Spanish giants FC Barcelona have become the latest European soccer club to set up shop in the United States.
A delegation of executives representing the reigning La Liga champions, led by club president Josep Maria Bartomeu, attended an inauguration ceremony on Tuesday to open the New York City office, which is located at 250 Park Avenue in midtown Manhattan.
A club statement said the office will serve as a ‘commercial hub for generating new revenue’ and added that its opening is part of a strategic plan to achieve a turnover of €1 billion by 2021.
Barça already have a suite of commercial partners based in the United States, including Nike, Gatorade, Stanley Black & Decker and Gillette. They also have fan clubs in New York, Washington, Chicago, Miami, San Francisco and Charlotte, and an FCBEscola soccer school in Florida.
The New York office will operate under the supervision of Manel Arroyo (pictured), Barça’s vice president of marketing and communications, and Francesco Calvo, the club’s chief revenue officer. Arno Trabesinger, an Austrian, will lead the operation locally, alongside Gerard Guiu and Arturo De la Fuente.
Tuesday’s inauguration was accompanied by a number of other events to mark the club’s arrival. Former player Ronaldinho was on hand to host a community event for children in The Bronx, while Arroyo hosted a lunch for business executives at midtown Manhattan’s famous 21 Club.
Speaking in an interview with Barça TV, Arroyo said that as well as driving commercial growth, the office would serve as a platform for implementing social and charity projects in the local market.
“The club needs resources and this office will help us achieve them, but we also need to convey the message and the values that define us,” he said. “Therefore, the schools and the FCB Foundation projects that we are starting will be very important to spread this message.
"The United States is a country where sports marketing is a big industry and, here, as well as obtaining resources, we will certainly learn more and improve the management of our assets in this area.”
Trabesinger added: ”We come to New York at a moment of great expansion in the sport of football in the United States, as well as a wonderful moment, economically speaking, for world football.”
The United States has long been a key strategic market for major European soccer clubs in their quest to generate additional commercial income. A host of teams, including Barça, have embarked on pre-season exhibition tours in the country over the years, while German Bundesliga giants FC Bayern Munich and Premier League club Manchester United both already have offices in the Big Apple.
“The feedback we have from the United States is very good,” said Arroyo, who cited Barça’s large American following on social media - the club’s US Facebook account has almost 3.5 million followers, 275,000 of which are in New York - as an indicator of their appeal in the market.
“In this area, we are the leading football club in the United States,” Arroyo added. “It had been Manchester United, but now we are ahead.”
The New York office, located just a few blocks from La Liga's Stateside HQ and close to the head offices of the National Football League (NFL) and Major League Baseball (MLB), is the second overseas outpost established by Barça, following the opening of a Hong Kong base in 2013. The club says it plans to open more offices in future, with Arroyo earmarking China and Brazil as locations of interest.