In April 2018, Serie A club Associazione Sportiva Roma entered into a three-year sponsorship agreement with Qatar Airways.
It was described by the football club as “the largest the club has ever signed” though the actual financials were not made public. However, the agreement with Qatar Airways was reportedly worth €40M ($48.8M) for three seasons, according to Elvira Pollina of REUTERS.
The deal saw Qatar Airways become only the seventh shirt sponsor in Roma’s 90-year history. The first team played without a main sponsor since 2014, when the Roma Cares charity occupied the main space on the front of the club’s gameday shirts.
The deal will last until the end of the 2020-21 season, both parties announced.
Airline sponsorships are among the most valuable in sports. Having an airline as a sponsor, especially in world football, is viewed as a sign that your club is among the elite. Roma claim their deal with Qatar Airways is the largest-ever sponsorship deal signed by the club and one of the biggest ever agreed by an Italian soccer side.
Some other notable examples of clubs that have airline sponsors include Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan Arsenal, SL Benfica, Hamburg SV (Emirates Airlines); Manchester City, New York City FC, Melbourne City (Etihad Airways).
The deal became public a day before Roma’s biggest games for decades, the first leg of a Champions League semi-final against Liverpool at Anfield. The team’s shirts for that match (the secondary white shirt) were the first time the sponsorship was carried.
“We are delighted to announce this historic partnership between AS Roma and Qatar Airways, two great brands with global ambitions,” said Roma’s president Jim Pallotta.
“Today’s announcement is the result of discussions behind the scenes for more than eight months with Qatar Airways… and comes at a significant time in the club’s history, on and off the pitch.”
“With a new stadium due to begin construction late this year and the team in the Champions League semi-final for the first time for 34 years, it’s an exciting time to be a Roma fan. He added that the club would “be proud to wear the Qatar Airways name on our shirts.”
Qatar Airways’ boss, Akbar Al-Baker, said: “We are very pleased to announce this new partnership, which will see Qatar Airways become the official shirt sponsor of AS Roma through the 2020-21 season. “AS Roma is one of the most successful and well-known football clubs in the world.”
Commercial Ties Between the Countries
The deal was entered into at a time that there were increased commercial ties between Doha and Rome. For example, in October 2017, Qatar Airways purchased a 49 percent stake in private airline Meridiana, which has now been rebranded as Air Italy.
An Expanding Sports Portfolio
The sponsorship agreement with Roma was the latest in an increasing line of sporting sponsorships announced by the 100 percent state-owned Gulf airline.
The airline is also one of the shirt sleeve sponsors on Bayern Munich’s kit as well as the German giant’s official airline.
Qatar Airways also sponsors local club Al Sadd, whose captain is former Barcelona legend Xavi Hernandez, and will be a FIFA sponsor of the 2022 Qatar World Cup.
It has also ventured into other sports, including a sponsorship deal with Aussie Rules Football club, Sydney Swans.
Qatar Airways was the shirt sponsor for Barcelona — the team Roma knocked out in the 2018 Champions League quarter-finals — for three years, in a commercial agreement which ended in 2017. That deal paid Barcelona $45 million per year. For some Barcelona supporters, it proved controversial because of Qatar’s human rights record, particularly with regards to migrant labourers helping prepare for the 2022 World Cup in Doha. Qatar Airways has also been criticised for its treatment of workers, notably by the International Labour Organisation for “discrimination” against female staff. When the sponsorship agreement ended, Barcelona’s entered into its current sponsorship with the Japanese electronic commerce and online retailing company Rakuten.
More About Qatar Airways
Qatar Airways is the national airline of the State of Qatar and one of the aviation industry’s big success stories. Operations began in 1994 when the airline was a small regional carrier serving a handful of routes. The airline was re-launched in 1997 under the mandate of His Highness The Father Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who outlined a vision to turn Qatar Airways into a leading international airline with the highest standards of service and excellence.
Qatar Airways has since become one of the fastest growing carriers in the history of aviation with unprecedented expansion averaging double digit growth year on year. The airline has developed under the dynamic leadership of Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, appointed in 1997, who has been instrumental in turning Qatar Airways into an award-winning carrier and the best in the world. Under Mr. Al Baker’s stewardship, Qatar Airways has matured into a leading force in regional and global aviation, earning many admirers around the world for its excellent standards of service.
