English as a first or second language, they lean heavily toward the English Premier League.
Coached by the mainstream media to put a premium on the perceived level of “toughness” and athleticism, the aforementioned fans are likely to shy away from Spanish speaking “divers.” Keeping in mind the fans’ mind set and level of knowledge about the game, it’s difficult to expect the average fan to make an effort and try to understand and appreciate what a team like Barca is doing. He, or she, will simply go for hype and physical ability.
The key is the preference of the affluent customers. Broadcasters and promoters are simply vying for the money, looking to increase sales and profits. Educating fans is not high on their priority list.
UEFA Champions League
In case some of you failed to notice, there was a match in London last Wednesday. Much has been said here in its aftermath.
Factoring in all the circumstances, February for one, I am satisfied with the performance. Only a fool would have his team peaking this early. Am I satisfied with the result? Not so much. What matters most is that The Team created plenty of goal-scoring opportunities.
It is one thing to list the referee’s decisions as a main reason for the poor result. That is something small clubs and small people do. It is another thing to be objective in assessing the job that the officiating crew performed, and how much of an impact on the outcome those decisions had.
The questionable situations were Messi’s disallowed goal, the grab/shove on Pedro by the last defender in the box and a handball (or two). Even after we take into an account how fast the events are happening at that level of competition, it is worrisome that not 2, not 1 but zero (0) out of the 4 went ‘our’ away. That’s hard to swallow.
Yes, the team benefited greatly from Mr. Øvrebø’s mistakes two years ago at Stamford Bridge. However, the blatant robbery we were subjected to a year ago against Inter is more than enough to offset it and then some. It would be wrong to see the majority of 50-50 calls going against us as an acceptable pattern of behavior.
On a side note, the developments leading to Arsenal’s first goal are very interesting.
- Clichy made a perfectly weighted one touch pass…with his weaker foot.
- Valdes made a mental mistake, the kind that is rare for him.
- Van Persie’s shot carried a low probability in terms of both decision making, and producing a quality shot
It is exciting how all three events aligned themselves in a perfect manner to yield a goal.
The most important thing to take from this game is that there are no impact players to come off the bench in a high stakes game. A player like Keita is more damage control than anything else. A punt if you will. The Team needs more depth. This is the second year in a row than we have had to patch things together on the left side. Including the Champions League Final in Rome, this makes an alarming number of times on the biggest of stages, that the team has been forced to improvise.
Two roads are there to be taken:
- If Pep keeps insisting on a short roster, the bench needs to be upgraded. Instead of having players like Bojan, Maxwell and Keita, our options need to be more along the lines of Forlan/older experienced striker, Bastos/Clichy/Coentrao and Fabregas/developed Thiago on the bench next to Affelay (who has the potential to be an impact player).
- Increase the roster size with Canteranos and players who are able to make a difference in a less-spectacular manner (set pieces, free kicks and long distance shots).
This is where the suggested salary reductions coupled with better amortization management come into play. The money saved will make necessary roster improvements easier.
It is also necessary for the team to improve away from home. The games in which we suffered most this season were against Copenhagen, Athletic and now Arsenal. The thing in common for all 3? An early onslaught in which the home team pressed hard and ‘took control’ of the game as well as in the first 15′ (or so) of the second half and toward the end. This is inexcusable.
It would be wise in the future for the coaching staff to:
a. Better prepare our players mentally, whoever the starters are, for the early onslaught. It goes without saying how vital is for our game plan not to allow a goal early on.
b. Devise ways to counter the effect.
- Macro: A different, more conservative formation until the game settles to the pace more favorable to ‘our’ game plan.
- Micro: Deliberate hard tackling and consequent lengthy delays to curb the home team’s early enthusiasm.
c. Increase the offensive threat coming from the left side of the field, the LB position in particular. Maxwell is simply not a satisfactory option for a club of our stature. His lack of pace and dribbling ability (he might be fast running a straight line but in the game and with the ball that clearly is not the case), high percentage of lateral and backward passes and his inferior upper body strength, make him a weak option.
Barcelona 2 – 1 Athletic Bilbao
“I laugh at the idea that (Barcelona) is in a crisis,” said Bilbao coach Joaquin Caparros.
Far from being a neutral spectator, I thoroughly enjoyed the game, about as much as the home Copa del Rey game against Betis.
- Min 37th, Llorente jumped above two defenders and made a very dangerous shot. To put it in context, while outnumbered in the box, a sole Bilbao player near the end line made a mediocre (ball was moving too slow) cross. Not a promising situation, that almost ended up in a goal. Out of nothing. This is precisely the weapon we are so desperately lacking against teams sitting deep, or pesky hosts.
- The penalty, clear as a whistle, happened because Abidal doesn’t trust his right foot. Watch him twist his body awkwardly to use his left foot instead of making a simple pass with the inside of his right foot. It’s the same disease Xavi is suffering from; Messi and Villa to a lesser extent.
- Most of the crosses Alves hit were terrible, with too much arch, too slow and too far ahead or behind the target.
- For our first goal, Xavi is heading to the left and in the background you can see Busquets signaling him that Alves had started the move. I am fairly certain the play was ‘scripted’. Villa scored on instinct rather than being hampered by thinking too much, welcome progress compared to his decision making a couple of months ago.
Tom_Johnson is studying finance at an US institution.