Football Industry

Ramón Loarte – Q&A
Ramón Loarte – Q&A 1772 1181 World Football Summit Asia

Ramón Loarte is the Chief Commercial & Marketing Officer at Sevilla FC. He is result-focused and holds an MBA at IE Business School, with more than 15 years in managing business development for top-tier companies and specialized in digital areas.


Over the past 15 years, Sevilla FC has become one of the most important clubs in Europe, winning 5 Europa Leagues, 2 Spanish Cups, 1 European Super Cup and 1 Spanish Super Cup.


We had a small Q&A with Loarte, who is going to be a speaker at World Football Summit Asia, in Kuala Lumpur, on the 29th and 30th of April, 2019.


What can you tell us about the current strategy Sevilla F.C .is following in the digital part of the club? We’ve witnessed how nowadays it’s getting more and more important to cater that part of the club and manage to be even closer to fans.


At Sevilla FC, we understand the importance of digital growth and that is why it is an integral part of our marketing strategy here at Sevilla FC. We want to talk with our fans on a daily basis which will come from our digital platforms and how we engage with our fan base. Just this last year we launched our “Sevilla World Fans” program, which is aimed at identifying our global fans and providing them with exclusive content and club news on a daily basis. As part of our digital growth, we understand the importance of giving fans access to the club with localised content. That is why we have a digitally responsive website which is translated into 6 languages. This is also why we have social channels localized across 7 markets with individual and local ad hoc content published on the respective channels.


What’s Sevilla’s role in Asia and what does the club want to achieve in the Asian continent?


Asia has been a key market for Sevilla FC and, in the future, will only become more important to the growth of our football club. We visited Japan two years ago, when we played two games against local J1 league teams. On the back of our successful Japanese Tour we partnered with two Japanese companies in Falken and Makita with both companies still sponsoring Sevilla FC today. Also, in late 2017, Sevilla FC opened its first SFC Soccer Academy in Asia, in the city of Fukushima. This is the first of many Academies we hope to open across the continent in the near future.

Sevilla FC is also working with the renowned Chinese digital agency Mailman. As part of our work with Mailman we are creating localised daily content across our Asian social media platforms such as Weibo.

Also, as a club, we are working closely with LaLiga who have physical presence in Asia with their Singapore office. During the last 3 years, LaLiga has launched a powerful project of internationalisation of their brand and all their teams, not only the two strongest ones. With LaLiga keen to develop the brand around the world in new football markets and Asia especially, there is an opportunity for Sevilla to grow its fan base too.


How much and in which ways do you believe that the Asian football industry has evolved in the past few years? Every day we see more clubs opening offices in Asia and aiming to be closer to fans in that part of the world.


The growth of Asian football has been fantastic to witness and I’m very excited to see where it will lead to in the future. I think that the more time that European clubs spend in Asia, the more time we spend working and exchanging ideas with our Asian counter parts, the more the Asian football will continue to grow and improve.


 Sevilla FC is an example in many ways. It’s a club that masters the transfer market, has a great eye in finding talent and is living a Golden Age. Why do you think is the reason for that? What is the key to Sevilla’s success in the past 15 years?


Sevilla is a club that has experienced massive change in the last 15 years. In the early 2000’s the club was going through economic problems with negative funds and also in sporting terms there were problems. Following our relegation to the second division, a lot of projects put into practice suffered shortages of funding. But since then, the club has undergone extraordinary change. Under the guidance of coach Joaquín Caparrós, Sevilla would go on the win promotion as champions back to the top flight at the end of the 2000-01 season. The following years would see the Andalucian’s consolidate their position in the league whilst changes at board level would add stability to the club’s business functions.


In 2006, having secured the UEFA Cup qualification, the team would triumph over Middlesbrough in the final in Eindhoven, setting up an all-Spanish UEFA Super Cup final against Champions League winners FC Barcelona in Monaco which they won 3-nil. In 2006-07, Sevilla ended the season in 3rd place in LaLiga behind champions Real Madrid and Barcelona, ensuring UEFA Champions League qualification. Since 2007, Sevilla has won the Copa Del Rey (2009-10), and the UEFA Cup/Europa League a further three times in a row in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Sevilla FC won the Europa League on five occasions across a 10-year period with a squad that incorporated a lot of young players who had developed through the Sevilla FC youth system.

