Sports investments in Spain

 Since 2013, Sol Sports Invest (SSI), a Sports Advisory and Investment Firm located in Alicante and London have been providing sports business owners, athletes and investors in sports with bespoke and innovative solutions that are specific to the challenges of the sports industry in Spain.

Within this article, we aim to give you an insight into established sports-related businesses and investment opportunities within football, golf and padel in the sunny south-eastern region of Alicante.

 In addition, we cover both public and private sector investment in Spain as well as the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for the sports industry.

 Why Alicante? 

 Alicante is recognised as an ideal location to play sports and invest for the following reasons:

1) Enviable climate – 320+ days of sunshine a year.

2) Tourism accounts for 50-60% of revenue within the province.  ALC airport has exceeded 10 million passengers in the first nine months of 2022,  an 82% recovery from 2019  air traffic levels.

3) Sports facilities in Alicante are some of the best located in Europe with continued investment both within the public and private sectors.

4) Well-established tourism area with excellent air, road and rail infrastructure.

5) A large pool of internationally skilled labour force to recruit from.

Semi-pro and professional Football Clubs in Alicante province

During the last decade, Football Clubs within the Alicante province have experienced a roller-coaster ride of promotions and relegations.

Although a few Alicante based Clubs have experienced success during the last few seasons, the majority of Clubs from LaLiga Santander (1st Division) to the Segunda regional (8th  Division)  are now struggling.

Elche CF sit in last place of La Liga with 4 points, La Nucia FC (3rd division), after their recent promotion is now in the bottom three.

Hércules FC, an Alicante City based team with a stadium capacity of 30,000 who won at Barcelona FC at Nou Camp during the 2010/11 season, now find themselves languished in the 4th division.

 A success story in recent seasons is the meteoric rise of Intercity FC, a Club formed in 2017 and the first Spanish Football Club to be publicly listed on the BME (Bolsa de Madrid – Spanish stock market).    With 4 promotions in five seasons,  the Club, however, have stuttered as of late and now lies 11th in the 3rd division.

It is now imperative for the Club to reach the promised land of Liga Smartbank (2nd) and ultimately La Liga Santander sooner rather than later.  Recent released Club records state their 2021-22 wage bill exceeded 1,700,000 € whilst income from tickets, merchandise and advertising amounted to less than 400,000€.

As many Clubs worldwide have found, investing relatively large sums of money does not always guarantee instant success on the pitch.  Continual investment over the coming months and years will need to be sustained just to maintain Clubs afloat, let alone reach the promised land and achieve the break-even point and dare we say it, make a profit.

 

Private Football Academies

Private football academy “start-ups” in Alicante aimed primarily at overseas players dreaming of playing in Spain have increased in recent years.  Average prices range from 1800-2000 euros per month which includes accommodation, food, coaching and if a player from the academy is assessed as being good enough, an opportunity to trial with local Spanish Clubs is a possibility.

SSI assisted a UK-based football academy set up in Alicante in 2018.  Their success in Spain is largely in part to their experience with established overseas academies in the UK, USA and Australia and an established database of players for more than ten years.

Furthermore, it was important particularly at the early stage, they had a trusted network on the ground to navigate them through Spanish bureaucracy, sourcing suitable site locations and to negotiate favourable terms and conditions

We expect to see more private international academies emerging in the area in the coming months and not only in the football sector but also within golf, padel and tennis.  Land, facilities, suitable accommodation and qualified coaches are in place and ready – it´s only a matter of time before the investment is forthcoming.

Organised Football Tours & Camps in Alicante and surrounding provinces (Murcia & Valencia) have seen an exponential rise in the last decade as sports & golf resorts have capitalised on the the potential of hosting overseas Clubs and Federations.

We foresee a continual flow of investment into building small-medium football complexes in Alicante and other regions of Spain.  In fact, in June 2022, funding was sought from a Spanish-based football tour operator to build a football complex in La Nucia Sports City with 4 pitches  (2 X  F11 and 2X F8).

Total investment estimated at 782,000 € and the complex is due to be completed in January 2023.

A Club and Federation resort favourite (as well as ours!) is Oliva Nova Golf and beach resort in Valencia.  Alicante airport is an hour south of the resort and Valencia airport is an hour north.     The resort boasts 4/5 * hotel accommodation, an 18-hole golf course, a beachfront location,  4 quality grass pitches with spectator stands and only a 5-minute walk from the Hotel.  It is regarded as a top European football location to train, play and relax in.

SSI partners exclusively with Milenio Sports (FIFA licenced match agency) where together we have hosted  50+ professional and Federated teams from Hungary U17´s to the Men´s Canadian national team.   From Feb 12-28th, 2023, we will together host the U19 women´s tournament, including Austria, the Republic of Ireland, Switzerland and Hungary at the resort.

Oliva Nova is a well-established sports resort and various investment opportunities exist here within sports and real estate.

Golf courses and resorts in Alicante

 

Spain is the number one destination for golfing holidays in Europe.  Alicante Province has 23 golf courses.  The number of rounds increased by 19,2% this year (2022) (Asociación de Campos de Golf de la Costa Blanca y Comunitad Valenciana (ACGCBCV)

Furthermore, 500 million Euros per year (Chamber of Commerce)  is generated within the three Provinces  of Comunidad Valencia (Alicante, Castellón and Valencia)  from the travelling golfer and this trend is set to continue.

