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Articles | 16.6.2022

Sports business and social impact can go hand in hand

Sport business and social impact are not mutually exclusive. In 10 years, the Spanish LaLiga has grown from a national football organization to an international business operator that focuses on global networks and local impact. The key to success is wide-ranging cooperation with companies and organizations operating in different sectors.

At the core of LaLiga is – of course – football, but today Laliga is also a huge business in the entertainment sector. Starting with 50 people, in just 10 years LaLiga has grown from a Spanish national association to an international operator with employees and networks all around the world.  

“Today, there are about 650 professionals at LaLiga from about 40 countries. They work in coaching, innovation, business, bioanalytics, and international cooperation,” says Juan Fuentes Fernandez, the Laliga delegate for the Nordics. 

Social impact is a side effect of growth

The starting point was simple: LaLiga needed to grow, but national markets were already saturated. The natural step was to grow internationally. “As the sports entertainment sector was – and still is – growing globally, this created a market for LaLiga,” says Fernandez. “This does not, however, happen just by selling more TV licenses. At first, football needs to be popular in the target country.”

LaLiga’s key strategy of growing internationally is to support the popularity of football. According to Fernandez, the organization does this by building long-term cooperation in all sectors connected to football. “LaLiga is a sports ecosystem interconnected with different organizations and businesses. We strongly believe in co-operation. We think it’s the key to success.”

Juan Fuentes Fernandez, the Laliga delegate for the Nordics.

Along with the popularity of football, social impact is also growing, from the grass-root level football clubs to education and employment. “While we’re doing business, we’re also creating impact,” says Fernandez. “In Spain alone, professional football employs over 180,000 people and forms about 1.37 percent of the Spain’s GDP. Over the years, hundreds of coaches, players, and students have attended LaLiga’s courses or local projects in the target countries.”

“The networks and ecosystems around football create a remarkable amount of financial and social wellbeing,” he adds.

Step 1: professionalize your work

Building a global sports ecosystem requires a strong strategy. The first thing LaLiga needed to do was to create an education system – the school of sports management. “We realized that to grow, we needed to professionalize our work, like our education and coaching systems,” says Fernandez. “We believe that education is the best tool for development.”

LaLiga Business School offers different courses and education programs, such as business courses, sports marketing, sports and health, sports events organization, and sports methodology. 

In addition to local education and courses in Spain, LaLiga Business School collaborates with more than 15 countries around the world. An example of this work is the cooperation agreement between LaLiga and Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences, JAMK. “We offer football industry seminars for students that specialize in sports management; partly online courses, but also live seminars in Jyväskylä,” says Fernandez. “These courses are very practical and include business cases.”

Step 2: digitize your business with diverse teams

Football, like any other sport, attracts those who share a passion for sports. “But my advice is to seek professionals outside of football,” says Fernandez. “You need professionals from different fields to create the best possible team and outcome.” 

“For LaLiga,” he continues, “we have recruited data and IT specialists who don’t even follow football. And yet they’re able to give the best possible results to enhance our business. It’s important to understand how data is used in different fields, and how it could be used in our field – entertainment.”

Juan Fuentes Fernandez on stage at Sport Meets Business event May 2022.

Today LaLiga is a data-driven organization that makes use of digital platforms and services. It uses data, for example, to understand and find the optimal schedule for football matches in order to attract the largest possible audience and improve fan engagement. It also has its own OTT streaming service and digital ecosystem that concentrates on applications and fantasy games.

“There are undesirable phenomena in the sports entertainment sector, such as match fixing and piracy,” says Fernandez. “Our tactical platform fights against these and similar things.” 

Step 3: share your knowledge and give back

LaLiga is aligned with some of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as decent work and economic growth, good health and wellbeing, innovation, quality education, gender equality, and reducing inequalities.

“These goals form a base for our projects and cooperation,” says Fernandez. “For example, we created LaLiga Genuine to offer those with intellectual disabilities the possibility to train and play in football teams. We also want more women to participate in football and sports in general. We’re working on giving more TV visibility to women’s football. Putting women‘s football on the map is everyone’s job.”  

“When football grows,” he continues, “LaLiga grows. We want to support local development. We keep our eyes open for new cooperation opportunities with local institutions, such as federations, leagues, or clubs. Sharing is good, as is growing together.”

See Juan Fuentes Fernandez’s presentation at Sport Meets Business event. 

Read more about LaLiga’s social impact.

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