Inside the entity we have a clear aim, which is the sporting goal. In other words, our financial resources are our main tool that enables our professionals to aspire to achieve the best sporting success.


Sevilla FC has made great marketing campaigns in the past few years. More and more clubs are looking for ways to engage with the fans and keep them as close as they can. What is the most important thing you want to communicate and how do you do it?

 “It is said we never surrender”, this is the identity of everything we do and communicate at the football club. Whether that relates to the team on the pitch or our commercial growth off the pitch. This identify is felt in the communication across all the aspects of our club, from the offices to the pitch, keeping our philosophy always close to our minds. This philosophy has helped us reap the European rewards, giving a boost to the club as well as obtaining international recognition and attain a prestige, which we did not have before.

To become one of LaLiga’s, and European football leading clubs requires continued sporting success. Sevilla’s Europa League success in recent years has helped the club build a reputation that is valued by players from around Spain and Europe. Our approach combines the closeness of a familiar club together with the professional structure to help the club build the Sevilla FC of the future.


What’s Sevilla’s medium/long term objective as a club? After winning all those trophies in the past ten years and consolidating as one of the most important clubs in the world, what is it that the club expects to achieve?

As a club we are now focussed on building the Sevilla FC of the future. The club now has 432 employees and revenues of 220M euros and our aim is to continue to grow both on and off the pitch. We want to shape and sustain our model to remain competitive with other clubs in Spain and in Europe as well as to continue obtaining competition successes.

Part of that strategic plan is the remodelling of our stadium, Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán. Investment in the stadium’s structure and facilities has been undertaken in the last few years to accommodate the needs and expectations of the modern fan, but keeping in mind that we don’t want to lose its essence and location in the city centre. Increasing the stadium’s capacity and developing new hospitality areas have also been an integral part of this development, which the club hopes will secure us the chance to host a UEFA Europa League final in the future.

Since 2015, the club has invested in changing the colour of the seats, covering exterior stands with metal facades and LEDs, the renovation of refreshment stalls and toilets, the replacement of fences with glass panels, the renovation of the away changing room and referees’ changing room, the installation of two new scoreboards and the expansion of the lower East Stand.

We are also developing an action plan for our Training Ground Campus currently known as Sports City. We are aiming to invest between 15 and 20M Euros in the coming years to dedicate an exclusive area for the first team, build offices for the general services of the club, as well as to complete the work of the mini stadium “Jesús Navas”, which has already been initiated, and to undergo a general modernisation process.


How important is the use of new technologies such as big data or machine learning for a club? As we talked before, Sevilla F.C. has a great knowledge of young players across the globe and it has proven how important is to know players when starting to work in the transfer market.


Crucial to the club’s continued growth is the implementation of growing and engaging our global database of fans. This is key for our commercial opportunities both domestically and internationally. With LaLiga keen to develop the brand around the world in new football markets, there is an opportunity for Sevilla to grow its fan base too. And in order to grow our fan base and to grow commercially, it is key we build our database of fans on a global scale. That is why we launched our “Sevilla World Fans” program just last year and why we work closely with Nielsen Sports on identifying and recognizing our fans globally.

According to data from Nielsen Sports, Sevilla FC has 144.5m potential followers around the world, from which 46.8m show a strong interest in the club. Our 5-year plan aims to approach this impressive number of people who show an interest in Sevilla FC and develop more of a global brand without jeopardizing our close environment. Our new digital platform will provide us with identifying multiple touch points to our global fan base. We want to know as much as possible about our fans so we can make sure we are delivering value and rewards for their appreciated support.


On the 29th and 30th of April, World Football Summit will land in Kuala Lumpur to celebrate its first Asian edition. The key players of the industry will gather for two days and discuss the hot topics of the business. What do you think about WFS? Why is it important to have events like this in the football industry?


I think it is important that we have events such as WFS in order to bring the key people from across the football industry to discuss key topics and plan the future of the beautiful game. In this fast-paced life, we all lead today, it is great to have events such as WFS to switch off the day-to-day work for a few hours at least and look to engage with fellow professionals and listen to motivational speeches from the football industry elite.


