World Football Summit speaks exclusively with Óscar Mayo, executive director at LaLiga, on the most relevant subjects surrounding football’s hottest topics: the Super League, the metaverse, and more. This interview features in the latest edition of WFS Digest, our insider’s guide to the latest and most relevant thoughts and practises from within the football industry. You can subscribe to WFS Digest HERE.
“Interest in football in the American market is constantly growing. The World Cup in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada will undoubtedly increase that interest over the next three or four years.”
LaLiga has been a global partner of WFS since 2017, proving to be a strong ally in the football industry in attempts to further professionalise the sector and the likes of Mayo, like league president Javier Tebas, has been a regular figure at WFS events throughout the years.
World Football Summit: Everyone knows that the football industry, and sport in general, is going through a period of disruption accelerated by the pandemic. Despite this, LaLiga is clearly growing, especially in the international arena. How do you explain this apparent contradiction? Is it possible to continue growing?
Óscar Mayo: Definitely, there is still plenty of room for growth. In Spain, we already have a very high level of awareness, knowledge, and consumption, so if we want to continue growing, we must bet on expansion and globalisation. At LaLiga, we understood this a few years ago and although the room for growth is not infinite, there are plenty of opportunities ahead.
The goal is to place ourselves in tier two in most markets, after local sports. For us, consolidating our position as a benchmark competition for rights buyers and fans is fundamental. There currently are five major players, which are the Premier League, LaLiga, Formula 1, NBA, and Champions League, but I think there’s room to grow market by market without a doubt.
WFS: On that note, the recent launch of LaLiga Pass in some Asian countries marks a path, doesn’t it?
Mayo: Yes, it’s a complementary way to get closer to the consumer, to offer them a product that is more extensive than what broadcasters can offer, and that’s where we are. We started working on this two and a half years ago. We’ve started this year in Thailand and Indonesia, but we’re not going to stop there, it’s a strategy that we will continue to implement across several countries.
WFS: In recent years there has been a lot of discussion about young fans and competition from Twitch, YouTube, and other platforms. This started to be seen in the sports world as a problem, but can it end up being an ally?
Mayo: It’s the typical thing where a lie repeated a thousand times becomes the truth; there’s no substance to it at all as the interest of young people is there. The new channels give us tools to reach a younger audience who are going to be present and future consumers, so I think they are an ally because they are a new way of reaching them.
WFS: There are studies by LaLiga that remove the validity of these youth-related clichés, but is it possible to specify some of the data that does so?
Mayo: I can share with you two that are easy to understand: Any LaLiga match, in any country, is a trending topic on social networks like Twitter. The second is that TikTok, the social network of the young profile par excellence, is investing huge amounts of money in football. On one hand we’ve just broadcasted the first live match through TikTok on GOL, and on the other, Tik Tok has invested a lot in the European Championship.
From there I can tell you that LaLiga is one of the five biggest competitions at a global level. We have found that the level of interest and consumption of people under 30 years of age isn’t decreasing. Furthermore, what reports were there 30 years ago on the consumption of young people? Therefore, what data are we comparing with?
WFS: Fan engagement is probably one of the biggest challenges facing clubs right now?
Mayo: We’re living in a time of maximum interaction and the level of intensity of sports consumption is very different. It is true that there’s dual-screen consumption, that you can be watching sport and at the same time be on Twitter, but the level of intensity with which we consume football has nothing to do with 20 years ago.
Twenty years ago, between matches, at most, you played cards. Now you play FIFA, fantasy games, you consume social networks, reports, documentaries… the level of interaction with sport is very high.
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WFS: “The Metaverse” is one of biggest buzz words in the industry right now, do you think clubs need a Chief Metaverse Officer now?
Mayo: No, I think clubs need good Chief Digital Officers who are able to analyse market trends and make the right decisions. We created a blockchain team four years ago to analyse and identify trends and be able to make the right decisions financially, legally, commercially, and digitally.
It’s important to work and study to make decisions, so I think clubs need good Chief Digital Officers who are aware and make the decisions about what role they want to play in which areas.
