7th APRIL 2015 - Vol.XXXVIII No.018
Sports News

Barca and Milan eye Bahrain fans

EUROPEAN soccer giants Barcelona and AC Milan are keen on establishing a presence in Bahrain as they continue to expand their reach to fans worldwide.

Officials from both clubs outlined their plans in this bid at the first Sports Investment Conference held at the Diplomat Radisson SAS Hotel.

The two-day event, which concluded yesterday, was organised by Arkan Business Group under the patronage of the General Organisation for Youth and Sports (Goys).

Barcelona chief marketing officer Lander Unzueta revealed that he has already had some talks, though mostly casual, with Bahraini officials about possible ventures with the Spanish giants in the kingdom.

"We want to be here in this region, and especially in Bahrain," Unzueta told the GDN after delivering his speech entitled 'Business Opportunities in Football, the FC Barcelona Model'.

"Barcelona is no longer a club of Barcelona. We are now a global club. We have fans from Bahrain and across the region, and we already have a sponsor from here in Etisalat (UAE-based telecommunications provider).

"We want to contribute to the sport of football here, to social activities and to businesses, and we are glad to be having talks now and hope to very soon have a more firm base and presence here."

When asked to reveal the nature of the talks and of the possibility of a friendly match between Bahrain and Barcelona, Unzueta said: "We've been talking about many things; the Bahraini hospitality we have received has allowed us to be very relaxed and to talk about many topics. About friendly matches, who knows? Inshallah."

AC Milan PR manager Daniele Massaro, who spoke on 'PR Management of a Top Club: the AC Milan Case' during the conference's first day, added that establishing an immediate connection with fans in the region has been a priority for the Italian club.

"We recently started a programme called 'We at Milan', which gives our fans from around the world membership so they can stay in touch with everything going on at our club," Massaro told the GDN.

"They can receive news and gift packages. This is through the Internet, which is a very good tool.

"Our website is now available in seven languages, and we are going to have an Arabic version coming soon.

"This is all part of our efforts to branch out to this part of the world, and hopefully soon to Bahrain."

Both Unzueta and Massaro had their own words of advice for Bahrain's sports clubs and organisations who are looking to further develop themselves in the future.

"It is important to take things step by step," said Unzueta. "Things are not done overnight. At Barcelona, we have been playing football at different stadiums for 110 years, but we are still learning every time.

"It is also important to have a unique identity; you must see the benchmark from outside, but each country has its own local attitudes, and that is how you have to develop your sport in the country."

Muharraq Club official Shaikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Khalifa commented: "We've seen how different clubs handle different situations. Everything was very helpful and we should be able to learn from the experiences they shared."

At the end of yesterday's talks, Goys president Shaikh Fawaz bin Mohammed Al Khalifa presented the speakers a memento.

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