The airline operates 206 aircraft to more than 160 destinations worldwide.
La expansión de la marca Betis es una realidad, en particular a nivel internacional, pero al mismo tiempo nunca se olvidan sus raíces. | Real Betis’ expansion of its brand is a reality, but the club doesn’t forget its roots.
Club has two-year partnership with regional cheesemaker.
Anyone who has spent time in Spain knows that cheese is serious business. For that matter, all cuisine is taken seriously.
Real Betis Balompié found a way to tap into that rich culinary mindset.
While continuing to expand its brand on an international level, Real Betis is mindful of not forgetting its roots. Prior to the launch of the 2019 season, the Sevilla club added another Andalusian partner, Quesería Dehesa Dos Hermanas. Under the terms of the sponsorship, the quesería will be the official cheese provider for Real Betis for the next two years, to 2021. The artisan cheese maker will have its cheeses served in the premium sections of the Estadio Benito Villamarín and at selected Real Betis events.
Quesería Dehesa Dos Hermanas en su apuesta comercial por ser el Queso de Andalucía ha considerado al Real Betis como un equipo que ejemplifica la filosofía de la quesería, “gustar a todo el mundo y ser un modelo referente para Andalucía”.
Quesería Dehesa Dos Hermanas will also be a sponsor for the other Real Betis sports teams, including the women’s football team, as well as the Real Betis basketball and fusal teams. The company’s cheese wil be available for purchase in the stands as well as boxes at the Estadio Benito Villamarin for members (socios) and season ticket holders.
“Somos un club orgulloso de ser andaluz y para nosotros es una satisfacción unirnos a otra firma andaluza con la que nos sentimos identificados porque ha logrado el reconocimiento en casa y fuera de ella gracias a la calidad de sus productos”.
Ramón Alcarcón, Head of Commercial, Real Betis
The head of commercial at Real Betis, Ramón Alarcón, believes that the partnership is a very valuable one. “The expansion of the Betis brand is a reality. At an international level it continues to grow, but that doesn’t mean we are forgetting our roots.” he said. “We’re proud of being an Andalusian club and for us it’s rewarding to partner with another Andalusian firm with whom we identify because they have become reknowned at home and beyond for the quality of their products.”
“It is a strong commercial bet for our brand, we believe that football and Real Betis are two strong lines that will positively impact us in the market as an Andalusian brand and as the best sheep cheese manufactured in our own farm in Santa Barbara de Casa, Huelva,” said the CEO of Dehesa Dos Hermanas, Pepe Mateu.
Mateu stressed that the sponsorship exemplifies perfectly the philosophy of the cheesemaker, which has won various awards in Andalucía. “We want to be the cheese of all Andalucians, and thanks to Real Betis, with this commercial support, we will reach all the Betis fans and homes of Andalucía.” He added, “It’s a cheese to share with family, enjoy with friends and even better if it’s with a Real Betis victory!”
“Queremos ser el queso de los andaluces y andaluzas y, gracias al Real Betis Balompié, con esta fuerte apuesta comercial llegaremos a todos los aficionados béticos y a los hogares de Andalucía, porque es un queso para compartir en familia, disfrutar con amigos? y mejor todavía si es con una victoria del Real Betis”.
Pepe Mateu, Owner, Quesería Dehesa Dos Hermanas
Mateu expained that one of the company’s objectives is to position themselves as one of the best cheesemakers in Andalucía, in Spain and the World. They already have won awards as the producer of the best sheeps’ cheese in the region. (Dehesa Dos Hermanas owns a farm with more than 15,000 sheep) He added that the colours of the company, which packages its cheeses in a green box, just so happens to align well with the green and white of Betis.
BODYARMOR Sports Drink today announced a multi-year partnership with Inter Miami CF, establishing the brand as the team’s “Official Sports Drink” starting this upcoming 2020 Major League Soccer season. Details about this new agreement can be found on Inter Miami Hoy by clicking on the link below or by going to intermiamihoy.com.
