What can Real Madrid learn from Hamilton Academical!?

In the week Real Madrid topped Deloitte’s Football Money League 2015 (http://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/sports-business-group/articles/deloitte-football-money-league.html ), news broke that Scottish Premiership football club Hamilton Academical plan to charge 10 pence per ticket (known as the “Perfect 10” initiative) for fans attending this weekend’s match against Inverness Caley Thistle. Neither piece of news came as a massive surprise.

Firstly, to say these two clubs have very little in common, apart from the obvious, is an understatement. Here are a few examples of what I’m refering to:

  Real Madrid Hamilton Academical
Annual revenue EUR549.5 million unknown
Stadium capacity 81,000 6,000
Twitter followers 4.85 million (@realmadriden) 8,421
Facebook likes 81 million 1,051


“Accies” are a club run by its co-owners from top to bottom in accordance with the central guiding principle of “continuity” and under the banner of “the club of opportunity”. This identity runs deep throughout the club providing the foundation upon which it has built a strong reputation.

Co-owner Ronnie McDonald, when recently describing the club’s approach, was quoted as saying, “we say to Alex (the club’s former manager), ‘look, we want you to play kids, to give them a chance in the team. And if it doesn’t work out, it’s not your fault, it’s ours.’ Accies commitment to talent development goes beyond top class players (several of whom have “graduated” to play in the English Premier League) extending to medical staff, coaches and managers.

As you’d expect of a classy club living by a clear set of values, the Perfect 10 initiative was designed to honour the 10 years of service given to Accies by former manager Alex Neil (and his assistant) who also recently graduated to take the manager’s job at English Championship side, Norwich City. The initiative is also part of the clubs commitment to engaging its fan base and community (for more on this, read this very good article: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/05/sports/soccer/scottish-club-hamilton-academical-combines-soccer-and-sobriety.html?_r=0 ).

Although a far more polished brand machine in terms of presentation, Real Madrid and clubs like them could well learn a lot from the Accies model as a means to pursue and unlock incremental brand growth. There are more and more examples in football and sport in general where fans and sponsors are taking a stand against “irresponsible” clubs or players. If top clubs like Real demonstrated anywhere close to Accies level of commitment to operating by a clear set of brand values or guiding principles (call them what you will), they would be dangerous.

Incidentally, this is the tenth consecutive year Real Madrid has topped Deloittes Football Money League. All good things come in tens.


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