WFS: So you don’t think that this new wave of disruption, whatever it is, accelerated by the pandemic, poses a serious risk for some clubs, especially those that are not as big, that have not yet managed to get much out of social networks. Because change is so fast…
Mayo: No, I see it as an opportunity, now that all the clubs are reinforcing their structures, to continue growing and to keep up with the latest international trends.
WFS: It is clear that the agreement with CVC has as one of its main objectives the professionalisation of the industry and hence the renewal of organisational structures:
Mayo: Yes, the project with CVC is to invest and advance in four years what we would have done in 20 years in terms of infrastructure, brand, teams, professionalisation, several verticals. There are seven that we have determined: corporate social responsibility, infrastructure, digital, technology, international, marketing and commercial, and brand.
WFS: What do you think are the main challenges for clubs and can they be listed or generalised?
Mayo: Every club has its challenges. We, after a thorough analysis, have determined these seven verticals that I’ve mentioned as the most strategic to work on in the first years of the Impulse Plan, and they are the ones we are going to focus on.
Infrastructures for all those who need to invest in stadiums and sports cities; internationalisation because we need more international clubs; marketing and commercial, we have to reinforce these structures to generate more commercial business.
WFS: It is very interesting to talk about the specific case of Osasuna which has implemented a technology, which does not even exist in the Bernabeu, related to facial recognition. I understand that all these small digitalisation measures are an essential part of the CVC package…
Mayo: Yes, it is mandatory and it’s part of where we are allocating investments because we believe that you have to invest to grow, and the part of investment in technology and digital is key.
WFS: What are the main markets for LaLiga at the moment?
Mayo: We sell rights in 185 markets, practically all over the world, and in each one we experience different situations. If you tell me by the value of rights: United States is a very important market, the Middle East is an important market, Mexico and Latin America also, in India it is small, but we have an opportunity to grow.
In Southeast Asia, there is a relevant opportunity to grow, in Europe, we have good contracts depending on which countries. But the main ones right now are Latin America, Mexico, the United States, the Middle East, and some countries in Europe.
WFS: A lot of focus will move to the Americas for obvious reasons (World Cup 2026) in the next four years, won’t it?
Mayo: Interest in football in the American market is constantly growing. Second and third-generation Latinos with greater purchasing power and a much higher interest in football than the more Anglo-Saxon American population may have, are causing the interest and value of football there to grow. In addition, the proximity of a World Cup in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada will undoubtedly increase that interest over the next three or four years.
WFS: There is another widespread cliché that Spanish football has lost competitive level against its great European rivals, perhaps the Champions League semifinals disprove this illusion, what is your opinion?
Mayo: Not only the semi-finals, but we are also the only league in the world with five teams in the Champions League. Along with the Premier League, we are the only one with three teams in the quarter-finals or with two clubs in the semi-finals?
Once again it’s shown that no matter how much we talk, reality puts everyone in their place. But the important thing is not to go into those details because next year you may have three teams or none at all. What is important is that Spanish teams continue to compete in Europe at a very high level with five representatives in the Champions League this year because Villarreal won the Europa League last year.
I think that in the last 10 years the vast majority of Europa League and Champions League champions are Spanish, we are the league with the most champions and finalists by far. It’s not just this year’s detail, it goes beyond the specific detail of having three out of eight quarter-finalists and two out of four semi-finalists, it’s the general balance of how Spanish clubs have competed and continue to compete in European competitions.
WFS: Where do you see the Super League project now and do similar developments in sports such as golf represent an unstoppable long-term trend change?
Mayo: The promoters have already clearly said they are going to keep working for it and the football industry, the main stakeholders, and governments, have said it’s something they don’t want.
WFS: Finally, what does an event with the characteristics of the World Football Summit that you have been betting on since 2016 bring to an organisation as big as LaLiga?
Mayo: World Football Summit exemplifies what we have been defining as the worldwide professionalisation of the industry. It is a meeting point for international professionals from all over the world to talk about trends, the future, to connect.
It’s a week in which we take advantage of to have meetings since professionals from all over the world come here. Our international meeting always coincides with WFS. Everyone wants to come to the World Football Summit and everyone wants to hear what is said at WFS because it is about the future and the industry.
This article features in the latest edition of WFS Digest, our insider’s guide to the latest and most relevant thoughts and practises from within the football industry. You can subscribe to WFS Digest HERE.