Golf clubs are recovering very well post-pandemic.   As well as increased number of rounds played,  golf & sports resorts are maximising the use of spare “urban” land that can be legally built on.

According to LACOOP (15th June 2021), enquiries via property portals for real estate on golf courses & resorts increased by 74%.  Post-pandemic, the desire for national and overseas buyers (retirees to young families) to be closer to nature and within walking distance to sports facilities has fuelled the market further for both second-hand and new properties in golf resorts.

Furthermore, another market the the public and private sectors are targeting digital nomads/remote workers who view golf clubs and resorts as ideal places to work from.

Businesses, particularly tech-related are looking to get in on the act and detached property with pools and commercial units are being snapped up to accommodate their workers.  Working with views to a fairway and pool and the blue sky is surely more inspirational than sitting in a cubicle with views of grey sky and buildings on the same task?

During the pandemic, SSI  launched  www.solsportsproperties.com  an online portal aiming to connect buyers and sellers of real estate on golf courses and resorts in Spain.

It was aimed to promote golf resorts in Spain at the same time create a one-stop shop for anyone looking to buy or sell a property on a golf course.

As well as private clients and businesses re-locating to golf courses, sports clubs are signing agreements with Golf Clubs.  A recent deal involved Intercity FC and Bonalba Golf club, which will result in a training pitch adjacent to the Clubhouse being built by January 2023 for the First Team.

A total investment of 150,000 euros by Intercity FC should kick-start further investments from sports Clubs and investors that are struggling to find suitable land elsewhere.

Golf courses and clubs for sale.   This is a complex subject and is worthy of a separate article or even a book!   Many Golf Clubs went bankrupt during the 2007/8 financial crisis and ever since, attaining financial transparency is a challenge.

Golf courses are sold more behind closed doors and off-market here.   No public portals or specialised companies selling golf clubs exist.  SSI is currently working on behalf of several clients from the UK to Shanghai interested in buying and leasing golf courses in Spain.   Opportunities do exist but a great deal of due diligence and patience is required.

Indoor golf centres and driving ranges are now starting to emerge and there is a massive market in Spain for golf centres combined with entertainment, that appeals to non-golfers and all ages and as we have seen during the pandemic, the mental health benefits of golf are huge.

A few Golf Clubs have installed small driving range bays and we see 2023/4 as a boom year for both indoor and outdoor driving ranges.    SSI  is currently consulting with a leading London based indoor golf company to source potential sites from Alicante to Madrid area.

Padel

Padel is the fastest-growing game in Spain. There are 1000 padel clubs and 11,000 courts and around 5- 6 million people in Spain that play Padel. This makes Spain the leading country in the world for Padel.  Easy to learn the basics, fun and most of all it is a great sport to socialise!

Deloitte and Playtomic expect more than 1,000 million Euros in investment over the next four years in paddle tennis courts and clubs.  SSI has partnered recently with an Alicante-based company that builds padel courts and can assist investors looking to expand in Spain.

 

Who is investing? 

Public sector

A recent public investment (Alicante Town Hall) of just over €1.8 million was assigned to re-surface 3 artificial football pitches in the Alicante City surburbs.  A further € 4-5 million is projected to be invested in 2023 and 2024 to modernise facilities and build new sports complexes.

Private sector:

 PE (Private Equity) firms have invested in Spanish La Liga and Smartbank Clubs as well as the League itself. Spain’s La Liga agreed to a €2.7bn deal with CVC that sees private equity involved in the running of a large European football league for the first time.

David Lloyd leisure group recently invested more than €10 million in Madrid purchasing 2 fitness centres.  A French-owned private equity fund recently invested a reported €6 million into a local Alicante Golf Club.

 Smaller, lower-risk private investments into local sports businesses from Football Clubs (3rd – 8th division) to tennis centres tend to range from 50K to 500,000 €.

Aside from the brick-and-mortar sports investments, we can´t forget to mention NFTs (Non-fungible tokens) aimed at engaging the fan and increasing revenue for sports leagues and Clubs.  StadioPlus, a Spanish platform specialising in the intersection between NFTs and the sports world, has launched a new NFT marketplace project, which aims to mark a substantial change in the entertainment and sports sector.

Challenges of investing in sports in Spain 

The following challenges include: –

  1) Sourcing suitable land and facilities at the right price

2)  Complexity and time delays in acquiring paperwork, licenses and understanding local/national rules and regulations

3)  Global economic uncertainty resulting in higher lending charges, inflation rising and an expected downturn in the local economy

4)  Competition from existing and established sports businesses in the area.

Opportunities 

With a recession looming in 2023 we anticipate an increase in distressed sports assets for sale and therefore an opportunity for investors waiting on the sidelines to buy at the right price.

Golden visas are still an available option for investors and as well as owning a sporting asset there exists the possibility of securing a Spanish residency visa for their family.   Furthermore, in certain cases, there is local and national funding for businesses that can demonstrate a positive outcome for the local economy.

Although 2023 will no doubt be a bumpy ride, it will be an exciting and interesting time ahead to see where and how money is invested in Spain!  Stay tuned!

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