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Exclusive Interview: The CEO of Girona FC Discusses The Business Aspects of the Sensational Season.

Roger Hampel

CEO Girona FC
CEO Girona FC

Ignacio Mas-Bagà (CEO of Girona FC)


Girona FC is defying expectations, sensationally topping the La Liga table and captivating the football world with their stellar performances this season​​. This remarkable climb is the backdrop for our exclusive interview with the club's CEO, where we delve into the strategic insights and business maneuvers that have propelled this team to the summit of Spanish football.


Special Thanks To The Johan Cruyff Institute For Assistance In Organizing This Conversation!

Roger Hampel (Founder of Football Business Journal): What’s the key of this sensational sporting success? What changes were in the club not only on the pitch, but also off the pitch, from the time you were playing in La Segunda 2 years ago?


Ignacio Mas-Bagà (CEO of Girona FC): This season's performance is amazing. We've been on this journey since 2015, through promotions and relegations. Finding Michel, our coach, was a turning point. Even when we struggled in the relegation zone two years ago, we stood by him.


Michel's tweaks to our play style led to victories and our eventual promotion. Last season, we nearly made it to the Conference League - we ended up in the 10th position, so a very good result for our club. Last season we were in the 19th position in terms of salary cap ranking, and we have improved. This season we are in the 13th position. 


It's all about the consistent coaching, unique style of play, and sticking to our project. It hasn't been easy, but now, everything's clicking, and we're seeing the results, leading the table currently.


Roger Hampel (Football Business Journal): How have the club's successes impacted financial growth and revenue from merchandising, jersey and club accessories sales?


Ignacio Mas-Bagà (CEO of Girona FC): Certainly, a team's success helps to increase our revenue streams, but relying solely on winning is not a viable strategy because victories aren't guaranteed. You must be prepared for the difficult times. To give you a sense of our growth, back in 2015 when we started, we were selling 800 shirts a year, which generated around 30,000 to 40,000 euros.


Now, we're expecting to close the year with 1.3 million euros in retail sales, including around 12,000 shirts sold. That's a massive jump. Being in the first division helps - it's a significant showcase that attracts demand not only from within Girona or Catalonia but internationally as well. As for ticket sales, we're seeing sell-outs every weekend.


The demand is huge. Sure, our stadium is small, but the growing interest is encouraging, and we're coming up with various packages and products to meet this demand. Lastly, regarding partnerships, we've sold all our partnership assets, which is a positive indicator that things are going well. It shows that partners see Girona as a viable platform for business.


Roger Hampel: How many shirts were sold in-store versus online, and how does it look like in case of demographic?


Ignacio Mas-Bagà: I think that about 30% of the shirts are sold online, with the remainder sold at our physical stores. We have two main locations: one at the stadium and another in the city center of Girona. Plus, we have various retailers that receive royalties, which weren't included in the shirt sales numbers I mentioned earlier. The sales line is still expanding, and naturally, international sales predominantly happen online.


However, opening a store in the city center of Girona was a strategic move for us, not just for retail but also for branding. It's about being accessible to the city, and we found an excellent spot right on La Rambla of Girona, a hub for tourists. It positions us as the club of the region, making it the go-to place for anyone looking to buy a piece of the club.


Roger Hampel: Girona FC has a unique identity that resonates with pride among its supporters. Could you tell us more about how the club shows its Gironian pride and what effect it has on culture, tradition and values of the club?


Ignacio Mas-Bagà: There's a tagline embraced by our fans, 'Orgull Gironí,' which means Gironian pride. This comes from a local belief that Gironans are inherently proud because they are humble yet hardworking, and the quality of products from Girona is very high.


If you haven't had the chance to visit Girona, it's home to one of the world's top restaurants. It's a paradise for cycling enthusiasts and boasts the Costa Brava, one of the Mediterranean's finest coastlines.


We're immensely proud of our region and our approach to everything we do. It's easy to see this sense of belonging among our fans, the Girona way. This same determination and work ethic is evident in our team, persevering and striving to return to the first division after two unsuccessful playoff attempts.


That's why we've started to refer to ourselves as stubborn. In Catalan, we say 'testaruts,' because we're steadfast in our goal to return to where we believe we belong.


CEO Girona FC
CEO Girona FC

Roger Hampel: How does Girona FC use its small-town club and underdog image to its benefit?


Ignacio Mas-Bagà: Our city is a small city of 100,000 inhabitants. The region is bigger, with 700,000 inhabitants.


So, we see a potential to grow throughout the region, which is a significant opportunity. We try to leverage our small size, the underdog status, as an opportunity to connect with our fans in a unique way, to be closer to them.


It's a different approach. For example, when you come to the stadium, even from the last row, you can almost hear the players talk, shout, or the sound of the ball being kicked. It's that intimate experience you had as a child when you visited the typical small stadium of your hometown. We aim to capture this essence of real football at our Montilivi stadium.


Roger Hampel: The last time RCD Espanyol finished the league above FC Barcelona was more than 80 years ago.


Being right now above Barca at the table, how do you view the fact that at this moment you can be another strong football force in Catalonia?


Ignacio Mas-Bagà: We're not looking to pick a fight with FC Barcelona. It's true that currently, we're in a higher position. But let's wait and see. There are still many games left to play. Our aim isn't to outdo FC Barcelona. We're focused on becoming a significant presence in the region, and I believe that's starting to happen.


We were once a modest second division club. Now, everyone is talking about what the club is achieving both on and off the field. And particularly, our fans and local residents are feeling proud of our endeavors.


History will be the judge. We can't predict the outcome, but I feel we're building something that will hold its ground in the first division. That's our goal. There's room for a club like ours in the first division and in this region.


Roger Hampel: What about local and international business partnerships?


Ignacio Mas-Bagà: We're competing in one of the best leagues in the world, which is a fantastic showcase that draws the attention of brands. Our league is broadcast in more than 160 countries. The viewership is massive, it's almost everywhere. We have an annual cumulative audience of 90 million people.


Playing in the first division, this exposure is ever-increasing. We believe that the values of our club, combined with the exposure we gain, create an excellent opportunity for partnerships. These collaborations help to enhance the value of their brands and also boost their sales.


Roger Hampel: How has the club's success influenced the growth of Girona FC on social media?


Ignacio Mas-Bagà: We have a Weibo channel in China, but TikTok has seen significant growth as well. The expansion of TikTok is a good sign that we're connecting with Generation Z, the younger audience.


I must admit that our on-pitch results have sparked a substantial increase in growth over the last three months. All our social media channels have seen a rise in followers, as well as in views and engagement with every post we share.


Roger Hampel: Can you share insights on the day-to-day relationship between Girona FC and the City Football Group from the management point of view, and the benefits it brings to the club?


Ignacio Mas-Bagà: They are part of the ownership of the club. They hold 47% of the shares.


Then we have another two significant shareholders, Marcelo Claure with 35% and Pere Guardiola at 15%. Together, they form an excellent team that provides support, stability, and most importantly, a long-term perspective.


This is particularly valuable in an industry where such attributes are rare. The City Football Group is now a family of 13 clubs. It's a community where we can exchange knowledge, learn from different clubs and cultures, and enhance our operations.


That's our approach. Girona is managed from Girona by our local management team, which is important to highlight as it reflects our reality. But certainly, having shareholders who are influential in this industry is beneficial. They help us to continually learn and stay prepared in a rapidly evolving sector. It's essential to maintain a clear focus and not rely solely on weekend results.


You must plan for the long term and have reliable support, which is exactly what our shareholders have provided since their arrival.


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