Although on Monday we put context to the situation of FC Barcelona with its way to the present, today it is time to observe its surroundings. Data (in absolute values) lose considerable value if they cannot be compared with a reference or (at least) a similar one.
That’s why I’d like to share with you a conversation I had with my friend David Whitworth who, as he says about himself on LinkedIn, is a Freelance Sports and Travel Writer who is dedicated, determined, disciplined, and driven.
With experience in Radio and TV broadcasting, David works for various Magazine and Online publications in Spain and North America and, reporting on and off camera with La Liga International productions, the official Spanish broadcaster of the Spanish football league and, Real Betis.
The comparison with Betis can be valued from different points of view, on the one hand, Real Betis Balompié is not only a football club but a community that transcends sports. A fact that recalls Barça’s motto, More than a club.
The green-and-white club is also the only one (along with Barça) that has all the teams in its sections (Futsal, Women’s Football, Football, and Basketball) in the highest category.
Through different actions, Betis has become a clear example of how marketing should be done in the soccer sector.
Good afternoon David, how are you despite the moments we spent?
It has been a difficult time for all of us but I have spent the past three months working hard on writing articles and doing broadcast work including Betis TV, Radio Betis, and a radio station in Ghana discussing the return of La Liga.
I’d like to begin by commenting on the announcement that the club made about the Andalusia Sports Award 2019 received for its multidisciplinary management. What has led the club to achieve it?
It is a wonderful achievement for Real Betis and it is gratifying the club has been recognized for their work in saving the basketball team and providing the city with a team to be proud of. Much like the progress of the Woman’s team too, who have participated in the first division for the past four seasons. Real Betis are, with Barcelona, the only club in Spain to have a team involved at the top tier of both men’s and women’s football, basketball, and Futsal. It is a testament to all the work being done behind the scenes through being forward-thinking, having the ambition to take on these challenges, and a drive to excel at all sports under the Real Betis umbrella.
I would like to remind you that FC Barcelona was awarded last October with the Data Intelligence award in the VI edition of the Digital Leadership awards promoted by the entity CIONET Iberoamérica, thanks (as reported by the club) to the projects commissioned by the Area of Information Technologies together with the Area of Sports Methodology, in which the style of game and the form of training of the Barça are distilled to transfer it to data and thus to be able to make a continuous monitoring of the evolution of players and optimize their potential.
However, many fans expressed their feeling that the club operates as a money machine rather than a sports club. Is that right?
I disagree as first and foremost, Real Betis lives for the supporters and has their best interest at heart. In recent years, the club has made great strides off the field to maximum revenue both home at the Benito Villamarín and through global opportunities. Besides, the club has modernized greatly over the past five years but the club still retains the supporters ’interest as paramount, as it should be. Progress has been signed off the field and now we need to translate that on the field too.
In many of the debates that have taken place in recent weeks, one point (of the economic debates) has stood out above the others, the issuance of bonds and whether they will advocate (or not for the club to become a Sports Corporation). We will discuss this this weekend.
Those questions were important to get into the subject I wanted to discuss further, social networks. As it is well pointed out in a Reasonwhy article «Betis is much more than soccer, it is an essential part of béticos’ life»
Absolutely. Betis supporters live their lives and follow their team like no other – it is a style of life and a passion that goes beyond the pitch. Betis is a family and a feeling which unites the Béticos in unwavering support and loyalty to the Green and White colors. In terms of social media, Betis have been mindful of this and has produced a successful social media platform to satisfy the high demands, and rightly so, of our supporters.
In Monday's article, we already discussed the influence of Barça beyond the limits of the Camp Nou, and the Ciutat Esportiva, not only for its members, but for the whole of Catalonia: 1.5% of GDP in Catalonia, most visited museums …
Many are the days that, because of a challenge, an interview, or a joke, supporters abandon stress, routine, and worries in favor of the club. Is this the club’s great bet, considering that it is owned by 14,000 fans?
Our supporters will always be the heartbeat of the club and that is being proved now despite the lack of being able to attend the matches. Real Betis supporters will always be loyal to the colors as it gives them belonging and a family to be a part of. The supporter ownership highlights this as Betis is for “Los Béticos”, pure and simple. In times of despair, the club acts as a beacon of hope to fill our supporters with as much joy as possible. They can forget their worries and gain strength from supporting Betis. Unfortunately, we are going through a difficult and disappointing season, but knowing Betis supporters, their loyalty will aid the club and vice versa.
Barça has around 170,000 members worldwide, and the philosophy has always been to be part of the day-to-day running of the club. From Espai Barça to Barça Corporate, the club is constantly looking to reinvent itself to get closer to its people.
What part of the fault does Joaquin have in all this? And José Antonio Peinado? Beyond them, what is the real secret?
Joaquín is the captain, leader, emblem, and perfect ambassador for the club. He is Betis and Betis is Joaquín and the way he connects the club is awe-inspiring. He has an aura and a connection through his pure passion, love, and feeling for the club which is clear when you speak with him. His personality, character, and that famous smile mean that he has that special and endearing connection with the Betis supporters. Also, with social media, that can be enhanced, which has been shown by the success of any material relating to Joaquín.
My colleague José Antonio Peinado has become an important figure in the club. He started on Radio Betis and has now progressed through the ranks to become head of social content. I have known him for many years and his creativity and forward-thinking make him perfect for the job he is doing now. Thanks to him and his great team, the club has made great strides in the social media world. Real Betis is visibly one of the most followed and supported clubs in La Liga in terms of interactions and content. The key apart from that has been to give the fans what they want in the most original, informative, and when necessary, fun way possible.
