Brad Pitt echoed something of the Tom Blackaller in the film Moneyball when he delivered the famous line as Billy Beane: “I hate losing more than I love winning.” And it feels almost apt for the whirlwind crusade that Grant Dalton is on right now around the various venues and options for AC37.
The desire to deliver a next-level event whilst winning in dramatic, devastating fashion and delivering on the promise of Team New Zealand is what’s driving this grittily determined leader and to hell with romantic sentiment. Pictured in the Spanish media, surrounded by the bigwigs of Barcelona 2040, a non-profit organisation that’s dialled into promoting the cultural, sporting and economic benefits of the autonomous Catalan capital, you can see the pressure he’s under.
Local media reported this flying visit with usual triumphalism, almost as if the deal were done. “From the World Trade Center, the visit began in the same facilities of the port. Its president, Damià Calvet, the first deputy mayor of the Barcelona City Council, Jaume Collboni, the president of Barcelona Global, Aurora Catà, and the CEO of Barcelona&Partners (the agency linked to the Barcelona Global business lobby) led the Barcelona delegation. All of them embarked late in the morning, to see from the sea the spaces where the Sailing America Cup (sic) could take place, where the technical zone would be located, the space for the teams, for the public….“
And then the crucial paragraph: “After lunch, the work continued with another meeting in which other aspects were addressed, including the financial one. It should be noted that in addition to the port, both the City Council and the Generalitat de Catalunya and the Barcelona Provincial Council consider that the America’s Cup is a great opportunity for the city.“
Yes, a great opportunity. I would go as far to say that it’s possibly the greatest opportunity that the City will ever have (I would say that) but can they square the financial side of things? And crucially, can they do it in short order?
Well, money is pouring into Barcelona at the moment – the Qatari-owned football club that bears one of the greatest names in world soccer just signed a massive deal with Spotify and gave over stadium naming rights to the famous Nou Camp. Middle-class Qatari investors, awash with gas money, are piling into real estate, shipping, infrastructure and renewable investments.
Meanwhile, back home the absolute monarchy run by the Al Thani family has spent $200bn on infrastructure for the World Cup later this year. The Qatar Sports Investments Group is, shall we say, awash with cash and on alert for high-profile events that come with a legacy investment structure. The America’s Cup is gold-dust.
But will they be rushed into the decision by the Barcelona Global Business Lobby? That’s a tough one to answer and more than likely, they won’t. The deal cash will have to be seeded initially by tapping up the huge number of business partners signed up in whole or in part to the non-profit’s mission. There’s big names in there – Nike, KPMG, Mapfre, SAP, T-Mobile to name but a few – and you have to think that there will be all manner of discussions going on frenetically behind the scenes.
The local media continue: “In the solidity of Barcelona’s candidacy, the fact that the administrations row in the same direction and that companies and entities, under the umbrella of Barcelona Global, are working to attract to the city what is the oldest international competition in the world and one of those with the greatest media and economic impact.“
“Entities” is the key word there…follow the money. But it’s looking promising that Barcelona will be the primary host of AC37, leaving the rest in their wake and capitalising on the ‘media and economic impact’ as they say.
And they’re right to trumpet it as the next AC will eclipse anything we’ve seen before. If you were ever going to win an America’s Cup bidding war, then this is the one to go for. The media around the event will be relentless and innovative with a wall of sound almost from the get-go. The city that wins will have an open-goal to score into in terms of profile with a huge opportunity to showcase it as a destination for travel, business, investment, learning, culture, sustainability and progressive thinking. Throw in a port deal and watch the fish jump out of the investment world. As Spain resets after Covid and aims to promote its vibrancy to the world, it promises to be a brilliant America’s Cup in sunny climes that is the beneficiary of their investment.
My only hope is that whatever deal is signed with the ultimate paymasters in all of this, has a long-term clause that goes beyond AC37 and far into the future with an understanding that New Zealand has to be the host for AC38. That would be the icing on the cake. That would allow for planning and give hope and surety. I think it’s a long shot. Sadly, I know how investment deals work.
But the fun and games begin with the announcement any day now. The legal threats circling in New Zealand will be something of nothing. The race is run. The Cup is off to new horizons, new ideas, a new venue and a new dawn in its history. It’s going to be epic. It will deliver, as it always does, in the most spectacular fashion.
“Vamos Hagamoslo” – ‘Come on let’s do it’ – as they say in Spain.