World Football Summit (WFS) is a globally recognized and important sporting conference. I have been a regular attendee at WFS Madrid and I’m really looking forward to WFS Asia. I think it will be an important date in the calendar for all sporting executives going forward.

James White – Q&A
James White – Q&A 1000 667 World Football Summit Asia

James White has more than 25 years of experience in the sport’s industry and is currently working as the Head of Sales at FIBA in the APAC region. World Football Summit is not only an event that seeks to gather the most important decision makers of the industry, but also to invite important executives from other sports and build bridges that will make the sport’s business thrive.


Hi James, can you tell us a little bit about your background and how did you end up working with FIBA?

I’ve been involved in sport’s marketing since 1994. My first football involvement was in 1994 with the Indonesian league. I’ve been working with football leagues, clubs and national teams in Asia and Europe ever since. In 2011 I was among the first people to engage European clubs and national teams to create local and regional Asian deals, which increased revenue and exposure in the international markets. Many of those clubs have opened offices in Asia ever since.

I am currently with FIBA Marketing seeking partners across the Asian region. But I have worked with many sports in Asia since 1994.

James White

With such a big baggage of experience, in your opinion, what’s the current situation of the Asian sports market? There are many indicators showing us that it is a great continent to invest and that the interest, not only in football, but also in basketball is growing faster than we could ever predict.

 I think that the world sees the strength of the Asian market in terms of sponsorship and investment potential. The economy is going well here so there’s money for sports.

Sports marketing, in general, from content to fan loyalty, ticketing and even sponsorship is at an all time high. Digitisation allows rights holders to know their fans better and deliver diverse offerings, which translates in high engagement levels and revenue as well as better sponsorship prospects.

In my case, FIBA is seeing its most successful days commercially. Times are great for the sports marketing industry here in Asia and the future looks bright as well.


Football clubs and federations are doing all they can to reach the Asian market and engage the fans. Offices are being opened, sponsorships are being negotiated as we speak, etc. How is basketball compared to football penetrating the market?

Football has a higher global participation. It’s by far the biggest sport in the world; basketball is number two, but there’s quite a big difference between number one and number two in terms of following, viewership and participation. We have to choose which markets we engage for our marketing push. We’re happy to have a good position in China, which is becoming the world’s biggest market from a sports revenue perspective. The future looks good as we have our FIBA Basketball World Cup there this year. Having top players from around the world competing here in Asia will help us for years to come in both China and the greater Asian region.

Finally, we work closely with the NBA who has been successfully developing Asia for many years. Football has a very big head start and is the biggest outdoor sport, we are the biggest indoor sport so we certainty hope that people can play football on a sunny day and come inside and play basketball on a rainy day!

Continuing with the parallelism. What would you say that football could learn from basketball and vice versa? NBA is certainly competing with the Premier League and LaLiga in terms of viewership and it’s plain to see that both sports are doing many things right. But, what could they do to improve?

Basketball has learned from football. In our latest world cup qualification process we modelled it after FIFA’s by introducing home and away qualifiers for the first time across 80 markets. That increased our penetration and fan base dramatically since we suddenly had 80 markets watching their national team vs other international teams at home. These games took place simultaneously over an 18-month period.

Also similar to FIFA and other successful global sports federations, we want to give our member associations the opportunity to generate revenue and to play in front of their home fan-base. That sort of activity will increase our footprint all over the world all at once. By seeing what is successful in other sports, we are now reaping the benefits and witnessing huge growth across many markets.

On the other hand, I think that basketball is the only sport that enjoys a strong lifestyle element around it. It’s not just about the sport; it’s fashion, it’s hip-hop music. I think that basketball reaches a group of people that are not necessary hard-core sport fans but really like the lifestyle around it.

Football enjoys a big base of hard-core fans but there’s not as many entertainment and lifestyle elements around it. Especially when you go to a game, that’s that: all eyes are focused on the players and the match.

If they could somehow introduce entertainment elements in an organic matter they could reach more casual football fans and focus more on the off -the-pitch elements of the players. Now that we have a growing digital community there’s more of that being done, but I think that this is an area where football could do more.

