What is the biggest football club in the world? It is a difficult one to judge as you need to define the criteria. Is the biggest club the richest or the one with the biggest global support? Or perhaps the most successful, which opens up all sorts of debate (I once received hate mail for suggesting that Rangers weren’t the most successful team because Real Madrid had won more “meaningful” honours). What about the one who gets the most column inches written about them? All such subjective measures wouldn’t you agree?
To me, the biggest football club is the one with the most owners, or members and despite Manchester United’s attempts at global dominance that honour falls to Barcelona. The Catalan giant, and undoubtably the best team in the world today have over 170,000 members or Socios, each of whom pays a minimum of €121 per annum for the privilege. Since the 2003–04 season, the club’s membership figures have risen from 100,000 to 170,000 Socis, a 70 percent increase. The sharp rise was attributed to the influence of Ronaldinho and then-president Joan Laporta’s media-strategy, which focused on online media in Spanish and English. As of June 2010 there were 1,335 officially registered fan clubs or “Penyes” around the world, representing an 11 percent increase since 2003. It is any co-incidence that the huge jump in membership (and in membership fees which were less than €50 back in 2006) has come during the most successful time in the club’s history? Well what you have to bear in mind is that despite the huge amount of revenue the Socios produces (simple maths of 170,000 x €121 = €20.6m per annum), the club are still over €442m in debt according to Deloitte’s. Success comes at a price. Continue reading