FC Barcelona is one of the most popular soccer teams on the planet. Its Catalan motto, Més que un club (more than a club), says a lot about how it's run: Did you know it's a cooperative?
Barça, as the Barcelona-based team is more affectionately known to its 150 million fans worldwide, was founded in 1899. Today, the club is much more than just a soccer team: it's a major sports empire, comprising 13 different professional and amateur teams in sports ranging from handball to hockey. As a cooperative sporting association, it has more than 175,000 members, all of whom have a voice in deciding the direction and future of the club. With an annual revenue of more than 400 million euros—that's over half a billion US dollars—it's one of the richest soccer clubs in the world.
And they're a success on the soccer field, too. Barça is a 21-time champion of Spain's La Liga championship and 26-time champion of the Copa del Rey; last year, the team brought home its fourth European Cup (Champion League).
Taking guidance from cooperative principles
So what's the driving force behind all this success? A solid organizational foundation based on proven cooperative principles:
Open and voluntary membership: Anyone can become a member (adults, seniors, children—even newborns!). The cost of a 2012 adult membership is 124.50 euros (around US$160).
Democratic member control: Its members can be elected to the board of directors or vote to appoint directors, including the president.
Members' economic participation: The members oversee the club's financial health through decisions on such issues as the cost of membership and season ticket prices. They even have a say over the sales and marketing of team merchandise.
Community involvement: As approved by its members, the club pays 0.7% of its ordinary income to the FC Barcelona Foundation for its international development programs. The Foundation has signed an agreement with UNICEF to donate 1.5 million euros to the organization every year and feature the UNICEF logo on the team's iconic maroon and blue striped jerseys.
Here's hoping that the success of such a prestigious organization can serve as an inspiration to all the companies considering entering the ever-expanding world of cooperatives.
Image source: http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/FC_Barcelone