FC Barcelona closed 2020 as the sports entity with the most interactions on social networks. For the sixth year in a row, it garnered more likes, comments and content shares, totaling $ 1.603 billion, according to Blinkfire data. This leading position in 2020 is based on leadership on Instagram, Twitter, Youtube and Tik Tok, where no team surpasses Barça figures; only on Facebook, Barça does not occupy the number 1 position.
As for references, obviously Messi is the number 1, but if we talk about social media we have to talk about the whole team, both players and digital experts (with Aviv Levy Shoshan and Georgina Léger as the most visible faces)
However, not everything is a joke. The club also has its television and radio channel, where it reports all its movements to the béticos. How important is this sector?
The role Betis TV and Radio Betis play are vital to communicating to our supporters effectively the latest news, reviews, and interviews linked to the club. Our supporters can interact with the club and its players like never before due to tremendous access and insights.
In terms of the media department, it has grown significantly since its inception through various bespoke platforms. Crucially, Betis supporters from around the world can be kept up to date thanks to the service Betis TV and Radio Betis provide. The staff is all hugely passionate supporters who want the best for the club so supporters cannot doubt the motivation to succeed. I know from the Radio program of Los Martes a Europa which I appear on, we work tirelessly to inform, educate and entertain our listeners about what is happening throughout the European Leagues through our European program.
Barça created Barça TV in 1999, and since 2008 it has been broadcasting on DTT in Catalonia.
Investigating, I’ve found pleasant surprises. On one hand, the seriousness and rectitude with which the club deals with all graphic aspects.
The work done by the graphics department is very impressive and on the level of what Betis supporters want. Betis TV produces a sophisticated and professional broadcast through a diverse range of programs to cater to all supporters tastes
On the other hand, the ability you have to squeeze all your resources. Well, it has taken advantage of its large stadium to host large concerts or its commitment to close deals with large ones. What else is left for the club?
The club has maximized its potentials with the stadium to become a purpose-built facility away from football. As you rightly say, the club accommodates important concerts and also important matches such as Spain vs England in the UEFA Nations League and the Copa del Rey final of last year. Like all factors of life, there is always room for improvement and one cannot be stagnant. Therefore, the club will find ways of improving to keep progressing in the short, mid, and long-term.
Following the club’s situation (at the debt level), it is normal for management to be criticized, but the club (in recent years) has not stopped innovating and looking for new avenues of income. From new sponsors to the launch of Barça TV +.
Nevertheless, the last great project has been the entrance to e-sports, especially since the agreement with Cream Sports. How far will this go?
In terms of esports for Betis, the sky is the limit. Nowadays, the club is at the forefront of new technology. Cream Sports is another demonstration of cutting-edge development. This new agreement will give Betis more visibility and learn from the experience and know-how through the partnership with Cream Esports. This visibility in being in prestigious tournaments such as Fifa, Fortnite, and League of Legends Champions will aid the team’s development. Real Betis have had an e-sports team since December 2016 but this landmark agreement will be a vital tool to propel the club into the online sports category.
In recent years, the popularity of the sport has grown exponentially. One can look at the tournament held by La Liga during the lockdown, which included our own Borja Iglesias, to see the growing interest in this sector of sport. I believe it will go from strength to strength.
Barça is not yet present in the world of sports, but all the candidates have projects to enter the sector in their program. It will be interesting to see what the future holds but, for now, it promises.
This conversation took place in the pre-covid era (well, in its infancy, when no one expected this to take that long…). So a couple of days ago I asked him to put us in context, how things had changed and in what situation a club is constantly expanding now.
What has Covid changed in the day-to-day of the club? How much has not having an audience in the stadiums affected (especially financially)?
Only staff is allowed in the stadium and with access through the parking area apart from match days with the players entering the stadium entrance. There is strict social distancing in the offices and media department.
Certainly missing the supporters has been a devastating effect on the matchday experience missing the key element of what football is about. The lack of atmosphere has meant matches are not as high quality as in the past.
In terms of financially, it has had a huge effect on the clubs’ resources, as all clubs. It has meant making new signings with a zero transfer fee and looking for future free transfers, such as Rui Silva. The club had to sell a player (Tonny Sanabria) to alleviate the financial strain, which we use the English idiom ‘to cut our cloth’.
What can we expect? How much has the club’s margin of action been reduced?
The short-term future is similarly bleak with clubs, in general, having to be prudent and imaginative with their finances until the situation improves.
In terms of on the field, Real Betis have played very well to be in the race for the Europa League place. The start of the season was very impressive before the team lost its way. But since the turn of the year, the team has returned to the team at the start and is in great form. That is much credit to Manuel Pellegrini and his staff as now the club has 25 footballers all playing to their potential and hungry to succeed. We have no divine right to be in Europe next season but we are challenging with hard work, humility, and togetherness. Those values mean that we are giving ourselves every chance to be fighting for a European place next season.
Barça starts (or started from this point before the pandemic) from the top positions in each and every one of the different areas we can imagine.
Obviously, the results Barça now presents are not at all good, but it should not be a drama either. Many clubs have similar situations. Barça has also been (and continues to be) a benchmark in both the football and business sectors. He still retains a lot of credibility for everything he has achieved, and there is a wide margin for improvement, although not for action.
Continuity in the Champions League this season is (except for one catastrophe) virtually assured, so that part of the revenue from television rights, etc. is guaranteed. On the other hand, many players (especially the younger ones) have a lot of room for growth and improvement.
So, as one who knows a lot about it would say: Al loro ¡que no estamos tan mal!