specials | 2015-06-13
Grup 14 talks with Jordi Farré - Part Two
Qatar, Nike, foreign members, the shirt and defending the club against media outlets
Jordi Farré, a Barcelona-based businessman, was the first to confirm his interest to run for FC Barcelona president after ex-President Bartomeu called for elections in January. Now that the current board has resigned and with elections taking place on July 18, Grup 14 sat down with Farré to talk about the club’s situation, the future of the institution, his sporting and economical project, possible signings and much more.
In this in-depth interview you will find answers to many of the questions and concerns you submitted in the community. You can read the first part here.
Let's continue with your economic planning for the club, and your opinion on the Qatar agreement.
Well, I think that, in the end, the Qatar issue is very clear: Qatar is not in our plans. We believe that Barça’s values – work, effort, and humility – and Catalonia aren't represented by Qatar, which is why we think it shouldn’t be on Barça’s shirt.
Regarding the political subject in Qatar, or social subject, everyone knows about work conditions in Qatar, how the Islamic State is being financed, there’s even a resolution in the European Union. That’s why I think that we shouldn’t waste even a second talking about Qatar. It’s not in our plans. We’ll have to take a look at the contracts. I’m sure that if we don’t want to work with Qatar, they will not want to work with us either; which is why, if contracts are still ongoing, we will surely come to an agreement to end them.
About the economic subject of the club, in the end, we should be imaginative. In my company, I have to keep thinking on how to raise income, how to cut expenses, but there’s an important topic: a few months ago there were some claims that FC Barcelona wanted to manufacture our own sports clothing line. What do we need Nike for?
Yes, the people, when they buy a shirt, they buy Barça’s shirt and buy Barça’s crest. They don’t buy Nike’s logo. Catalonia has always been a country of textile industries, we know very well how to manufacture shirts in Catalonia. What doesn’t make sense is when they sell you a brand [like Nike], how Barça has done so far.
The member of our team who will handle the economic part is a man that’s used to managing, in his company, €900 million per year; so, he’s used to handle big budgets. And, in the end, income increases with imagination.
I think it’s funny when they say “Barça is number one in social networks.” And, in the end, it brings no money for Barcelona. Is it worth being number one if we don’t get income? That power, that empowerment we have, is it worth it? I think one of the main subjects is to make money out of social media. Why not make a worldwide BarçaTV channel? Or an approach like what Grup 14 is doing! I think we must invest to get the investment back and earn money, being imaginative.
What options does the club have for new income, new ways of sales? And, mainly, about the Internet use. Because, today, if you talk about NBA or NFL, or any of the major sports from the United States, anywhere in the world you can get a season ticket: you pick your team, and you can watch every game; and not only live, but also record it and watch as many times as you want.
In the world of football – European football, which is the best – UEFA does not offer this service, nor any of the big clubs, which is very basic. It’s only about offering the fans the chance to buy the season pass and watch every match. And I can assure you that many fans who watch Barça’s matches online, through piracy, only do it because there’s no other way, there’s no way to watch them legally. How can we do it? Must we talk with other clubs and UEFA?
In the end, we must learn from those who know best, and the exploitation of rights, of the stadium, of all of these, those who know best how it works are the Americans. You’ve said it very well. For approximately, €20 a month I can subscribe via Internet to any NFL or NBA teams, but I can’t do that with Barça. This is a problem we must fix.
Same goes for stadium exploitation: it makes no sense that when the match ends fans immediately leave the stadium. We could have an economic output from it. But that’s currently not happening. Before the match, there must be gatherings of fans, to be the meeting point of the day. When I go to an NBA game, I can stay there all day. I went to watch rugby, the 6 Nations, and there were music concerts. I personally don’t like beer, but you should be able to drink beer during a match. Relating the fact of drinking one beer to being drunk is an exaggeration. I don’t drink because I don’t like it, but it is something social. Barça and football are social things, and we must turn them into something social, make Barça’s field into a meeting point for all of the fans.
The other day, I was thinking about how to make use of Barcelona’s facilities on weekdays. Now, for example, the whole fitness subject is in. How much would it cost to build a gym where, daily, we could find ourselves, Barça members, in the field and play sports ourselves? What could be better than that? We must be imaginative when the time comes to create new ways to make money.
I, honestly, can’t believe this economic management at Barça. You say “If we take Qatar out…” But I’m sure that, even with Qatar, Barça’s not in such a difficult economic situation as they’re selling it to us. When we get to know more details and explain them, it will not be like they’re telling us right now.
You’ve already spoken about Nike and the option to manufacture the shirts here in Catalonia. Meanwhile, the last board hasn’t supported the independence movement. They made the Senyera (Catalan flag) shirt, but haven’t used it since September.
