Clubs Use Academies To Cash In On Growth Of Football In United States
As the U.S. appetite for football grows, it has "not gone unnoticed by top European clubs," which are trying to capitalize financially, according to the AP. The likes of Barcelona, Liverpool and Arsenal have long sent coaches to work at U.S. summer camps, but now some are opening year-round U.S. academies "aimed at finding new talent while also expanding their fan bases and revenue opportunities in the states." Later this month, Barcelona "will open FCB Escola Florida," its first permanent U.S. academy, in Fort Lauderdale. Argentina’s Boca Juniors and Everton "are already operating in New York and Connecticut, respectively." The expansion of such programs "is part of a bigger trend, as major international clubs try to grow their brands" in the U.S. "to battle for the hearts and pocketbooks of Americans today and in decades to come." Building an int'l fan base "is becoming important for the top clubs, who derive a large chunk of their revenue from overseas broadcasting and merchandising." England’s University of Coventry sports economist Simon Chadwick said, "If you can engage kids when they are young, then they will stay with you for the rest of their lives." When teams started opening schools around the world back in the '90s, "their early impulse was to scout and develop players." Simon Kuper, the author of several books on the economics of sports, said that now their main goal "is to build their brand." Marcel Bombonato, the managing director of Kaptiva Sports, official partner of FC Barcelona in the U.S., said that "scouting is one of the goals." But beyond teaching football, "the club wants to convert children into Barcelona fans" (AP, 8/27).