Despide spending long years in the third tier during the last decade, Fortaleza EC is one of the big and traditional clubs in Brazil, especially in the Northeast of the country. Since 2017, the club has been developing steadily, both economically and in terms of sport. The club was promoted to the highest division and this year Fortaleza will play in the Copa Libertadores for the first time ever. We spoke to the club’s New Business Director, José Carlos Gama Filho, about the recent evolution.
Can you please tell us a bit about Fortaleza EC? A brief insight into the history of the club and where it is now.
Fortaleza has been a club for over 100 years. It’s very traditional in the Northeast of Brazil. In the last decade, Fortaleza was in the 3rd division, but since 2017, the team has started a process of financial reorganisation that reflects inside the field with great results: 2nd Place in 3rd division, in 2017; Champion of 2nd division in 2018; 9th place in 1st Division in 2019; 1st appearance in 2020 in the Copa Sudamericana; 4th place in the two major championship: 1st Division and Brazil´s Cup. In 2022, Fortaleza will debut in the Libertadores da América.
How big is Fortaleza compared to other clubs in Brazil – let’s break it down to figures, attendance, yearly revenue, people working at the club?
Fortaleza in 2019 was the 2nd biggest club in 1st division with attendance of 32.999 people per game. In 2021, our balance was 23 million. In 2022, we expect over 27 million. Until now, Fortaleza has over 38.000 associates and over 300 employees/partners.
José Carlos Gama Filho
New Business Director
Regarding revenues, what role does the money from TV broadcasting rights play for the club?
It´s still the number one revenue. The current TV broadcasting deal is running until 2024.
What does your sponsors account for?
In 2022, our sponsors represent over 2,5 million Euro.
How is the overall revenue made up?
#2 Associate membership
#4 Player transfers
#5 Club Stores
How did the covid-19 pandemic affect the club?
It affected the club a lot, because, in our associate membership, the ticketing is included. At the time we had 35,000 members. At the end of public restrictions, in October 2021, we had only 12,000. Now, we have over 38,000 again.
You are starting your fourth season at the Serie A after getting promoted from the third to second and second to first tier. Is it a big difference to play in the first tier?
Yes, every detail counts. One big difference in our club is that all the payments are due to the exact day. This is not common in Brazil. So, it´s a big difference to get players that want a team financially responsible
You start your first ever Copa Libertadores group stage in April, right? What does that mean for the club – also financially?
It´s incredible. Fortaleza will play against some of the best teams of Argentina, Chile and Peru: River Plate, Colo Colo and Allianza Lima. But it´s just the beginning. Fortaleza hopes to go far in the competitions.
Do you have any ties to Europe, any cooperation? Basically, is international presence a topic for you?
Fortaleza participated in 2019 and 2020 in the EUROCUP. It´s a under 13 competition that takes place in Netherlands.
You are responsible for commercial topics, let’s focus on that a bit. How big is the club’s fanbase? How many ‘contacts’ do you have in your database?
The fanbase is over 2 million fans. More than 120.000 fans are registered in our club app. We just started to integrate all the systems and database.
You don’t own your home stadium and also share it with your local rival. Is that a problem?
Actually, since 2018 the rivals co-operate the stadium. So, it´s not a problem, in fact it´s a solution. We are rivals in the field. In business, we are partners.
How important are your digital platforms and social media channels to generate revenues?
It´s still not a big number. We are focusing on increasing our own club app. There, we have special content and exclusive experiences.
You recently launched a sustainability strategy, is that also something that helps to market the club, to generate additional revenues?
Fortaleza is just at the beginning of this process. In long terms, we think it´s a market that can generate revenues. But for now, it´s not our first demand.
And do you have any additional revenue streams, beside the usual ones – TV rights, matchday, sponsorship and merchandising?
Our membership scheme is quite relevant. It is in fact the second biggest revenue stream.
Finally, what is your vision for the development of the club over the next, five to ten years?
Fortaleza is one of the teams that has the most potential to grow in Brazil, even in Latin America. Brazilian football is discussing a league operated by the clubs and some clubs are being sold, which will bring more professional performance.