From May to July, UCFB masters students enjoy the unique opportunity to live and learn in Madrid, Spain’s capital city and home to two of the biggest football clubs in Europe. As part of the Real Madrid Graduate School programme, students attend classes at the famous Valdebebas training complex and the iconic Santiago Bernabéu stadium, and get to meet leading club executives and legendary former players. We spoke to MSc International Sport Management student Callum Noad about the highlights of the 2019 Madrid experience so far…

We arrived in Madrid a few days before our first official start at Escuela Universitaria Real Madrid. After moving 3-months worth of stuff into our house, we left to explore the best of the city’s tapas and nightlife. The city itself is beautiful with wide expansive green spaces to enjoy in the sun. Walking through Parque Retiró, we felt a world away from the grey hues of the London Underground. Most of the group headed to the Bernabéu to watch Real take on Villarreal; a game full of goals that ended 3-2 to the hosts.

Students watched Real Madrid overcome Villarreal at the famous Santiago Bernabéu stadium

Hearing from the experts

On Monday, we had our first day at the university. Sharing the first 2 weeks with a group of Australian students from Tirrenos University, we took a bus to the Alcobendas campus where we had our first lecture with Javier Doña, a world-leading expert in stadium design.

After our lecture, we visited the Wanda Metropolitano, the venue for the Champions League final. With our first piece of work to be centered on the stadium, it was useful to see first-hand behind the scenes at the new home of Atlético de Madrid.

Students visited Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano stadium, the venue for the Champions League final on 1st June

Tuesday saw us jump on the metro to Santiago Bernabéu, the home of Real Madrid. We were fortunate enough to receive a tour of the stadium focusing on the all-important VIP areas. VIP and hospitality form a large proportion of matchday revenue, a factor behind the club’s decision to renovate their existing stadium. Following completion in 2022, the stadium’s VIP capacity will double, to be more in line with other leading European stadiums.

On Wednesday, we had lectures from two leading industry experts; Oscar del Ama, part of Madrid’s Olympic Games bids, and Angel Sanz, head of the European market for Spartan Race, an obstacle course race for both elites athletes and mass participation.

World-leading facilities

The next day we took a tour of Madrid’s private and public gymnasiums to gain an understanding of this profitable market before working together as a group on our Wanda Metropolitano case study to be presented the next day.

On Friday, we took the bus to Ciudad Real Madrid in Valdebebas, the training ground of Los Blancos. After presenting our case studies to Javier Doña, we took a tour of the impressive facility. One standout feature of the training ground is the design of the buildings. To encourage progression through Real Madrid’s teams, the youngest teams are housed at the front of the building while the first team is based towards the back. As the players head into their changing rooms, they walk past their old rooms and coaches, reminded of everything they have learnt as they do so. To see inside the sanctum of the first team buildings, a space seldom open to people outside of the club, was a real treat and one none of the group will forget in a hurry.

As part of the Madrid experience, students enjoyed an official tour of the Ciudad Real Madrid facility in Valdebebas, the training ground of the 13-time European champions

On the weekend, most of the group again visited the Wanda Metrópolitano to take in Atletico vs Sevilla. It was an exciting and quick game that ended all square at 1-1. After the game, the Atleti faithful paid tribute to their departing long-standing captain, Diego Godin, an emotional end to a gratifying week.

White Week

The second week began in earnest as we joined the rest of the Escuela Universitaria Real Madrid students for Blanca Semana (or White Week). Over the course of the week, we heard from various experts from a variety of sports and professions. We heard from the podiatrist of Real Madrid and also found out more about the youth set up at the famous club.

As an international basketball player, my coursemate Jason (Gonsalves) listened intently to the head coach of the Real Madrid baloncesto team and enjoyed chatting to him privately afterwards. And with a focus on CSR in her dissertation, it was great for Cigdem (Turkan) to get a chance to listen to the Head of the Real Madrid foundation speak about their work. We also got to listen to Croatia and AC Milan legend, Zvonimir Boban, who is now Deputy Secretary-General of FIFA.

As part of White Week, students had the chance to meet club legends including Raul (left), Roberto Carlos (middle), and Xabi Alonso (right)

Though for most of the group, the highlight was the players who spoke during the conference. Having the chance to meet club legends including Roberto Carlos, Raul, Xabi Alonso and Luka Modric will no doubt be a top highlight of the whole trip.

After a packed 2 weeks, we then enjoyed the opportunity as a group to take in two big matches; Getafe on Saturday and Real Madrid on Sunday (courtesy of the club) before the full-time routine starts on Monday.