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"Football could be the 17th largest global economy"

World Football Summit's Director, Marian Otamendi, was interviewed by AS during the presentation of the third edition of the summit.

Marian Otamendi en la presentación de la III edición del WFS.

World Football Summit's Director, Marian Otamendi, was interviewed by AS during the presentation of the third edition of the summit. She spoke about the impact of the football industry in Spain's GDP and the income generated by LaLiga.

- 1.4% of Spanish GDP derives from professional football. To which other sectors of Spanish industry would you compare the amount of money generated?

- Without a shadow of a doubt, football could become the 17th largest world economy. Fortunately, in Spain, we benefit from a combination of several factors: the best league in the world is the perfect scenario for some of the best players and consequently, this leads us to the multiple successes achieved both from the national team and from Spanish clubs. These considerations are reflected by the impact on our economy which in terms of contribution to our GDP could be compared to the meat industry, which represents around 2% of GDP. Apart from this, we believe it is more important to highlight how Football can positively impact all other industries and ultimately, Spain's brand.

Of that 1.4%, how much corresponds to Real Madrid and Barcelona?

- Their contribution is huge. That being said, it would be daring to make a projection since they are part of a much larger business and institutional ecosystem that enabled them to build very powerful brands. LaLiga, the Spanish Federation, AFE, amateur football, institutions, clubs and especially the fans, they all play a key role in this masterpiece that is Spanish football. Surely the main actors are Real Madrid and Barcelona, amongst others, but without the others, it would be impossible for them to achieve that prominence. Spain is a world leader in this sport, and we must be aware of it and accept the responsibilities that this entails.

Does the economy of football grow at the same speed of the Spanish economoy?

- Yes indeed. I have recently read several reports in which it is analyzed as one of the sectors that are generating the largest amount of employment and that is experiencing the fastest growth.

In which percentage should clubs allocate their budget for players’ salary? Are they respecting financial fair play?

- This matter will surely become a hot topic this summer during transfer market and we will hear a lot about Financial Fair Play. In this, I think it is important to mention that LaLiga goes a step further and every season the salary cap for each club is being published, something that in other countries is not done. However, setting a figure that applies to all clubs, 65% as it has recently been discussed, can be dangerous. You have to take into account each particular case, each club is different, and it is fundamental to analyze all the details. If two teams invest a hundred million but one is healthy, and another has 200 million in debt, I think we would agree that both should not be spending the same amount on their team.

WFS will hold its first international edition in Malaysia. Why is this continent so strategic for the expansion of Spanish football?

- Asia is very strategic because it has a huge population. Demographically, two-thirds of the world population is concentrated there, and they have a very high purchasing power. Their economy is growing at high speed and they are avid consumers of football. We can find a clear example in the number of Asians who are buying Western clubs, investors, etc.

In recent years Asia’s economy has experienced an explosive growth. Having LaLiga as our Global Partner has enabled us to work closely with them in a list of countries that represent a strategic priority for the internationalization of both entities.

- Which countries are you referring to?

- One of them is Malaysia, where we will celebrate the first international edition of World Football Summit. That's the main reason behind our choice. We have signed an agreement that will take WFS on a five-year journey throughout Asia. This first edition will have a more regional character and will take place in Kuala Lumpur, potentially also the second one will in Malaysia, although also Indonesia had been mentioned. Other countries that are extremely strategic for the development of the global football industry are China and India. Among our plans, we would also love to export our WFS brand in South America. We have a fantastic relationship with Latin America (clubs, federations and leagues), but of course, these events involve a high cost that can be faced only with the strong support of a local partner.

- Revenues on audiovisual rights reached 1,387.5 million euros in the 2016-17 season. Do you expect that figure to keep growing in the coming years?

- Yes. Tebas has done an excellent job. All this is also closely related to the growth in Asia, with time-schedules, etc. In the end, TV rights revenues are directly related to the increase in audiences and there is a connection between all the figures. Even though I acknowledged that those of Premier League have decreased, all indicators seem to be projecting that LaLiga revenues will also continue to rise.

- Is there a big gap between LaLiga and the Premier League?

- Yes, for now. I do not know exact figures, but I know that the objective of Mr. Javier Tebas is to reach the numbers of the TV rights of the Premier by 2020. I believe this is a difficult task, but the growth during the last years has been outstanding.

- Indeed Tebas stated during WFS, last October, that the conflict in Catalonia had delayed the sale of television rights. Do you think that it will have an impact on LaLiga’s incomes?

- Yes, unfortunately the whole Catalan issue is affecting everything, not just football. The uncertainty created during those months delayed all the decision making porcess and that, logically, also affected Spain from an economical perspective.

- Do you think women’s football has recently experienced an economic growth?

- We must recognize the great work that many institutions have been carrying out during last years. Luis Rubiales has also displayed a great desire to acknowledge women in football world. It is one of his priorities and that will help without a shadow of doubt. In addition, the fact that most of Iberdrola League matches are already filling the stadiums, with 15.00 and 17,000 spectators says a lot about how it is growing. These things can take a considerable amount of time and of course, it can’t be compared to the male’s game. It is a slow process, but we are going in the right direction. Now the games are shown on television. We must make it visible in order to catch the people’s attention.

- What impact has technology had in the pitch after the economical investment in the football industry?

- The technological investment in stadiums has generated higher income in general. On the one hand we see how, normally under the initiative of leagues that manage the sale of television rights, they have improved the audiovisual production of matches, making the product more attractive, for example with 360-degree replays. As a result, the income deriving from TV rights has increased and has ultimately enabled the Spanish league to become more competitive as a product. The market has its own laws, the consumer who seeks a certain type of entertainment also demands high-quality standards, resulting in a need to correspond to those standards. Also, the clubs are working on having highly-connected stadiums, a subject that has been discussed during WFS17.

Through a methodical analysis and precise use of Big Data, clubs can reach a better understanding of who their viewer or client is. The more data you have the better you understand who your client is, which consequently leads you to offer better products, services and valuable content, not only during match day, but throughout the whole season. Thanks to this, Fan Engagement and other user experiences are improving and nowadays fans and social masses are a clubs priority. Finally, and thanks to technological innovations such as Virtual Reality or augmented reality (AR), millions of fans of Spanish football that, due to geographical remoteness cannot attend a match, can increasingly perceive, in a more real way, how a classic or a derby is lived. The main objective in this case is to bring the experience as close as possible, in the most real and connected way.