“BODYARMOR is America’s new leader in sports hydration and they are a great fit for Major League Soccer – the League for a new North America,” said MLS senior VP of Business Development Carter Ladd in statement.
“BODYARMOR believes in the future of Major League Soccer and is committed to joining us in our ongoing efforts to elevate soccer’s popularity to even higher levels in North America. BODYARMOR’s rise and momentum mirrors that of MLS, and we are excited to kick off the partnership at the Leagues Cup final and look forward to working with them for many years to come.”
A premium sports drink with potassium-packed electrolytes, antioxidants and coconut water made with no artificial flavors, sweeteners and no colors from artificial sources, BODYARMOR is now the No. 2 sports drink sold in US convenience stores nationwide and on track to eclipse $700 million in retail sales by the end of 2019.
Part I: The biggest thing that will happen this off-season
Right now, fans of MLS clubs are getting ready for the coming season, the league’s 25th anniversary year. New teams like Inter Miami CF and Nashville SC are now less than 60 days away from their first real matches. The primary MLS transfer window opens on February 12th, and the European winter transfer window is now open and runs until January 31st in the UK, Spain, France, Italy and Germany, among other countries. There will be countless discussions about player signings and trades, and MLS will have its Superdraft along with other roster management as teams try to gear up for next season.
That said, the biggest story of this MLS off-season is one that soccer fans in the US and Canada are probably not paying attention to: the collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) between the MLSPA (the players union) and the league.
The CBA affects every player from every team in MLS. On January 31, the league’s existing collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) between MLS and the MLS Players Association will expire. The goal of course is to come to agreement on a new deal. In fact, both sides have been engaged in negotiations for months already. As with any negotiations between a union and management, if an agreement can’t be struck before the start of the season, the league faces the prospect of a work stoppage.
The fallout from whatever the new CBA looks like will have lasting implications for the league.
Back on December 5th, MLS commissioner Don Garber spoke to reporters following the third and final MLS Board of Governors meeting. As was the case at the SoccerEx USA 2019 Conference I attended in late November, the commissioner was questioned about the status of the negotiations.
Garber has declined to get into any specifics regarding CBA negotiations between the league and the MLS Players Association. He did, however, confirm on both occasions that the sides are currently engaged in talks and were meeting. Regarding the nature of those discussions, here’s what he had to say:
“You know, I think there’s a desire from both parties to reach an agreement. I don’t think any league or players’ union goes into a negotiation without the hope and the expectation that you’re going to reach a deal and then start the season on time. All CBA negotiations are difficult, but with us, it’s not about taking things away, it’s how do we manage collectively as a league and as a player group to be able to provide more resources in a wide variety of areas that are manageable for ownership and acceptable to the players. I’ve been through it many times before. … It’s not the most fun part of the job, but I’ve got hope and confidence that we’ll be able to reach a new deal.”
What’s The Backdrop To The Discussions?
The negotiations for a new CBA are also set against the backdrop of the exponential growth MLS has experienced since the the last CBA was executed in 2015. At that time, the league had 20 teams. MLS will begin next season with 26, with another four (Austin, Charlotte, Sacramento and Saint Louis) set to join in the following two years. MLS expansion fees are now at least $200 million. Investor/Owners are making sizable commitments to build new soccer-specific stadiums. Off the field, they are also spending large sums to build state-of-the-art training facilities. Player salaries have also risen, in part due to the implementation of targeted allocation money (“TAM”) having the effect of increasing the salary budget for each team by $4 million a year. These factors have led to the average MLS team being worth around $313 million according to Forbes, an increase of 30 % since 2017 alone.
The league now has 24 partners, and signed new deals in 2019 with Captain Morgan, Headspace and MGM Resorts International. In addition, while the next CBA is in effect, MLS will be approving a new media rights deal that is expected to be worth substantially more than what the league recrives from its existing media rights partners. This commercial growth is a factor in the CBA negotiations – the MLSPA is given full transparency into the league’s business deals. “We have made detailed proposals to the league on how to deal with that [media rights] issue,” said MLSPA executive director Bob Foose.
With the league in growth mode, a failure to agree to a new CBA could result in a work stoppage. This scenario is one which both sides wish to avoid.
