Yesterday, Ronaldinho and a host of FC Barcelona luminaries christened the opening of the legendary club’s American headquarters on the 20th floor of 250 Park Avenue in Manhattan.
NYCFC captain David Villa and Bulgarian legend Hristo Stoichkov, both former Barca forwards, joined in the festivities, which included a visit to MS 129 in the Bronx for a kickabout with the local kids.
Club President Josep Maria Bartomeu issued this statement on the occasion:
Today Barça begins a new era in which we wish to spread our reach across the world. The opening of this office in New York is a strategic decision made by the Board for not just commercial reasons but also social and charity ones.
Barça has a great relation with the USA on a commercial level that brings us together with great companies from the country and our Foundation as well has agreements with important bodies such as Unicef and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in the social and charity field.
We want to explain to the world what Barça will be and where we are going: we aspire to be most global, admired and loved sporting institution on the planet. With this new office and with the opening of the office in Hong Kong two years ago, now we can say that FC Barcelona is a twenty four hours a day, seven days a week operation.
The Blaugrana join Manchester City and Bayern Munich among major European clubs with an official business presence in New York City. Club brass stated two main goals animating the North American expansion:
- New revenue streams: With a stated revenue goal of one billion Euros by 2021, diving headfirst into the U.S. market makes good sense for a team with global appeal. (Hudson River Blue has reported on the local FC Barcelona supporters in the past, and they’re no joke.)
- A bigger charity push: The FC Barcelona Foundation has long sought a greater presence in the U.S., and the club is also committed to establishing new supporters groups to diversify their philanthropic reach.
"We are not following other clubs," he said. "We are following our strategic plans, opening our club to the world."
Care to clarify that?
"The idea is to create a team that can take part in the National Women's Soccer League that will help us to promote the club," Bartomeu said.
Wow. Not only would such a move be truly immense for the further development of NWSL, but it would be something of a shot across the bow for City Football Group, who haven't even established a proper youth academy or found a stadium site for NYCFC, at which an affiliated NWSL team would presumably be a tenant.
This is all of a piece that says Barcelona is taking this North America thing very seriously. City can't help but take notice, can they?
We’ll have to wait to see just what shape this new, ambitious presence takes in the coming years. But for now, just take a glance at the Empire State Building later this afternoon if you’re still wondering how for-real these guys really are: