Tag Archives: revenue

Talking with Barcelona Fans, Part 1

17 Jan

Barcelona fans are a strange lot. They are understandably proud of the accomplishments of their team in recent years, but unlike pretty much any group of fans in the world, they like to insist that their success is borne not of financial advantage or the continued assurance of legacy, but instead out of some innate goodness which resides in the heart of every fan and player who has ever worn the jersey (or merely visited the Camp Nou). With this in mind, we at no, srslr present a guide and list of important facts to remember to aid in talking with this group of people. Here is part 1.

La Masia, being a morally superior method of player development, is free.

Most teams raise the talent level of their team by purchasing players from other teams. This is extremely common, but there are a select number of teams that can and regularly do spend outlandishly to buy what they believe to be the absolute best talent in the world at any given moment (Barcelona is actually one of these teams, but we’ll get to that at a later date). Barcelona fans will tell you as soon as they can see you (even if you’re not in earshot yet) that their team “does it the right way” because they develop their talent in-house and don’t rely on money to buy players. When a Barca fan mentions this to you (and he/she will, inevitably, within the first 60 seconds of your conversation), it is important that you realize that the fact that Barcelona spends LAVISHLY on their cantera system is irrelevant. Do not attempt to point out that the 40 million euros they spend on their cantera every year is more than the entire annual operating budget of fully half of the league in which they compete. Implying that their precious home-grown talents are in fact products of the luxury of financial advantage they enjoy over the rest of the league (which the club itself perpetuates, to the detriment of the league–more on this later) will likely be met with blank stares, or worse, blind rage. Further, do not suggest that other teams spend proportionally more of their budget on in-house player development, and that if they had more resources other teams would conceivably spend more money on their cantera than does Barcelona. Remember: to a Barcelona fan their success only means something if it was accomplished in what they believe to be a morally superior way, so stating the simple fact that the financial reality they enjoy creates, enables, and ensures their success (and prevents other teams from even competing with them) is like implying they never won anything at all, or worse, cheated to win and still failed. Understanding this is key, and leads to a similar, but separate point:

Because La Masia is free, the players it produces are also free.

This might seem like a moot point (and indeed to the Barcelona fan it is not a consideration at all), but to the savvy football fan it is important to consider. As Soccernomics points out, transfer expenditures are usually not the greatest financial concern for teams–it is salaries that often either limit the amount of talent a team can hold or drive a team hopelessly into debt. The Barcelona fan scoffs at Real Madrid’s bloated roster of overpaid superstars and laughs that their team only wins games because of the money that is poured into it. This same fan will then boast about how Barcelona produced all three finalists for the player of the year award, and that the world XI this year has 5 of their players. This fan will not see a conflict in these stances, because in the mind of the Barcelona fan, players who grew up in their system don’t count on the books. You should therefore never suggest that Barcelona’s roster is impossibly expensive to keep around, and could only exist in a system of debt-driven finances and TV revenue duopoly. Mentioning, for example, that the salaries of just 3 or 4 of Barca’s best players would sink clubs that aren’t blessed with enormous financial resources will likely only lead the Barca fan to respond “but those players are ours”. Attempting to restate your position might elicit a series of Youtube videos of Messi’s breathtaking footwork. “But…he’s ours!”

Hopefully you will find these tips helpful. It is imperative to note that understanding all the quirks of Barcelona fans is useless, however, if you don’t understand the simple overriding fact hinted at above: that these fans only enjoy their success if they believe it was not bought or paid for in any way. Let’s say, for example, that you are not bothered by the increasingly commercial aspect of the world game. You understand that a certain handful of teams have achieved a level of fame and fortune that assures that they will always be in the title hunt and never actually suffer calamity (bar the year or two per decade when one of them might suffer the indignity of playing the in the Europa League). Feeling a swell of pity for the Barca fan’s neurotic need to be seen as completely free of the influence of money and therefore superior to all others, you may feel a desire to assure one of them that they need not be so wrapped up in these trivial concerns. DO NOT DO THIS. The typical fan has invested so much pride in “the Barca way” that the trophies themselves are actually meaningless. Suggesting that the fan has plenty to be proud of for the style, success, and talent of their team, and that there’s no shame that it was built by having millions more dollars than their competitors, is a grave insult to the Barca fan, and will likely lead to ranting and insults directed at Real Madrid (who they will assume you support, even if you’re wearing your team’s jersey right in front of them).

More to come in the future, including how Barca fans decide who they can claim as “theirs”, how Barca fans can believe they don’t spend a lot in the transfer market when they obviously do, what “more than a club” can and cannot mean, why a shirt sponsor matters until it doesn’t any more, why the Barca fan believes choosing to root for Barcelona is different than becoming a Yankees fan, and much, much more. Stay tuned!