Barcelona go for renaming the Camp Nou

SPOTIFY are in the process of agreeing a € 280 million deal with Barcelona that will include shirt sponsorship and the renaming of the iconic Camp Nou. The transaction, undoubtedly just what Barca need in their current situation, may not prove to be a popular one with the fans, at least not in the short term. If there is a stadium indelibly linked to a club, it is surely the Camp Nou.

Spotify, who recently announced they generated € 9.7 billion of revenues in 2021, have over 400 million users worldwide. They have a strong profile that is instantly recognisable and after some bad publicity, they arguably needed some good news. The marriage of Spotify and Barcelona may be a compelling mix for the modern age, but will Spotify’s deal prove beneficial for the company? Is it realistic to expect people to start calling the vast bowl the Camp Nou Spotify?

This is a case of caveat emptor because there are four main cultural pillars in the football club story: the name; the logo/badge; the stadium; and the colours. Tamper with these elements and you risk alienating your audience. However, there are rich pickings to be had in naming rights and not many clubs outside of Germany have really exploited their potential.

With so many clubs suffering from the pandemic in terms of reduced revenues and rising debts, there may be a more flexible sentiment around selling naming rights. It is certainly easier when a club builds a new stadium as the legacy has already been disrupted, hence when Arsenal moved into a new arena, adding the name Emirates wasn’t seen as a heinous crime. It would have been a different tale if their former ground, the much-loved Highbury, had been renamed.

Similarly, Manchester City’s adoption of Etihad was seen as part of their takeover by Abu Dhabi. It would seem unlikely that Liverpool and Manchester United would ever rename Anfield and Old Trafford respectively. United’s board has said in the past that it would not sell its name, but cynics might argue that if a deal came along, everything has its price in football.

Everton, when they move to their new dockside venue, will have an opportunity that would have been difficult to even suggest at Goodison Park. Tottenham have yet to sell rights for their new ground, but having incurred big losses, the moment cannot be too far away.

Barcelona’s proposed deal will yield € 93 million annually for three years and is aimed at replacing Rakuten as the main sponsor, whose agreement expires at the end of this season. Rakuten will depart after paying the club € 55 million per year for the past five years, but they were reported to be less than satisfied with the sponsorship deal, claiming their objectives were not fulfilled.

Since Barca have been embroiled in talks with Spotify, the club’s CEO, Ferran Reverter, has resigned, “for personal and family reasons”. Reverter had been with the club less than a year and was a pivotal figure in the financial recalibration of Barcelona. Doubtless, some will link the Spotify talks with his departure.

Another major club, Argentina’s River Plate, have also announced plans to sell naming rights to their El Monumental ground, the venue of the 1978 World Cup final. They are also expanding the capacity to 81,000. As the club doesn’t currently have the financial resources, the rights, which should generate around US$ 20 million, will fund the project. Favourites to agree a deal are the supermarket chain Chango Más.

Of the top 30 clubs in Europe (source: Deloitte), 11 have sponsors as part of their stadium name, including Bayern Munich, Manchester City, Juventus, Borussia Dortmund and Atlético Madrid. 

Some companies have developed a taste for buying-up rights, such as German insurers Allianz. The Munich-based company has what it calls a “family of stadiums” and has its name on football arenas in Munich (Bayern), Turin (Juventus), Sydney, Minnesota, Nice, São Paulo (Palmeiras) and Vienna (SK Rapid Wien). The Allianz in Munich is one of the great football sites in the world and is the most visited tourist destination in Bavaria as well as Bayern Munich’s home. The Aliianz family seems to have one thing in common, they all seem to be state-of-the-art constructions. They also have an impressive appearance.

Germany has embraced the concept of stadium sponsorship more than almost any other country – only a handful of current Bundesliga clubs do not have deals in place. And in typical German corporate fashion, backing comes from some of Deutschland AG’s big names, such as Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, Deutsche Bank and Bayer.

