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Somewhere between the crème de la crème and the teams outside Spanish soccer’s elite servings, you’ll find Real Betis Balompié: the Sevilla-based club hard to pin down.
The Andalusians are no more capable than opponents Real Sociedad and Villarreal in La Liga, sit outside the title reckoning and lack the x-factor to excel in European competition—posing little threat to Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid, not to mention the top sides abroad.
Yet, it displays the characteristics of a new-age superclub. Not only that, Betis is presenting a free-spirited, unconventional model compared to affluent Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City, Bayern Munich and other high achievers.
Knowing they lack the trophy haul and enormous fanbase to match the best, Los Verdiblancos are finding new ways to stand out. And although we should hold all elite soccer brands to a standard, Betis does initiatives better than most—whether it’s the lluvia de peluches tradition—where fans donate and throw children’s toys onto the home field each Christmas—hosting a record number of disabled fans against Real Valladolid or harnessing its green-coloured branding for environmental causes, like donning a recycled polyester kit against Athletic Club in La Liga.
Now it’s starting to branch out even further. Betis recently shared plans to upgrade its already impressive Benito Villamarín stadium, which could transform the 60,000-plus capacity ground into the club’s financial hub—with building work set to begin next June, during the offseason.
Eyeing a new stand, roof and interior renovations for an all-year multipurpose venue, Betis has looked beyond Spanish shores. Opening an international competition—in which architects can submit their proposals for the revamped ground—it has already received 30 responses from 19 nations. For this project, Betis’ budget will be around 70 million ($76 million).
All this falls under Betis’ fan ownership structure, with supporters holding 55% of the club, alongside the local businessmen Ángel Haro García and José Miguel López Catalan, who are the other notable shareholders. While it’s common for supporters to command sizeable teams in Spain, this remains in stark contrast to the emergent state-influenced superpowers of PSG and Manchester City, with Newcastle United next in line.
Indeed, López Catalán—for one—is a creative at heart, founding and investing in games studios from his home city. As for Haro, he comes from an engineering and sustainability background. And you can sense their influence running through Betis, whether it’s a wacky video game-themed social media post when signing a player (see defender Germán Pezzella) or its long-standing Forever Green initiative.
Betis thinks like a superclub, even though its financial standing doesn’t always allow it. Barcelona and Real Madrid’s current spending allocations dwarf the side, while fabled rival Sevilla has over twice its squad budget, which is reportedly just under €97 million ($105 million). Its stadium goals, which coincide with a reported financial injection from private capital group Pricoa, represent a gamble to kickstart much greater revenue longer-term.
And despite exiting the Europa League with a whimper against Manchester United, the club is arguably overachieving on the field—just as more decorated rival Sevilla faces a battle to stay in the league. Historically, it’s no stranger to a mammoth transfer, too. It’s raised eyebrows before, sealing unlikely deals for sought-after Nabil Fekir for an initial €20 million ($22 million) and Denílson, then a record-breaking €31.5 million ($34 million) deal before the turn of the century.
Can it finally break into the very elite circle? That seems improbable for now, even with a rare Copa del Rey last season and an appearance in the exclusive Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia this term. But while more silverware perhaps provides the final piece, that doesn’t define Betis. It has a distinct identity and ambitions that may just be starting to gather pace seven years after sealing promotion back to the Spanish top flight.