Next Saturday Wembley Stadium will be the focus of global attention when hosting the second UEFA Champions League final in 3 years. Close to 90,000 spectators will crowd the stands of this mythical venue in the most important event in the international club football calendar.
It will be the tenth time –including the final Premier League play-off promotion match that Crystal Palace and Watford will play on May 27th- during season 2012-2013 in which the iconic ground will gather more than 80,000 people. So considering that Wembley is not linked to any club in particular and it is owned by the Football Association, the recurrent capacity to attract crowds is out of question and is unprecedented globally.
The importance of result at matches held –most of times with trophies or other sporting rewards in dispute- converted Wembley Stadium into a place of pilgrimage for players and fans, that every season dream of achieving necessary sporting results to make it to the English football temple and celebrate the success of their team. So year after year Wembley hosts a series of thrilling matches of the likes of the semifinals and Final of the FA Cup, the Capital One League Final and the Community Shield, along with of English national side. Combining all of this with the appropriate tournaments design, matches at Wembley ultimately feature not only top English clubs but also lower division teams such as Millwall, Bradford, Crewe Alexandra, Southend United or Cheltenham Town, which recently earned the prize to play at English national stadium recently.
Is a stadium without a fix host club profitable?
The FA was heavily criticised because of the delay in construction works but more importantly due to the circa 1bio£ that Wembley ultimately cost. So the important investment was followed by a comprehensive work of management professionalization, with the objective of exploiting every single commercial opportunity at reach. The executive team works non-stop to attract events from other sports and concerts with the ability to gather big crowds. NFL teams –last match featured Patriots vs Rams- and most popular international artists (such as Coldplay, Madonna, Oasis, Take That or George Michael) have successfully showed-up at Wembley, contributing to its positioning as one of the most iconic venues in the world.
However, ticket sales for events held at the stadium are not the only Wembley source of revenue. Activities such as the stadium tour, corporate events and Club Wembley season tickets (which include seats in all the games) contribute decisively to revenues maximisation. In this sense, marketing executives work intensively to identify innovative revenue opportunities, and have come up with ideas such as the breakfasts with England manager Roy Hodgson, the possibility to include personalized granite stones around the venue or even the new consulting division, which offers advice to other stadium projects around the world.
Altogether, Wembley stadium comercial initiatives generated as much as 120 mio£ in 2011 (latest available data), decisively contributing to achievement of highest revenues and profit in Football Association history (329mio£ and 40mio£ respectively). No other football federation in the world has such a capacity to generate revenues, and with no doubt the ownership of the stadium is one of the key factors of this unprecedented commercial success. So with this figures in mind the recuperation of the investment made should no longer be considered a fantasy dream.
The feasibility of a national stadium in Spain
Wembley Stadium’ case is thought provoking and suggests an inevitable question: How it be feasible to finance and exploit in a profitable way a national stadium in Spain? Most of us would probably answer with a emphatic “no” in the current context of financial downturn. However, considering that Real Federación Española de Fútbol had revenues of 131mio€ in 2010 –mainly as a result of the positive impact of pitch success-, and made 6mio€ in profit that year, we should expect to see in the near future continued revenue and profit growth. So taking into account that the exploitation of its own stadium would also help to further push Spanish federation revenues, the financing of the new home of Spanish football would not necessarily be mission impossible.
In fact, the capacity to generate and attract events to make the investment profitable and emulate Wembley (that hosts 2 major events per month in average) should not be a challenge. The new stadium could host the home games of Spanish national side (with some sporadic visits to other cities), as well as the Copa del Rey final, a new supercup decided in one single match or the final play-off match to promote to La Liga. Not to say about greater possibilities to attract the best concerts, on the basis of no concerns on pitch damage, as no team would need to use the ground the following weekend.
May be under current circumstances the concept of having our own “Wembley” in Spain could still look like fiction science, but with numbers on hand it should not be the case. In the meantime, when next year the Copa del Rey finalists gets confirmed we will go again into the debate on which would be the most appropriate stadium to host the great final, just like it will be difficult again to get both finalists agreeing on the best option. With our own Wembley this would definitely not happen.