We’re moving into a new generation of millennial kids that are going to want cool and fun things. And if the sport is seen as kind of your dad’s sport, it will slowly lose its appeal. While remaining true to the game, every sport needs to stay relevant to young fans; a way of doing that is creating/promoting the lifestyle and entertainment elements around the sport.


That is in fact something that many football circles have discussed and many people are looking at what happened with tennis in the US, where it has become a sport watched by older people and forgotten by the younger generation. Talking about the future, what’s FIBA biggest aim in Asia in the near future?

 The FIBA Basketball World Cup will be held in China in August and September and that’s where most of our focus is being put this year. We obviously have other events happening which are also important, but much of our effort is being put into properly marketing our first FIBA World Cup in the new format and make it the biggest and best sporting event of the year. For example, we had the draw ceremony in Shenzhen last week where we had entertainment like Jason Derulo, Yao Ming and Kobe Bryant, and we actually sold out the stadium of 8,000. People were really excited to attend and it felt like a concert! FIBA turned an operational process into an entertainment/lifestyle event.

Our focus is showing people that our product, whether it’s men’s, women’s, boys, girls, 5 on 5 or 3 on 3, is a fun product. We want to expand in Asia and show those new fans, even if they are not really basketball fans, that they can come to a basketball game, enjoy themselves and have a good time.

That’s our focus: drawing the attention to the lifestyle elements of the sport. Showing people in Korea that most K-pop artists prefer basketball than other sports. Showing them that there’s something for everyone in our game; whether it’s the music side, the fashion side or the actual sport side. I believe that there’s something that will appeal to the urban youth in Asia.

We want them to come and check it out and I bet they’d love it if they gave us a chance.

What’s your opinion on World Football Summit and this type of events?

Often times we operate in spheres of knowledge and we can be limited to the expertise within our own organisations or by the information that we see in the industry publications we read. But only when we cross those spheres with other people, we can truly understand new ideas that we come across. Then, we find ways to move things forward.

Sharing ideas is always a good thing. WFS is a great opportunity for sharing ideas and literally ask questions and dive a bit deeper. We can come away with actual strategies and actionable concepts. It’s a great idea and I am really happy and proud to be included.


James White will be one of the speakers at World Football Summit Asia, where you can hear more about what he has to say about the Asian sports industry.

Lars Heidenreich – Q&A
Lars Heidenreich – Q&A 1100 1080 World Football Summit Asia

This week we interviewed one of our speakers in World Football Summit Asia, Lars Heidenreich. Lars is the Director of Mediapro Asia, and he talked about the newest trends in broadcasting, football piracy and other subjects that will also be a part of WFS Asia.


Welcome, Lars. It’s a pleasure to have you as one of our speakers in WFS Asia. We know you are the Director at Mediapro Asia, but what can you tell us about your involvement in the football industry and in broadcasting in general?

I’ve been working in the industry for over 20 years and I’ve spent most of my career in Asia, where I arrived in 1998. I’ve seen a huge amount of changes and vast developments in the industry; from working with traditional Free TV broadcasters to the arrival of PAY TV, digital and social media, which made it possible to deliver more football matches and distribute more content throughout Asia.

During these twenty years, I’ve also witnessed the changes of broadcasting industry and the arrival of new players and platforms, as well as new technology being introduced in the market, such as OTTs.


As the channels to bring football to the audience changed, viewership also did. We’ve seen how football has come a long way, from being a not-so-followed sport in many countries to the most watched and supported one in the whole continent. Countries like Thailand or China, where football was a sport followed by a minority of the population, are now hugely interested in football. What can you tell us about these changes?

Football is a commodity in Asia. There was always a following for English football; the English Premier League enjoyed a massive fan-base, obviously due to the cultural ties and for language reasons. But, over the years, Asia has witnessed how LaLiga, Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1 have grown and gradually built and expanded their fanbase. Throughout the years, the interest among Asian fans to watch and consume European football has grown exponentially, also pushed by the arrival of many successful Asian players to the European leagues.

But the interest has not only grown towards the European football, as many countries have their own big fan-base for their domestic leagues. J- League, CSL in China or the Thai Premier League are just some examples of national competitions that are becoming bigger brands.