Here are the main issues for the league and its players to decide.
Issues For MLSPA
The core issues for the players association heading into the 2020 season include higher wages for players, a reworking of the current free agency system that creates a more open market free agency system consistent with other North American professional sports leagues, and more charter flights for teams. The MLSPA believes that the benefits of the league’s growth and the increased investment should naturally flow in part to the players.
Take the aforementioned media rights deal for example. The existing contracts that MLS has with its national broadcast partners ESPN, Fox Sports and Univision bring MLS $90 million a year. The current deal will expire at the end of 2022, meaning a new media rights deal will be approved in the middle of any new CBA. It is expected that the next media rights deal for the 2023 season will be worth significantly more. This is a complicated topic to factor into a new CBA, but something the union is eager to do.
The issue also came up at the last negotions prior to the current CBA. Simply stated, the union seeks more free agency. In the 2015 negotiations, the players won a small amount of free agency, and as a result, under the current CBA, players who are at least 28 years old and who have played in the league at least eight years can be free agents when their contracts expire. They can also receive raises of only between 15% and 25%, depending on their salary level.
Under the current free agency rules, many players in MLS never qualify for free agency. The union wants both the age and time of service requirements to be lowered and wants the cap on salary increases removed or at least raised considerably.
Salary Budget Rules
Anyone who has studied the salary budget rules would likely agree that they are complex; one practically needs a law degree to decipher them. The MLSPA aims to have MLS’ salary budget rules simplified.
While the owners have increased player salaries during the existing CBA, which is viewed by the union as a positive, the MLSPA has always been troubled by the introduction of targeted allocation money (“TAM”) in 2015.
Indeed, it seems that TAM may be the biggest issue, and perhaps the hardest one to agree on, in the current contract negotiations. This type of allocation money is given by the league to clubs and can only be used to help cover salaries for players making between $530,000 and $1.5 million. As a result, using TAM cannot be used for the majority of MLS players, who are categorised by MLS’ salary budget rules into senior, supplemental and reserve roster ‘slots’ that have specific limits on what those players can make. According to salary data made available by the MLSPA, 37.4% of the players make annual salaries under $100,000.
The union has a completely negative view of TAM and wants the league to allow its teams greater autonomy in terms of how they build their rosters, rather than have rules dictated by league headquarters. “We should stop being a league where you design a competitive football league in a boardroom. It should be done by the people who know the game,” said Foose.
”The impact of TAM, a made-up set of restrictions done from a central office to try and dictate to all of our franchises how they build their rosters, in my estimation didn’t really add anything to this league,” Foose said. ”And it’s certainly frustrated and angered both the players association and our players.”
“In the simplest terms, TAM is silly. It’s not necessary to try and tell our front offices how to sign players; they’re perfectly capable of doing that themselves. And frankly, if they’re not, then they should suffer the consequences, and that’s the kind of accountability that we want to see happen.”
Bob Foose, Executive Director, MLSPA
The union’s argument is that simplifying the rules would lead to more of a meritocracy: players’ earnings would be a reflection of how they have performed on the pitch.
The union seeks increased spending on charter flights. At present, the vast majority of teams fly commercially, which can lead to long travel days, especially when teams are flying through multiple time zones. Teams are allowed only four discretionary charter flights a year, but there is no mandate that they have to use them. Take one case as an example:
The Philadelphia Union’s journey back and forth from Vancouver was an odyssey that lasted all day Thursday and Sunday. The Union took 10 hours to get out to Vancouver through commercial flights, while they woke up at 4:45 a.m. Pacific Time on Sunday to start a journey back to Philadelphia, via Toronto, that didn’t bring the team back home until 8 p.m. Eastern Time.
Alejandro Bedoya, who is captain and a winger on the Philadelphia Union, has been one of the players who has spoken out about the lack of charter flights in the league. Bedoya recalled how his team didn’t use a single charter flight during the regular season. According to the players association, at the end of 2018, only about half of the available charter flights were used.
Professional athletes place rigorous demands on their bodies. Being stuffed into an economy seat on a long flight can hamper a player’s physical recovery. With MLS spanning the continent across two countries, travel conditions can also increase the risk of a player being more susceptible to injury. Moreover, frequent flight delays and cancellations disrupt both training and post-game recovery.
