It is becoming less surprising to travel to the remotest place in the world and see children wearing football shirts from Real Madrid or Barça and for fans to be up-to-date with the latest signings and cups of the Spanish teams. Sport and, in particular, football, have become launchpads for the image of Spain abroad.

Football is undoubtedly the most folllowed sport by the Spanish and the one which best positions Spain as a true sporting power. The influence of Spanish clubs, particularly Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, is incomparable. They are both in the top 10 clubs with the highest number of members: Barça has 163,000 members, in second place; whilst Real Madrid, with 92,000 members, is ranked eighth.

Although th data is difficult to calculate, it is estimated that the former has a fan base of more than 450 million people worldwide, according to figures obtained by the club in conjunction with Microsoft in 2016; whilst another 340 million people are Barça fans according to data from Euromericas Sport Marketing in that same year.

They are also in first and second positions in terms of being the clubs that generate the most money in the world: Real Madrid, ranked first, generating 750.9 million Euros;  Barcelona was in second place with 690.4 million, according to data from the Deloitte Football Money League 2019 report. And let’s not forget the astronomical numbers of spectators who attend the games between both teams: a potential audience of around 650 million worldwide.

With these figures professional football has had a major impact on the Spanish economy. According to the report on the Economic, fiscal and social impact of professional football in Spain from 2018, prepared by PwC for LaLiga, the professional football industry generated an economic activity of 15,688 million euros in Spain and created around 185,000 jobs in the 2016-2017 season, contributing 1.37% to the GDP. As well as becoming a tourist attraction for Spain.


A benchmark for the organization of sports events

The Olympic Games of Barcelona 92 were a turning point for Spain in terms of the organization of major sporting events and its sports management and policy, where they have achieved major international recognition due to their proven organizational capacity.

Previously, back in 1982, Spain had hosted the Football World Cup, followed by various European finals, and this year the Champions League Final will be held in Madrid. Spain has recently demonstrated that it is capable of hosting major events when it staged the final of the Copa Libertadores between Boca Junior and River Plate. Madrid deployed a successful security operation which allowed the event – whose security had been threatened in Argentina – to run smoothly.

Besides football, there are many sports events of international relevance that have been organized by Spain. The Mutua Madrid Tennis Open, the Formula 1 Grand Prix which takes place every year in Montmeló (Barcelona), the Vuelta a España cycling event, the final of the Davis Cup and various stages of the World Motorcycle Championship, amongst others. Some of them take place every year and are a chance for foreign visitors to enjoy the competition and take in some sites.


Sporting champions, Spain’s best ambassadors

As well as sporting events, Spain stands out as a nation of great sports people. Rafa Nadal, Mireia Belmonte, Fernando Alonso, Andrés Iniesta, Garbiñe Muguruza, Carolina Marín, Pau Gasol and Marc Márquez are just some examples of people who best convey the Spanish values of modernity, drive and competitiveness.

Spain has also had 2,683 Olympians (Summer and Winter), according to the Spanish Olympic Committee website. The athletes and Olympic teams have won 46 gold, 65 silver and 44 bronze medals, totalling 155 medals. It was ranked 25th out of 137 countries in the Summer Olympics.


The Spanish sporting model

The 1992 Olympic Games of Barcelona 1992, not only demonstrated Spain’s ability to host sporting events on a worldwide scale, it also transformed and improved sports structures, and  raised the profile of sport inside Spain and internationally. Sports management was modernized through the coordinated involvement of public administrations, federations, clubs and private bodies; whilst the sports industry was overhauled with top-level sports facilities, equipment and material. In conjunction with sporting federations which were facilitating the appearance of new values.