Football clubs are often cited as examples by those who believe that local connect is no more a big factor in building fan base. Most of Europe’s major clubs are now more focused on winning over a global audience than just concentrating of packing their stadium galleries.
Real Madrid, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool all believe in it.
In the early part of last decade, football fans in England were unhappy with Frenchman Arsene Wenger for relying too much on his compatriots to build Arsenal instead of promoting local English talent.
With successive England teams returning home from continental and world-level competitions empty-handed, there was some substance in their gripe against Premier League clubs, which are basically city or town-based outfits and enjoy huge local support, banking on foreign recruits for success.
It’s increasingly been that way from the time of Manchester United’s Northern Irish star George Best to Frenchman Eric Cantona through their Welsh hero Ryan Giggs. Ditto Liverpool who had Ian Rush of Wales and Kenny Dalglish from Scotland.
Similar is the case with Spanish giants Real Madrid, who have always relied on foreign stars to keep their flag flying. Be it Alfredo Di Stefano, a player born in Argentina, or the Galacticos of the last decade to today’s star Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid have maintained their connect with fans despite their players coming from different lands.
However, it doesn’t discount the fact that if you have a strong core group of local talent, it’s only better. It’s a point proved in the success of the most successful club in contemporary football: Barcelona. The nucleus of the current squad at Camp Nou is from its football academy: La Masia. When Barcelona won the Champions League in 2009, it had eight home-grown players.
Though Argentine star Lionel Messi is their best player (Messi was trained at the La Masia from a very young age), the nucleus of the Barcelona squad is still very Spanish. Bayern Munich are another exception that proves the rule of foreigners being king in club football.
Even the English clubs engage in strong community work throughout the year to maintain their links with local fans.