There’s a bigger problem than that: in most of the away matches, Barça hasn’t played with Barça’s Blaugrana shirt. Which is unbelievable. I mean, Barça’s shirt, and we haven’t used it. What’s the point of playing against Espanyol with a shirt color that’s not Barcelona’s? It’s because we don’t sell all of the commercial assets, but, in exchange, we don’t receive all the income. Nike receives a big portion.
With the project of our own brand, we’d play with any shirt we want. The other day watching football, I felt bad, because I had a boy next to me with Barça’s shirt for next season and it was horrible; it looked like everything but a Barcelona shirt. The shirt, as a shirt, is very nice; but the club’s home kit is not Barça’s home kit anymore.
We know which colors are Barça’s. And we just can’t sell the shirt to mostly benefit a business that isn’t even ours. Unbelievable!
We now have the horizontal stripes in our shirt.
Yes, it's pretty, but it looks like a rugby shirt. I thought it was perfect for Barça’s rugby team, but Barça’s shirt has vertical stripes! And, at least, if you sell yourself to a commercial idea, exploit the business. But what you can’t do is sell yourself to the idea and not exploit the business.
About contracts and economy, you’ve already talked about Nike, but, what do you think about the contract we had with Mediapro and the new one that was signed with Telefonica?
Truth is, we don't have enough information. What’s certain is that there’s a year left for all of the club’s TV rights to be negotiated collectively, with which we understand they’ve made changes because it was the best for Futbol Club Barcelona, but we don’t know yet. Anyway, I would have liked to work more with a Catalonian company than with a Spanish one; but we think there’s a hidden meaning behind that, like Qatar being behind it, with interests in Telefonica, because, if not, we don’t understand the sudden change.
What do you think about the shirt sponsorship as a concept?
Look, I think that income from the shirt is important, but I also think you can make a shirt that’s social and, at the same time, economically solvent. I think a Catalonian sponsor can be interesting: we should talk with all of Catalonia’s entities – tourism offices, the Generalitat... We’re in a moment in which the country’s taking a very important decision, and I think Barça must join the country in such decisions.
What I can assure you is that Qatar won’t be the shirt sponsor. Even if it’s true that we’ve also spoken with commercial companies and we could have very attractive offers for the shirt. We might be speaking of sums around €50 or €60 million, without even being Barça’s President – just by contacts we have and talking with advertising companies. We think that Barça’s shirt must be exploited better, be it socially or economically. But we could mix them, too.
Our attention has been drawn by what Bayern Munich and, in a lesser way, Manchester City, Manchester United, Roma and Real Madrid are doing, looking for new ways to increase income. What do you think the club can do, considering the positive and negative examples of management in European football?
To begin with, nothing has been done lately. I mean, we think the only thing that has been done is continue with what we had, they’ve put sponsors on the shirt and nothing more. An important axis in our project is to be the creator of our own brand: it’s a way to take an important leap in income. There are many other valuable subjects, such as economically exploiting the stadium and social networks.
The brand – if you sell the shirt – has to come with greater income. You have the best player in the world, the second best and I would say the third best too, and you collect like you’re the fifth, the sixth or the seventh. Something’s failing here. Barça’s shirt was clean, and was a shirt you could exploit well, with values that go behind it, and with a country behind it. I believe very few things have been done to improve the club’s economy.
We’ve received many questions from our social media followers and Grup 14 members about the current policies of the club about not accepting foreign members. You need the commitment carnet for three years, and go to Barcelona once a year to renew it. There are many obstacles for foreign members to keep it.
When I’m President, you’ll be able to be a member. Barça is the club of all. What sense does it make if someone who wants to be a member can’t? The bigger the merrier, and to become bigger, it’s very important to have foreign members. And, mainly, I want you to be a member to participate in the club’s social life, because we’ll allow absentee voting. We must find the way to enable it. It's not 2015 if you still have to visit Catalonia to vote personally. One of the most important things in our program is to implement voting by mail, be it electronic or physical mail.
Right now we have more members than seats at the Camp Nou.
That's very simple: the member that currently owns a season pass will own it as long as he wants. It’s obvious that we’ll respect everyone that wants to keep their season pass, when the stadium reforms are done it must be opened to new members.
We think that the “Seient Lliure” (free entry) must be done in a smart way. There must be packages so that the people who aren’t season-pass holders can be for a few days. Another subject that ends with us is reselling. I commit, from now on, to end reselling, because, if you want, you can end it. It can’t be like that Barça B home match against Betis, there were more people reselling tickets that actually inside the stadium. That is intolerable!
