Athletic Club Business Model

July 28, 2017

Football Focus: Athletic Club Business Model - Johan Cruyff Institute

A case study on Athletic Club, one of the most unique organizations in world football, by Dr. Oliver Seitz and Matheus Girardi

In the first edition of the Football Focus, a new section created by Johan Cruyff Institute, we have selected a club that we believe to be one of the most unique organizations in world football.

While football clubs tend to spend vast sums of money on finding and signing the best talent from around the world, Athletic is loyal to its tradition and limits recruitment solely to talent from the Basque region.

Despite being a seemingly simple code of practice, this philosophy affects the entire business structure of the club. For any club, this self-imposed restriction on talent acquisition would have an immense negative impact on performance, as clubs in La Liga are able to attract top players from all over the world.

Yet, despite the very limited catchment area for talent, Athletic constantly finishes in the top half of the table and has never been relegated from Spain’s top tier competition, which is something that only Barcelona and Real Madrid have also achieved.

Off the pitch, the club also excels while facing the same geographical restrictions. Despite being located in a region that does not rank among the most populated areas of the country, Athletic’s newly refurbished stadium, one of the top football venues in the country, has one of the largest average attendances in Spain.

The club’s finances are thriving. Equity value is increasing, revenues are at an all-time high, debt is low and reserves are solid.

This analysis will focus on understanding how Athletic Club manages to combine this successful financial performance with steady on-pitch results, while at the same time it resists the competitive demand for transfers and does not turn away from its traditions and local values.

How does Athletic do it? And what other football clubs around the world can learn from their business model? Let’s find out.


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Football is quite possibly the most powerful most popular sport in the world; linking communities, moving emotions and breaking down cultural barriers. Football has also become one of the most profitable industries, with significant economic impact to infrastructure development, sponsorships, TV rights and transfers of players. The main objective of the Postgraduate Diploma in Football Business is to educate you in the proper use of management tools for organizations linked to football. You’ll develop abilities to recognize business opportunities, establish strategies, anticipate changes and optimize resources.

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