The decline of Barça’s international offices

BarcelonaBarça’s two international offices, Hong Kong and New York, are going through one of their worst moments while they wait for Joan Laporta’s board to decide what to do with it. He can revive them or let them die and replace them with the Barça Experience Centers, one of the current president’s most publicized initiatives during the election campaign. Laporta designed a club building in the best corners of the world’s major capitals. “There would be restaurants, virtual museums and merchandising, it would be a pioneering thing in the world,” explained Álex Barbany, now Barça’s director of revenue, during a campaign event. There he also predicted that building these embassies would cost about five million euros.

The club makes sure that there is nothing new at the moment. In fact, the New York and Hong Kong offices, which operate as independent companies, are still operational after nearly half a year without anyone leading them. Xavier O’Callaghan left New York to manage the handball section with the arrival of Laporta, while Jordi Camps, who resigned as Barça’s commercial director, was the last person in charge in Hong Kong. . Bryan Bachner, one of Laporta’s partners at Reus Deportiu, will arrive in Hong Kong on December 1. Meanwhile, in New York, the power vacuum remains, despite talks with some candidates.

FC Barcelona Hong Kong Limited has accumulated 850,000 euros of negative net worth, although in the 2020-2021 academic year it had a profit of 341,000 euros. Worse are the numbers in New York. FCB North America LCC lives with 6.5 million negative net worth and last year had losses of 178,000 euros (the previous one had been 856,000 euros). “In 2012 the club was earning zero euros partners in the Asia-Pacific region. In 2020, on the other hand, it already contributed 75 million euros a year. If you are not there, it is impossible for you to close these offers because they are very local, ”Xavier Asensi, who led the Hong Kong office until 2018, told ARA. he notices them, but the Barcelona office charges them. That way, Hong Kong and New York will always be in deficit, ”he added. “To withstand the day to day financially, the office charges 10% of the agreements. That’s how you feed it back, ”continues the current business director of Inter Miami.

The failure of the adventure in New York

The New York office, according to club sources, “survives with assisted breathing and is in a worse situation than Hong Kong”, which opened in 2013 and started with 90% of the business in the area made from Catalonia . The New York project, born after the first years of good experiences in Hong Kong, was inaugurated in September 2016 with the company of an enlightened Barça State Empire. Many of the sources consulted agree that the investment made by Barça to set it up was too high and that Miami or Mexico would have been better places. Others, on the other hand, say you have to be in New York because that’s where the big corporations are.

In its beginnings, the director of the office was Arnold Trabessinger, an Austrian whose workers, ex-workers and union sources say he was unaware of the operation of the Barça club and the sports market in the United States. Still, he had a good resume. Once the office was up and running there were clashes between some of the employees (which hampered Trabessinger’s work, according to various sources), with complaints to compliance including, which led to intervention from Barcelona. There were layoffs and voluntary layoffs.

“With New York we have to be honest. We didn’t find the right strategy or the right people to do it right “, explains Manel Arroyo, vice-president responsible for Barça’s marketing and communication area, until ARA until July 2018.” ‘had done a good job with the United States because we had gotten several sponsors. With this experience and what was happening in Asia it was thought that in New York we could replicate it. But in the American market you have the competition of all the big leagues and that made it very difficult to find the necessary work team “, he adds.

The Barça Experience in Haikou (China).

The Barça does not excite Haikou

The big stone in the Hong Kong office shoe is the joint venture with Mission Hills Group for the Barça Experience in Haikou (China), inaugurated in November 2018. It is located on the island of Hainan and the Barça entity invested 4 million (50% of what the facilities cost ) to build an interactive 4,000-square-foot museum and a large store. He also founded a Barça Academy with six football pitches. “A business plan (made by PriceWaterhouseCoopers) was created that is very focused on tourism and everything that was expected has not happened,” says one person who held a senior position in the Hong Kong office. “It was located in the north of the island, where there is high-class tourism that plays golf, when mass tourism is in the south,” says a second source, today at the club. Despite the losses that Haikou’s Barça Experience represents today (in the 2020-2021 financial year it lost 944,000 euros and, in the previous one, 1.3 million, although it has a positive net worth of 770,000 euros), at Barça it is estimated that the process of closing it would cost more.

“The only place in China that has a beach where the Chinese can go without a visa is Hainan. But the project did not start, it did not have a hook, expectations were not met and, in addition, the coronavirus arrived and the museum had to close because no one was traveling, ”admits Asensi. The initial forecast of Barça, which is left with 15% of the income of the joint venture and 50% of all net profits from the Haikou Barça Experience, was to achieve 100 million income during the 10-year period set out in the contract, which ends in 2027 (with the option to extend it to 10 more years ). A utopia that will not be fulfilled.

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