Some sponsorships do work very well, the Allianz Arena, for example, rolls of the tongue and nobody blinks an eyelid when you mention Emirates and Arsenal. This is the challenge for Tottenham, and indeed for Barcelona, to secure a sponsor that becomes seamlessly linked to the brand of the football club. In Barca’s case, the Camp Nou is such a significant brand of its own that grafting any other name to it will be hard work. There should be no shortage of takers for big club rights, for the mass appeal and media coverage of the game should benefit modern, multi-faceted companies. 

The biggest corporate brands in the world are predominantly tech-orientated, such as Apple, Amazon, Google and Microsoft. We’ve yet to see much activity around football club sponsorship, although partnerships have been established, such as Apple and Bayern Munich and Microsoft and the England team. 

The key to any deal, or indeed anything that threatens the integrity of a club’s brand, is sensitivity and recognition of the cultural aspects of the game. Clubs like Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Liverpool will be only too aware of the problems that can emerge from a badly-handled deal that devalues the brand in any way. Right now, with clubs feeling the impact of the pandemic, the need to come up with elegant solutions is arguably more important than ever before, so we can probably expect more to leverage the power of their historic and modern football landmarks.

Bayern Munich are still the untouchables

BAYERN Munich could be eyeing the “impossible treble” this season as they look ahead to the conclusion of the UEFA Champions League in August. Not many clubs have managed to win their two main domestic prizes and the UEFA Champions League, in fact it has been achieved just eight times, the last in 2015 with Barcelona.

Bayern recently completed their eighth consecutive Bundesliga title and followed that by winning the DFB Pokal. They’ve won 13 domestic trophies in eight years out of a possible 16. It is time, perhaps, to win another UEFA Champions League, a prize they haven’t secured since 2013.

At home in Germany, Bayern still refuse to be overthrown. Each season, the same question gets asked – “are FC Bayern showing signs of slipping?” – and even when they hit a lean spell (admittedly rare), they act, regroup and go about their business. In November, they were beaten 5-1 by Frankfurt, a result that left the Bayern top brass ashen-faced and ready to swing the axe.

Kovač’s departure

Niko Kovač, in his second season at the club, was sacked after they had a business-like discussion and declared, “the consensual result was that Niko is no longer coach of FC Bayern”. Kovač even said he felt it was the best thing for the club – such is the pressure of being coach at Bayern. The old cliché, “he’s lost the dressing room”, had been circling the beer halls of Munich for weeks.

For the past few years, people have predicted an end to Bayern’s monopoly as their key players started to age. Robben, Ribery and Lahm have now all gone now and the club has been bringing in fresh talent.

Kovač didn’t seemed to fit well at Bayern as far back as the halfway point of his debut campaign and in the summer, he irritated Chief Executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge over comments made about the possible signing Manchester City’s Leroy Sane. It doesn’t pay to upset the men in the comfortable seats at the magnificent Allianz Arena.

Although Kovač won the double in 2018-19, the club crashed out of the Champions League at the round of 16 stage, losing to eventual winners Liverpool. That represented Bayern’s worst showing in the competition since 2011 and obviously hit the club’s wallet.

When it looks as though the machine is stopping, Bayern invariably look within and they came up with Hans-Dieter Flick, who had returned to the club when Kovač was appointed as an assistant coach in 2019. Heidelberg-born Flick played for Bayern in the 1980s, so he was no stranger, but in some ways it was a gamble, or at least, a stop-gap decision. Flick did enough to get a new contract in April that takes him through to 2023. His win rate is 90.63% and he’s already won two trophies. At the moment, it looks like an excellent appointment. Bayern’s grand old men are impressed, notably Franz Beckenbauer, who claims Flick has brought togetherness to that lost dressing room.

Resilience

Bayern have not only benefitted from younger players like Alphonse Davies, Leon Goretza, Serge Gnabry, Kingsley Coman and Joshua Kimmich, but Robert Lewandowski, at 31 years of age, has been in spectacular form, scoring 51 goals, including 34 in 31 Bundesliga games. In addition, Bayern’s 34 year-old keeper and captain has been outstanding this season.

Bayern ended 13 points ahead of Dortmund in second place, with a goal difference of 68, their best since 2014. Bayern’s determination and resilience – apart from one week early in the season they didn’t hit the top until February – has become a characteristic of the club for many years. When they were beaten in consecutive games in December, the second a 2-1 loss at resurgent Borussia Mönchengladbach, the doubters were predicting an end to the seven year run at the top as Bayern languished in seventh place. However, they returned from the winter break focused and energised, beating Hertha Berlin 4-0 away and Schalke 5-0 at the Allianz. Furthermore, for the second time in a matter of months, they went to London and left behind scorched earth – following-up a 7-2 win at Tottenham with an emphatic 3-0 victory at Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg.

Bayern will undoubtedly come through the delayed second leg against Chelsea and many people are predicting they will win the competition this year. Certainly, Bayern had their shaky period early on in the campaign and seem to have a very confident team at present. With Barcelona squabbling, Real Madrid almost out of the way, Manchester City vulnerable in defence, PSG possibly a little rusty and Liverpool eliminated, Bayern could be in a good place at the right time. 

Advantages

Can anyone depose Bayern in Germany? Dortmund have been runners-up in five of the last eight seasons, but the club does not have the financial clout of Bayern. Dortmund have actually spent more than Bayern over the past eight years, but they sell their best players out of necessity, hence their net transfer activity results in a positive of around € 100 million. Bayern, on the other hand, have a negative spend of almost € 300 million. Leipzig continue to be a rising force, but they also excel at player-trading, hence they have sold Timo Werner to Chelsea.

Bayern’s advantage over their opponents is substantial and shows no sign of being eroded. The club’s revenues for 2018-19 totalled € 660.1 million, compared to Dortmund’s € 377.1 million and Schalke’s € 324.8 million. Bayern’s commercial prowess is evidenced by their total revenues in this stream of € 356.5 million, comparable to the entire income of Dortmund and more than Schalke’s overall amount. Little wonder the margin between Bayern and their closest competitors has averaged 14 points per season since 2012.

The only way a club is going to overtake Bayern, it would seem, is for them to become complacent or simply an unfortunate slip-up, but when things start to go wrong, steps are quickly taken to remedy the problem, as seen in the past when Carlo Ancelotti was sacked early season and most recently with the removal of Kovač.

So it really has been business as usual in Germany, although in the first half of the season, Bayern had to work harder than usual. After the winter break, Bayern won 16 out of 17 games, the form of champions. The next step is to have a real stab at winning the UEFA Champions League. Ultimately, European success is how Hansi Flick will be judged.

 

@GameofthePeople

 

 

 

 

Soccer City: Why Munich is Germany’s football capital

WHAT chance has any club got when you have Bayern Munich on your doorstep? TSV 1860 Munich, the Bavarian capital’s oldest club, has an unenviable task in trying to get air time when the behemoth that is FC Bayern pervades every side street, kiosk and newspaper.

As a city, Munich has much to offer as well as three professional clubs – SpVgg Unterhaching, formed in 1925, is the other team – it is a stylish and comfortable metropolis. We know it for a number of clichés, beer halls, foaming lager, lederhosen, oompah bands and hearty food that relies heavily on meat, potatoes and bread. It’s the home of BMW and insurance giant Allianz and it has played its part in European history in many ways. Munich’s GDP per person is around € 101,000 which is 40% higher than the national average in Germany. In short, it’s a very prosperous place.

FC Bayern are at the top of the tree – no other German club has won the Bundesliga since 2012 and every aspect of this huge footballing institution is dissected by the public – in Germany as well as in Bavaria. Bayern are loved and hated, admired, resented and envied.

Bayern are one of the world’s top football club brands and form part of the European elite. They are watched by 75,000 people at every home game at their impressive Allianz Arena, making them one of the top clubs by average attendance. TSV 1860 Munich, who are now in 3.Liga, draw an average of less than 15,000 to the Grünwalder Stadium. As for Unterhaching, also in 3.Liga, they attract barely 5,000 loyal fans.