Since Rosell’s Board modified the new member entry policy, the total number of members became stagnant and even decreased. Last census revealed we have nearly 140,000 members. What do you plan to do to increase the number of members and for Barça to turn into the club with most members in the world?
Once, I said: “I’d like Barcelona to reach a million members.” We must respect those who currently own a season pass, but we must make possible that anyone who wants to become a member is able to do so too, because among other things, it’s a source of income. And, also, as a member, you must have benefits. When you buy sports apparel you get a great discount; that if you come to Barcelona on vacation, you can buy tickets. First step to solve the problem is wanting to fix it.
To this day they have not wanted to solve it. Sandro Rosell’s explanations, talking about Chinese and Russian people, didn’t convince me at all. If I see half-a-million Russians become members, we’ll study why. Because maybe what we have to do is to build a team in Saint Petersburg as a franchise of Barça. Every single person who wants to be a part of Barça must be able to.
About other leagues, we have the Bundesliga’s example. It is very well managed and all of its clubs have a stable financial health. But what catches our attention are the home matches: Bayern sells all of the Allianz Arena tickets before the season even starts. What do you think of this? What can we do to use the biggest stadium in Europe better?
There are many people in Barcelona – and out of Barcelona – who want to watch football, and they find it very difficult to do so. For example, Copa del Rey matches, we must build a recreation pitch: Barça is a social team. There are many handicapped people, schools and people that don’t have access to the stadium. Let’s make that easy for them! In important Champions League matches there’s nothing that needs to be done because everyone wants to go. But in certain lesser matches we must ensure that the stadium is always full.
The stadium must be an attraction and for that, there are always tourists, there’s always people in Barcelona willing to go. We must establish very affordable prices: you can buy a ticket for Bayern Munich for €20, If I’m not wrong. Here, attending to a Champions semifinal costs €100. I mean, football is for everyone and we must respect it.
What do you think of the idea of Barça becoming a company?
The day it becomes a company, Barcelona won’t matter to me. Personally, it’ll stop meaning anything. Barça’s a club the owners of whom are the members, and members can’t ever stop being owners. The moment the members stop being owners, I’ll be the first one to lose interest in Barça. There’s zero chance of doing that.
On communication means, there's a lot of noise about the club from media groups as Godó and Zeta, through Mundo Deportivo and Sport, for example. What do you think about them?
We’re all a part of this ‘entorno’. Cruyff defined it quite nicely: it’s formed by the members, fans, ex-players… We’re all part of the ‘entorno’ and I think the media do a great job to inform us. I don’t want to believe they have influence in social politics, I wouldn’t like to think of it that way.
Regarding the newspapers, some have talked more about our plans, some less… I hope that when the election time comes the media groups treat every candidate in the same way. I hope and wish it turns out like that, and when I talk about all the communication means, I also mean you, because I believe many people will be informed around the world because of you. I also think that all the media groups have to be equal when treating and representing the candidates. Any media that have information regarding the electoral process must publish it, as long as it’s information about the club and not personal issues.
I hope that during the elections the media treat everyone equally. And, if they don’t, I’ll feel very displeased and we’ll explain it. I always say that it’s important that we all have the same opportunities and can explain our project.
Moving on with the media, what do you think of certain shows that are made in Madrid, like “El Chiringuito de Jugones,” and of people like Pedrerol, who constantly attack our club without having any credible information? We’re worried about these kind of attacks that Barça receives from El Chiringuito or even The Daily Mail, from England, that do great harm.
As it can’t be otherwise, I believe in liberty of expression. But I’ll be the first one to defend the club if there’s any attack to the institution, the players, or the coach. To us, that famous subject of doping accusations, I think the club faced it very poorly, accepting a reconciliation pact in exchange of an economic reward. The club should have seen it through to the end, until the slanderous journalist was sentenced. The board, with all its structure, has to defend all of Barça’s assets and image very strongly.
As long as there’s false information regarding Barcelona, you’ll find us up front defending the club’s interests.
One of the things the current board has made worse is in the subject of communication, and when I say communication I don’t mean if we’ve signed a player or not. Communicating is treating the journalists and the media in an equal way, so everyone has the same information.
If they’re not informed and they want to attack, they then make up the information, and that’s against Barça’s interests. I, personally, try not to watch the shows you’ve told me about, where they don’t talk about football. Anyone there can say something and remain unpunished, where a man dares to tell the woman in front of him to wash the dishes and no one fires him for such disrespect for a fellow professional.
These kind of shows seem like an aberration and I will face them to defend the club and the players. If we win, the defense will start from the first man standing, which will be me.
Thank you very much, Jordi.
Visca el Barça!
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