How did the idea of Real Madrid partnering with Universidad Europea to prepare talent for the sports industry come about?
When Florentino Pérez joined the club, its budget was €120 million. After three seasons, it had increased to over €300 million. Harvard Business School contacted us because it was impressed with the transformation of our balance sheet. It sent two members of its teaching staff to produce two case studies.
If Harvard was interested in what we had achieved at the club, why not share it? That was the start of our adventure.
To accompany us on this journey, we wanted a university that shared our values and that would give us international visibility. Universidad Europea had the perfect profile.
The project was launched in 2006 with a clear objective: to provide training for the people we identified as future leaders. After 13 years, it’s now one of the world’s leading sports schools.
We’re talking about sport in the broadest sense of the word.
On the one hand, there’s the world of health, physiotherapy and nutrition; on the other, there’s sports law, marketing… We run an MBA, which is available in both English and Spanish, together with masters in sports marketing, sports law and communication. The school encompasses all the activities of Real Madrid and each masters has a co-director who is a senior executive at Real Madrid. The teaching staff includes more than 70 professionals from Real Madrid, which really shows the club’s commitment to the school.
There is also a chair to promote and reward research. Advances are always made by those who can push the boundaries. These people need support to help us grow and discover new horizons.
What is the profile of the students and what opportunities do they have?
This year, we have students from over 50 nationalities at our school. Last year, we provided around 140 work experience placements at Real Madrid.
The school also has exceptional teaching staff, giving students the chance to learn from the people responsible for the club, people who aspire to be the best in the world because that’s what history expects of them. It’s a huge responsibility, not just for the players on the pitch but for all of us involved in education.
We always say that the alumni of the Real Madrid Graduate School – Universidad Europea are our best ambassadors. That means we need to give them the highest quality experience.
Real Madrid’s business relationships also provide contact with other types of companies.
That’s another big advantage: students are in contact with the leading figures in the sector. Studying for a masters qualification is a major sacrifice, both financially and in terms of the time required. Many of our students come from other countries and take a whole year out to study. We have to ensure their experience is not just academic but is as close as possible to the reality in which they will go on to compete.
Can someone who doesn’t study in a school like this work in the sports industry?
Nowadays, all sports clubs and organizations—no matter their size—have a professional structure. To be part of this world, you need the right education. Over 90% of our students find employment shortly after completing a masters. The industry is crying out for graduates of this type.
At present, 40 of the club’s staff have studied at the Real Madrid Graduate School – Universidad Europea. We also have a number of our graduates working in the Spanish offices of the NBA, with whom we have a good relationship.
What has changed in the world of sport since you were a player?
Everything. From the grass through to how we travel. The professionalization of the club has reached a point at which every detail matters. And they all add up. If you want to be the best, every little detail counts.
If you have the best players on the pitch, you also need the best people in the other parts of the organization.
Almost 40% of the Real Madrid budget—now almost €800 million—comes from the marketing department.
When I left the club in 1995, the stadium was just a place where football matches were played. Now, Real Madrid’s facilities are used every day. The stadium tour is one of Madrid’s most popular tourist attractions, attracting fans from all over the world. Last year, we received 2,400,000 visitors. It brings a lot of money in for the club. It’s another example of how our professionals develop strategies to maximize the resources we have available to allow us to continue competing at the highest level.
What is the challenge facing the school going forward?
Strengthening the Madrid school’s position as a world leader in sports education and expanding international partnerships. We have agreements with Columbia University in New York, University of California, Los Angeles, and the Beijing Sport University. These will help us to grow as a school, learning from prestigious partners and expanding our reach to those who, for various reasons, can’t get to us.