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SBD Global/September 26, 2013/International Football

FC Barcelona Economic VP Javier Faus Discusses Club's Finances, Travel Plans

During a business trip to N.Y. this week, FC Barcelona Economic VP Javier Faus sat down for an interview with SportsBusiness Journal reporter Christopher Botta. Faus, a Spaniard who earned his Masters in Int'l Law at Georgetown, spoke bluntly about the club’s economics.

Q: Are you conducting any FC Barcelona business while in New York?
Faus: I have one meeting with our agency, CAA, on new business. There is little inventory left at our stadium and, of course, there is no space left for sponsorship of our shirts. So we’re opening a concept of having regional partners. We’ll have Barcelona partners just for the U.S. or just for the Middle East or wherever. I believe the concept will work very well because our brand equity is very strong.

Q: You said last year that the club was going to be careful with its budget in order to lower your debt. Where does that stand now?
Faus: We made approximately €35 million last year -- about $50 million. We spent about €465 million and made €500 million. We still have a debt of about €300 million. In 2010, the debt was €440 million. Our plan is to take it down to €150 million in the next two years. We still need to make money to strengthen our accounts.

Q: A major revenue stream for Barcelona is merchandizing internationally.
Faus: We are the No. 1 brand among soccer clubs in the U.S. in merchandizing. Manchester United had been No. 1 for many, many years, but we have been tops for the last three years -- ahead of ManU and Real Madrid, which are second and third.

Q: Does the club have any plans to play in the U.S. in the near future?
Faus: Yes, we do. We were last here in 2011. Next summer, we will probably be either here or in China. If we go to China in 2014, we’ll be here in 2015. New York and Los Angeles are two very important markets to us.

Q: How is that decision made? Do the coach and football personnel suggest where they would like to train in preparation for the next season?
Faus: No. That decision is made purely from a marketing point-of-view. Out of respect to the football staff and players, we try to keep our trips as brief as possible. We know that their best training is done at our home base.

Q: What is the status of FC Barcelona’s youth football camps in the U.S.? There was some promotion for them in places like N.Y., Boston and Florida last year, but not as much this past summer.
Faus: That’s something we’re taking a closer look at. We closed some of the camps because we were not completely satisfied by how they were run. We need to be very, very careful about this. Barcelona is not McDonald’s -- you can’t just open a Barcelona camp with our name by paying a royalty. We are going to have fewer camps and make them of the highest quality.

Q: Is it important for La Liga to have more competitive rivals to you and Real Madrid? The league is so top-heavy, with either Real Madrid and Barcelona winning the title every year since '04-05.
Faus: Yes, I like would to see that. But that is easier to say than to do. Both Real Madrid and our club make about €500 million in revenue every year, and the next highest clubs bring in about €120-€130 million.

Q: Are you maxed out when it comes to revenue opportunities at your stadium, Camp Nou?
Faus: We cannot make the stadium any bigger as it is currently constructed. Our options are to completely re-do it, or build an entirely new stadium. That decision will be made by the club’s board members at some point in the next year. The stadium was built in 1957. We could use a lot more VIP hospitality areas.

Q: Yet your ticket prices are among the lowest of European football clubs.
Faus: We have a stadium that seats about 100,000, and 85,000 are longtime season ticketholders -- many have been with us for over 30 or 40 years, through the good times and bad times. Our policy is to keep our ticket prices at a reasonable level and try to find revenue through other sources like sponsorship and television rights. We want our stadium full, as it has been for the last 15 years.
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