Tuesday, June 25, 2024
spot_img

How Real Madrid use stadium to remain elite: Taylor Swift tour, shrewd Florentino Perez, Kylian Mbappe

If events proceed as expected at Wembley on Saturday, then Real Madrid will be champions of Europe for the 15th time, a second Champions League title lifted in three years. The promise of more to come is apparent in Carlo Ancelotti’s vibrant young team.

And yet for many in the Spanish capital this week is all about the eras of Red, Speak Now and Evermore rather than Jude Bellingham and Vinicius Junior. An estimated 120,000 fans will flock the Santiago Bernabeu this week to see Taylor Swift, the biggest football club in the world playing host to the most lucrative concert tour in history. It is the sort of union that Madrid hope will never go out of style.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the cash registers of the newly refurbished ground will ring out over a three-and-a-half-hour show as Swifties stock up on merch, drinks and snacks. Analysis by Barclays said that a quarter of fans would be travelling to a different city to see the world’s biggest pop star, one in five traveling across country. The average concertgoer on the U.S. leg of the Eras Tour was said to have spent over $1,300 on a night from their wildest dreams. When fans do the same in Madrid, experts estimate that around $4 million could be earned by the hosts, although in this particular case, not all that money would go to the club.

This had been Florentino Perez’s vision all along when, in 2010, he announced plans to renovate Madrid’s home of the past 63 years. Nine years later when work began he was promising¬† “a great avant-garde and universal icon.” The Santiago Bernabeu would be “a modern stadium, with maximum comfort and safety, with state-of-the-art technology, where fans can experience unique sensations and also be a new and important source of income for the club.”

That last line was critical. A ground that had packed in nearly 130,000 in the 1950s would clip its capacity down to 80,000 but there would be more room for VIP bars, restaurants and premium seats. A stadium used infrequently for football matches — even when Madrid were making deep Champions League runs — is now playing host to its first international concerts in a decade. Swift’s two-night stand will be followed by eight more shows this summer, including Karol G’s first four nights in Spain since her emergence as one of the biggest artists in the world. Next year, Spain’s first regular season NFL game will take place at the Santiago Bernabeu, an even greater coup for Los Merengues given that they beat local rivals Atletico Madrid to the prize.

Not bad for a club that is already rated the most valuable brand in world football, whose 2023 revenue leaped by 16 percent, topping $900 million to make them the richest in the sport. All without feeling the full financial force of the new Bernabeu.

“We’re not even seeing the full impact of the stadium on the balance sheet yet,” said Chris Wood, assistant director in Deloitte’s Sports Business Group. “These clubs are now looking at their stadia as assets they can use year-round, not just on those home matchdays: getting people in to drive F1 cars, see concerts, visit museums, all these things that turn your stadium into more than just a football ground, more of a year-round attraction.”

The money generated by the Bernabeu will have to be shared. A $380 million deal with Sixth Street and Legends in 2022 gave the latter company the right to host events at the ground and saw the two parties gain 30 percent of new profits (excluding season ticket sales) at the ground for 20 years. If this has something of the look of the sort of levers Barcelona were pulling two summers ago, it is worth noting that a greater proportion of the cash injection that came Real Madrid’s way was used for infrastructure. A 21st-century stadium is a far better long-term revenue driver than Robert Lewandowski.

Unlike their great rivals, Madrid came out of the COVID-19 woods relatively unscathed. They had gotten out of the Cristiano Ronaldo business at an opportune moment and for many years a squad of serial European champions only required investment on the fringes. Rebalancing a squad around Vinicius and Rodrygo, among other young talents, required significant fees but altogether lower wages. Even as more and more young talent has been snapped up, Perez has kept a close eye on the purse strings. According to analysis by Swiss Ramble, Madrid’s 49 percent wages-to-turnover ratio is the best in La Liga. They ought to have no issue acing UEFA’s squad cost regime.

For all the intriguing questions about where Kylian Mbappe might fit into Madrid on the pitch, the answer on the balance sheet is altogether more straightforward. Quite snuggly. Sources view it as unlikely that the club will feel compelled to make a big sale this summer to tidy up the books though the cases of Casemiro and Raphael Varane serve as a reminder that there is always a cold-eyed clarity at the Bernabeu. If someone wants to offer silly money for high-earning veterans then Madrid heads will rule over their hearts. 

Their homegrown assets are dealt with in a similarly robust way. Only one player who might reasonably be termed homegrown has netted Barcelona over $30 million, Cesc Fabregas when he went to Chelsea in 2014, three years after his boyhood club had paid a similar fee to bring him home from Arsenal. Madrid, meanwhile, continue to drive big money either from academy graduates such as Achraf Hakimi, Marcos Llorente and Sergio Reguilon or for players they picked up in their formative years and moved on for big money: Martin Odegaard and Varane being two of the most notable.

Perez learned lessons from the profligacy of his first Galactico era when the super team that culminated with David Beckham’s arrival in 2003 barely got to know each other before they passed into post-prime. When big money has been spent it has been on players whose prime years are ahead of them. Committing the best part of $150 million to Bellingham seems rather shrewd if year one of what might be a decade’s reign at the summit of world football is anything to go by.

Madrid exploit the lure they hold perhaps better than anyone else. This summer Bayern Munich will be over a barrel, a situation they know all too well from four years ago with David Alaba. Do they sell Alphonso Davies to the Spanish champions for whatever they can get or hold on for the final year of his contract, hoping to get an extension but running the risk of losing him to Madrid for nothing? Outside the Premier League, even clubs that once saw themselves as near equals to the 14-time European champions seem incapable of much resistance.

Swift and Madrid, then, might be a perfect match for each other. They have moved with the times more adeptly than many contemporaries who could not quite make success stick. Both exist at a level of renown and commercial muscle as to unmoor them from the industry that they are figureheads for. And given their sheer revenue-generating power only appears to be growing, it is hard to shake the sense that their imperial era has only just begun.

Related articles

Share article

Latest articles

Newsletter

Subscribe to stay updated.