European clubs have been attempting to win over fans in the U.S. with summer tours for years now, but Barcelona might have discovered the most effective and profitable way to achieve this mission: youth academies that teach kids to be fans of the club for the low price of $3,000 a year.
Barca's first permanent youth academy in the U.S. opens in south Florida this month, promising to teach kids lucky enough to be selected and have parents willing to spend thousands of dollars the methodology that has produced some of the best footballers in the world. From the AP:
Over 600 boys and girls attended tryouts in May, some coming from other states and countries, like Haiti, Venezuela and Canada, to vie for 384 spots. The winners will pay $3,000 annually to attend the academy, which does not include room, board or schooling. Some parents say they will move their family to South Florida if their child is picked.
Again, that's $3,000 a year for no room, board or schooling. But how can a parent put a price on their child's chance to become the next Lionel Messi? When it's really just a chance to become a fan of Lionel Messi.
Marcel Bombonato, the managing director of Kaptiva Sports, official partner of FC Barcelona in the U.S., says scouting is one of the goals. But beyond teaching soccer, the club wants to convert children into Barcelona fans.
Some 3,200 children attended seven soccer camps held this summer by Barcelona across the eastern U.S. Each day they listened to the team's ''Cant del Barca,'' and at a recent Miami camp most of the 245 children clad in Barcelona colors clapped their hands and chanted the chorus, ''Barca, Barca, Barca.''
So Barcelona are essentially raising an army of future merchandise buyers and they're getting parents to pay through the nose for the privilege of sending their kids to these football fan factories. It's genius. And it's only a matter of time before other major clubs do the same thing.
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