“We’re at a time where I think we need to take the training wheels off,” Bedoya said. “The league has moved on so far.”
Bedoya said the charter flight issue is one he’s going to voice his opinion on. “I’m going to be a part of it,” Bedoya said. “I’m going to voice my opinions and what I think. We’re united. We’re having meetings here and there so that’s good. For me, this is one of the crucial things we need to get to the next level.”
The players feel very strongly about this issue. It’s difficult to imagine this being a “hill to die on” issue for the MLSPA, but Atlanta United midfielder Jeff Larentowicz said, “This is one piece of the pie for us, a very important piece, a commonsense piece, but one that we’re taking very seriously.”
“It’s unfortunate that this is discussed in a CBA context, because this isn’t a CBA issue,” Bob Foose said. “It isn’t in other sports and shouldn’t be in ours. It is an infrastructure issue and is tied to player performance.”
MLSPA Executive Director Bob Foose delivered an end-of-the-season video message on November 9, 2019. He thanked fans for their support and talked about the coming off-season, highlighting the importance of the collective bargaining agreement negotiations with MLS and explaining players’ priorities. He said he hoped that a work stoppage would not happen, but left that as a possibility.
Issues For MLS
From the league’s perspective, their primary objective is a familiar one: a level of cost certainty as it pertains to player expenses. This is something the league has effectively managed through it single-entity limited liability company structure, whereby player contracts are actually entered into between the player and the league rather than with an individual club. Furthermore, in most instances teams retain the MLS rights of players even after that player has been transferred or his contract has expired.
In addition to maintaining cost certainty with respect to player expenses, MLS also wants control over where that money goes. The introduction of TAM is evidence of this, whereby teams may spend more on players only within a specific salary range. The league maintains TAM allows teams to attract new and retain current players. They feel that TAM has been successful, and MLS wants to retain that discretionary control as to where investments are made. Whether the league could have gotten to where it is without TAM is unknown, and the league doesn’t sound as if it is ready to find out.
In December 2017, Major League Soccer announced a substantial increase in TAM, touting the influx of millions of dollars into the league’s roster spending. What’s noteworthy is that the increase was unanimously approved by the MLS Board of Governors. There is genuine debate about whether a divide is growing between owners who want to increase spending and those who want to slow down. Owners now entering the league are doing so by undertaking a considerable investment – the Charlotte bid, headed by Carolina Panthers owner and billionaire David Tepper, paid a reported $325 million entry fee, by far the most of any team in league history. Sacramento paid $200 million. This is a considerable risk and in addition to the expansion fee itself come salaries and hundreds of millions to build a training facility and stadium. Miami’s planned Freedom Park and Soccer Village will be a billion dollar investment, on top of the millions being spent on its training facility and temporary stadium thirty-five miles to the north in Fort Lauderdale.
With owners committing what can be a half a billion dollars or more before their team so much as kicks a ball, there is the expectation of seeing a return on that investment, and some believe the league must increase expenditures in its on-field product in order to drive higher revenues. But other owners are more cautious – they believe there is no proof higher spending will lead to those higher revenues. Instead, these owners would prefer to pursue “strategic growth.” What the eventual CBA looks like will tell us something about which group of owners has more influence.
“There are a variety of different areas that will be the subject of discussion as to where we should be making investments, whether it’s the senior team, whether it’s player development, whether it’s on other benefits,” MLS president and deputy commissioner Marc Abbott told ESPN. “And in the CBA what we’re seeking to do is within the limits of what we’re able to spend that we ensure that we’re allocating those expenditures in the areas that are most likely to have the most impact.”
The charter flight issue comes down to money. Don Garber has previously indicated there is room for negotiation in this area. It won’t come cheap. The biggest reason why MLS doesn’t use more charter flights comes down to cost. It has been estimated that it would cost $20 million per year for the league, and roughly $1 million per team. The cost of flying an entire team on a charter flight, plus the price of fuel, can quickly add up. Each flight could cost a team upwards of $150,000 per charter.
Will an agreement be reached or will there be a work stoppage?