TSV and Unterhaching are like all clubs that reside in a city dominated by a European giant. They are in the shadows. Aside from a TSV club shop in the centre of the city, there’s little trace of Munich’s “other” clubs, which is a pity. TSV were members of the Bundesliga before Bayern and were champions in 1966, three years before their soon-to-be far noisier neighbours. TSV also reached a European final before Franz Beckenbauer and his pals, losing to West Ham United in the European Cup-Winners’ Cup at Wembley.

TSV’s recent history has been disastrous, though, and that’s why they fell as low as the Regionalliga Bayern in 2017 after failing to secure a license to play in 3.Liga following relegation from 2.Bundesliga. The club had been co-owners of the Allianz but they soon realised that the stadium was too big and too expensive for their own purposes. They sold their stake to Bayern Munich for € 11 million and eventually moved back to their beloved Grünwalder. In staving off bankruptcy, the club effectively gamed the 50+1 system that characterises Germany club ownership, allowing Abu Dhabi-based millionaire Hasan Ismaik to buy 60%, although Ismaik’s stake only carried 49% voting rights.

If TSV were more prominent in the 1960s, the 1970s really belonged to Bayern as Munich became, arguably, the top football city in Europe. Bayern assumed the crown won by Ajax Amsterdam in 1974, winning three consecutive European Cups. Despite the Dutch dominance between 1970 and 1973, Germany was the centre of European sport – Munich hosted the 1972 Olympic Games and 1974 World Cup as well as Bayern and their three European Cups and three Bundesliga titles. Sadly, the shooting of Israeli athletes in the Olympic Village cast a dark shadow over events, but it could not erase the efforts made by West Germany to create a modern Olympics with some remarkable architecture, highlighted by the revolutionary stadium that set out to imitate the Alps.

Another reason why Munich has been so important to sport is the work of Otl Aicher, a graphic designer and typographer. Aicher, not a Bavarian by birth, studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. His work included the logo for Germany’s airline, Lufthansa and he was commissioned to be the lead designer for the 1972 Olympics. This included the creation of a series of pictograms that illustrated the various sports of the games. His designs lived on and arguably changed public signage – even today, you will walk past a signpost somewhere that bears his influence.

While Adidas was not based in Munich, the sportswear company became the brand that everyone wanted to see on their football shirt and boots in the 1970s. It was “continental” and associated with the most successful and “cool” clubs and players of the period.

SpVgg Unterhaching vs. 1.FC Kaiserslautern 3. Liga

The majority of the faces of 1970s European football, in addition to the Netherlands’ Johan Cruyff, were undoubtedly German – Maier, Breitner, Beckenbauer, Hoeneß and Müller, to name but a few. Uli Hesse, in his book on Bayern (Bayern: Creating a global super club), explained that Bayern’s European success of the period was vital in order to keep these legendary players at the club. Hesse also revealed that their rivalry with Borussia Mönchengladbach in the 1970s was something of a “Beatles or Stones” situation, although Bayern’s ability to carve-out victory, versus Gladbach’s status as heroic losers, made them unpopular with a lot of people.

Bayern are part of Bavarian culture, their crest features the state colours and it’s a routine for the team to visit the Oktoberfest, dressed in traditional costume. A few years ago, the club launched a lederhosen-inspired strip, comprising a white shirt, brown shorts and white socks with a “calf-warmer” design. The team also wore Alpine jackets and hats to complete the look. Brave as well as respectful to tradition.

Beer, of course, is everywhere in Munich and a visit to the Hofbräuhaus, if you can get a table, is a significant box to tick. There are more accessible venues around the city that also capture the spirit and ambience of the beer hall. There’s no doubt that Munich is steinful of great liquid refreshment!

Aside from the cellars and beer gardens of the city, nowhere is the tradition of beer, sausage and brezel better represented than at a football match. The game and beer have long been bedfellows, although not always for the greater good. But at the Allianz Arena, to name but one footballing venue, the marriage of the people’s game and the people’s elixir appears to create the right sort of vibe. Munich may be a city of beer, but it is also one of the world’s great homes of football.

@GameofthePeople

Photos: PA