Has the domestic growth started along with the interest in European football? Is this something that has been happening for a while or just a few years ago, when countries like China and Japan started buying players like Paulinho, Fernando Torres or Iniesta? Many scholars on the subject have their doubts on whether this growth is something that has been happening organically or with the support and money injection from their national governments.

It is a mix of both things. Most Asian leagues woke up to this a little bit more recently, while in Japan or Korea, J-League and K-League already were well established when both countries co-hosted the FIFA World Cup in 2002. In China the explosion of CSL is a more recent thing and some of the current interest levels, government and private business support may in part be owed to the Chinese President.

But the growth and investment are plain to see and it’s a recognition that their talents have become better. With the support of the domestic broadcast industry in each country, I think these leagues are getting greater exposure and turning into proper businesses in their own right.


A few weeks ago, there was a Piracy joint statement by AFC, UEFA, FIFA, Premier League, Bundesliga and LaLiga on BeoutQ. This marks a big milestone, as it represents a huge part of the industry coming together to fight piracy and make their intentions clear to the world. Coming from the broadcasting industry, this obviously affects you. What’s your take on piracy?

 Piracy is the single biggest issue for the entire industry. It’s not something new but it has been a growing trend and a problem that attacks not only football, but the whole entertainment industry. Government bodies and industry bodies must share and compare notes to help each other fight it. At the moment, there are new systems and tasks forces being put into place to recognize piracy, share and exchange information between Football governing bodies and to lobby governments to introduce stricter legislation to fight piracy.

Piracy is a major concern to the whole industry and it’s not something that can be taken lightly.


On the other hand, new ways to bring football to the audiences are being tested. This year we’ve witnessed how innovation, technology and football came together when LaLiga, Mediapro and Facebook announced an agreement to broadcast LaLiga in India. What can you tell us about this new way of broadcasting football?

LaLiga makes strong strides in engaging with the audiences and reaches out to football fans anywhere, as well as engaging with younger demographics and new fans. LaLiga makes conscious efforts to reach a broad audience, even accommodating kick-off times for more suitable viewing times in Asia.

LaLiga closed a deal with Facebook in India, which is one of the biggest and most relevant markets for Facebook outside of the US. This was an absolute first amongst European Football leagues and a very innovative way to try something completely new in a non-traditional Football market. Facebook offers a very broad distribution as a free medium that enjoys a huge following in a very tech-savvy market. At the same time, sublicensing three matches per week to SONY TEN, offers LaLiga fans in India the best possible combination to consume Football on social media and more traditional linear television.

It is really a great example of digital / social media complimenting established operators in a country. Football is still a growing sport in India and LaLiga has been making efforts to capture that fanbase, including opening a dedicated office in Delhi some four years ago. Apart from working with Facebook on LaLiga, Telco ‘Reliance Jio’ have also signed up recently to broadcast the Copa del Rey competition.


Is this something that can start a trend? Social media platforms are in the center of how businesses are made nowadays. Do you think that something like that can start happening in football, making social media the preferred way to broadcast football internationally?

The trend is not new, depending on which market it has in fact been happening for many years. In China for example, even six/ seven years ago Mediapro Asia had distributed LaLiga literally on every Internet and video portal from PPTV, to SINA, Tencent, Youku, LeTV, Ali Sports and NetEase. That came on top of CCTV 5 and several provincial broadcasters showing LaLiga matches every week. through each and every platform.

Today, Facebook, Amazon, Google, Twitter etc. appear to be the new trend to partner the football industry. Not just LaLiga in India. Apparently, Facebook also acquired English Premier League in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos for next season. Whether it becomes the new go-to platform for football broadcasting remains to be seen. At this stage rights acquisitions by major social media networks still appear to be very selective and driven by both opportunity and geography. Initial results certainly look good. LaLiga likes the data they are receiving and the feedback is great, but it is too early to know what model really works best long term. There is definitely room for traditional media to remain significant in the sports industry for years to come.


With all the changes witnessed in the industry and in broadcasting in Asia. What do you think about WFS and WFS Asia? Why do you think it’s an important event?

It’s a fantastic opportunity to provide a platform for all the different stakeholders and industry players to come together in Kuala Lumpur and exchange information on all the topics while discussing all the subjects. Is great to have this platform and bring everybody together and build a relationship.