Historically, the union and the league have been able to avoid a work stoppage, although the last time Major League Soccer negotiated a collective bargaining agreement with its union, both sides braced for a work stoppage just 72 hours before the 2015 season was scheduled to begin. Professional mediators were also needed to help the two sides hash out an agreement. The league wouldn’t budge from its final offer, one the union insisted it would not accept. The players voted against the offer and a strike appeared imminent. It was averted only because the union surrendered.
“The league isn’t seeking to have a work stoppage, and based on the discussions we’ve been having with the union, we don’t think they are either,” said Mark Abbott. “I think both we and the union are working in good faith to reach an agreement to extend the CBA. That being said, we certainly recognize that you can’t eliminate entirely the possibility of work stoppage and we’ve been working with our teams over the course of the last year to ensure that they’re prepared and that we’re prepared in case that happened. Again, it’s not something that we’re seeking.”
”We and our players are focused on doing everything possible to reach an agreement that’ll make sense for ownership and makes sense for the players,” Garber told The Associated Press in November.
Despite the difficult CBA negotiations, the MLSPA is confident an agreement will be reached. There are 130 players now a part of the MLSPA, representing about 20% of the league.
The MLS Players Association leadership insists players are serious and ready to strike if demands aren’t met.
“We’ve been talking about and preparing for work stoppage for two and a half years now,” Foose said. “At this point, talking about the details of what that would look like and how we would proceed, and how we would all work together, the players are very serious when they say they’re ready to do what’s best for the full player pool and the future of the [players’ association] and the league.”
Resolving or at least improving the charter flights situation for players is but one piece of a larger equation, according to the MLSPA, and there will not be an agreement if other requests by the union are shoved aside.
A strike however obviously would harm the players more than owners. After all, MLS’ billionaire owners can withstand losing revenue to a much greater degree than players can cope with missing paychecks. According to the latest data available (2018) the MLSPA has total assets of $10.5 million, a figure considered low in comparison to the other major North American sports reflection of not only how relatively young the union is. Compared that figure to the National Basketball Players Association, which has total assets of more than $200 million.
If there was a work stoppage, that $10.5 million would disappear pretty quickly. Foose pointed out that union funds are not the only resource players can tap into should there be a work stoppage. He says the players have been preparing on their own as well. “We obviously don’t have the luxury that some of the other [players’ associations] have with an extra zero in [their] resources,” Foose told ESPN. “But we certainly have plenty of money to do what needs to be done on the [players’ association] side of things.”
The union has also had multiple conversations with other major sports leagues on a variety of topics to help prepare for this round of negotiations.
Foose had stated previously that the league has been fully transparent in terms of its financials at the league, team and SUM [Soccer United Marketing] level. He has no doubt that MLS is leveling with the union on this topic. He added, “We also have a common understanding with them on the cost of various proposals, so we’re clear on what the changes that we’re seeking are going to cost.”
Despite the very clear issues and differences, it is in both sides’ best interest to find workable solutions and a new CBA each side can live with. “We understand exactly where the business is, and I think we have a very good feel for where it’s going,” Foose said. “And we have no incentive to damage that.” With a 25th anniversary season approaching, there’s a lot at stake.
What’s the timeline?
The ideal time to reach agreement on a new CBA is this month.
Teams are putting their rosters together and training camps are opening soon. Sporting Directors and GMs need to know if there will be roster rules changes that will affect how they assemble their teams.
The Concacaf Champions League round of 16 begins on February 18-19, and the MLS teams competing in that tournament (Atlanta United, Los Angeles Football Club, New York City FC, Seattle Sounders, and the Montréal Impact) could potentially have their games affected.
The hard deadline for a new CBA is the start of the MLS season, which will take place on the weekend of February 29-March 1st.
“If things don’t move more quickly and [the league] takes the same approach that was taken the last time through, the odds of a stoppage skyrocket, so hopefully that won’t be the case,” says Foose. “A strategy to run out the clock is not going to be looked upon favourably by the player pool or the [players’ association].”
What happens now?
Both sides are certainly being very hush about progress. The issues and the parties’ respective positions on them have been laid out. According to reports there have been proposals exchanged.
With January here, it’s time to get serious. Before a ball is even kicked, the next few weeks could be the most important ones of 2020.
In order to grow the club as a global brand, Real Club Deportivo Espanyol de Barcelona is developing a network of academies around the world.
The newest such fútbol school has opened in Brisbane, Australia.
This internationalisation model kicked off in the 2016/17 season with the launch of two academies and the growth has been gradual since then, reaching the curen position of 11 RCDE Academy sites.
Albert Saus is the manager of the club’s schools and academies department, He had this to say: “We work to create quality local projects around the world and the academy is at the heart of that. We have now reached Oceania, in the city of Brisbane, through an academy that will start activity at the beginning of February 2020.”
RCD Espanyol de Barcelona look at its academy not simply as a place to groom future players but literally as an extension of its brand. The club is creating a global model, opening centres around the world that will introduce the club not just to new players, but to create lifelong fans.
Global academies and football camps
The objective of these academies is to take the identity of RCD Espanyol de Barcelona academy to new territories, where boys and girls between the ages of four and 15 can improve their skills and the 119-year story of the club can be shared.
With the academy in Brisbane, the club is now present across all continents. In addition to Brisbane, RCD Espanyol de Barcelona is also based in Algiers and Tizi Ouzou (Algeria), in Saitama (Japan), in Jersey City, New Jersey (USA), in Baghdad (Iraq), in Helsinki (Finland), in Stockholm (Sweden) and in Shanghai, Shouguang and Hunan (China).
In total, RCD Espanyol has 1,085 boys and girls are training with the club.
In addition to the network of academies, Espanyol has created a football camps program.
Associated with the academies, the RCDE Football Camps consist of standalone training events designed to engage new playing talent around the world. When this project started three years ago, the club held six camps abroad. This year, 29 have already been held. Extending its global reach further, these camps have been carried out in Canada, The USA, Colombia, France, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, Kazakhstan and Japan, among others.
RCD Espanyol de Barcelona now has the second most academies in La Liga that are supervised by club directors.
Growth in China
RCD Espanyol has invested greatly in China. The Catalan side has three of its international academies in the country. Alongside its Chinese ownership, this year’s signing of Chinese forward Wu Lei has helped to boost the club’s standing and presence here. It opened its third academy in China in the months following the signing as interest in the club grew rapidly. In addition, a new RCD Espanyol de Barcelona fan club was established in Shanghai.
Saus explained: “Since [club owners] Rastar Group arrived at the club, our international presence has accelerated, although not only in China. The signing of Wu Lei helped us on the pitch and he also became an ambassador for the club in China. This goes in tandem with the three club academies in China.”
Consolidation in North America and other opportunities
Outside of Asia, the club maintains significant ambitions for growth and is working on consolidating its presence in North America. At the same time, it is also studying opportunities in India and possibly Central Africa.
Espanyol’s strategy definitely brings people from around the world closer to the club. “We want to build brand identity through our youth football because that helps to generate a sense of belonging,” Saus says. “We are seeing more and more members of our international programs joining our club in Spain or becoming fans, which increases our global network significantly.”
Russo Law and Soccer Briefs offers a quick glance on stories making news in the world of football.
With the Expansion Draft in the rearview mirror and every MLS team announcing its roster moves this week, we can now take stock on where all 26 MLS teams stand heading into the winter.
Bradley Wright-Phillips, Miguel Ibarra and Roman Torres are just some of the players in search of new clubs next season after leaving their MLS clubs this winter.
Some players have already made big offseason moves, including Luis Robles moving to Inter Miami, Sacha Kljestan returning home to join the LA Galaxy, and Brooks Lennon heading to Atlanta United to name a few.
We have also seen some big-name veterans signing new deals with their long-time clubs, including Diego Valeri in Portland and Michael Bradley with Toronto FC.
Among the most recent moves were, the New England Revolution signed Polish striker Adam Buksa as a new designated player, while the Columbus Crew landed their playmaker in Argentine playmaker Lucas Zelarayan and the Vancouver Whitecaps added a top striker in Lucas Cavallini.
With a busy offseason continuing to push forward this week, here’s an updated look at every MLS team’s current roster heading into 2020, and every player currently under contract for the upcoming season.