If you want to hear more about what Lars Heidenreich has to say about the football industry and Asia, you can find him at the World Football Summit Asia in Kuala Lumpur on the 29th and 30th of April.

Adrian New – Q&A
Adrian New – Q&A 1106 1104 World Football Summit Asia

This week we have decided to sit down with Adrian New for a few minutes and discuss several topics. New is the Director of Football Initiatives at AIA and we wanted to hear a little bit more about his background and take a sneak peek at what he has to say about the football industry in general.

Adrian New will be one of the speakers in World Football Summit Asia.


You have been involved in the football industry for a long time. Can you tell us a little bit more about your experience, where do you come from and where you are now?

 I have covered the whole spectrum. I came to Asia in 2001 after working with VISA in sponsorships. I moved to a company called World Sport Group and through them I worked on the AFC properties for five years, where I was head of sales. After that, I joined Chelsea FC as managing director in Asia and I was responsible for the commercial activities in Asia.

 Since the beginning of 2016 I have been working at AIA, where I manage the partnership with Tottenham Hotspur.


The Asian Football industry has evolved largely in the past few years. We have seen a big number of Asian countries investing in their national leagues and sport facilities. Asia has also invested a great amount of money in buying players from European leagues to improve their own national ones. You’ve been in the center of this evolution. How did it happen? 

I am probably biased towards the Premier League, but I think that as the platform has grown, viewership has grown a lot. The resonance football has across Asia has increased.

If you go back to 2001, when I arrived here, The Premier league didn’t have a particularly strong platform in Asia and it was probably pretty much unknown in India. The Premier League made great efforts to increase the platform while keeping the product strong. There has always been a level of interest in football here, but it is now growing rapidly.


Do you think it’s possible that Asian leagues reach the quality of the Europeans one day? After all the money that is being invested, the aim is probably to compete with the greatest teams in the world. For instance, the strikers in Vissel Kobe, with Iniesta, Villa and Podolski, could compete with the attackers of many European top teams.

 The general quality of the Asian leagues is still far from the European ones. Outside of Japan and Korea, people are more interested in European football than they are in their own national leagues.

That’s beginning to change. Malaysia, Indonesia or Thailand can get huge crowds, but European football still leads the way. I work in 18 different countries and in almost all of them football is the number one sport.


Countries such as Qatar or Saudi Arabia have appeared on the radar of football fans around the globe. These were countries that had nothing (or close to nothing) to do with football, but now are main actors in the picture of the international football industry. Is the Asian football industry going to keep investing in Europe consistently? Should they keep putting money in Europe to maintain themselves in the picture?

 I would prefer to see them grow their own players rather than keep buying top players from European leagues. If you look at China, where the president put a lot of emphasis in building football schools for children, the problem I see is that their parents weren’t used to football. Now, with the new generation growing up around football, kids are being encouraged to follow football as a career rather than as a hobby. The more they can do that, like it’s starting to happen in Indonesia and Malaysia, the better their local leagues will get.


In the meantime, while Asia has been investing in the European football in different fields, such as the sponsorship of stadiums or the buying of clubs like PSG and Manchester City, Europe has also turned to Asia. The percentage of money invested has been growing consistently over the past few years. How can Europe grow their fan base in countries like Malaysia, India or Qatar?

 I have seen the number of European academies here grow rapidly. Ajax has an academy, LaLiga too; Real Madrid has a partnership with another one… I don’t know if they are going to put money directly into buying clubs, but they’re investing a lot of time and money into the development of players, thus making Asian football grow. They are helping in the development of talents on a day-to-day basis.


In April, World Football Summit will celebrate its first event in Asia. Hundreds of decision makers, clubs and federations are expected to attend. What’s the importance of events like WFS in the industry and what do you expect to achieve there?

I think it’s important that the world of sport comes together to share experiences and opportunities. There aren’t many places here in Asia where you can meet so many people from the industry. The opportunity to meet the top of the people in the football industry is fantastic and we should keep learning from each other.

To me, that’s the key benefit to the summit.


If you want to hear more about what Adrian New has to say about the hot topics of the football industry and Asia, you can find him at the World Football Summit in Kuala Lumpur on the 29th and 30th of April.