For many — if not most — newer Madridistas, it may be easy to conceive the notion that Don Florentino Pérez privately owns and runs Real Madrid. However, contrary to press elements and opposition forces, the Club is owned by over 90,000 current Members. On Sunday in the basketball auditorium of Real Madrid City, the annual Asamblea General (General Meeting) was held with the Board of Directors and over 1,000 Socios Compromisarios (Delegate Members) present to discuss and vote on agenda items.
Before we dive into what occurred, let’s explain what a Socio Compromisario is and how to become one. It is a complicated process which a Socio (Member) needs to present paperwork to the Club with signatures of three fellow Members. If your petition is accepted, you are put in a pool of 1,000 Members from which only 12 are elected. If you are one of the 12, you will have the power to represent and vote in every Meeting for four years until the next election. A fair comparison from which to draw in the United States is a Member of Congress.
Now that we clarified what and how to become a Delegate Member, it’s time to run down the process of Sunday’s meeting. Shortly after 10 a.m. the meeting began with Don Florentino calling to order with the official count of 881 Delegate Members in attendance. When he made a motion to authorize the presence of the press, whistles and jeers were heard. The hostile and cynical opinion of the press continues to permeate inside the Membership. Next, a 15-minute video montage of the previous season’s highlights went up on the large screens. Title celebrations from the youth division teams, FIFA Club World Cup and Liga Endesa Final in basketball, impoverished children faces in Foundation projects, and special events such as the Libertadores Final 2nd Leg between Boca Juniors and River Plate were displayed prominently.
Once the video ended, Don Florentino made the short walk to the podium to give the State of the Club address. He sternly touched on various topics, such as list of successes on and off the field, new player incorporations, and basketball team popularity. He also gave updates on Peñas (Supporters’ Clubs), Foundation projects, and Escuela Universitaria (University Academy) which now spans 10 countries. Finally, he mentioned the social media following has reached 320 million worldwide, the Club website is the most visited of all sports Clubs for the third straight year, and Real Madrid TV is viewable in 49 countries with an audience of 1.2 million.
After Don Florentino received applause and returned to his seat, Secretary Enrique Sánchez listed the three agenda points to be approved: 2018-2019 Balance Sheet, 2019-2020 Balance Sheet, and 2020-2021 Expenditures. Before the vote, third Vice Chairman Pedro López Jiménez took the podium to explain each of the three financial reports. In order to help Members visualize the numbers, colourful graphs were projected on the large screens which he used as reference. One fluid stat is the projected gross revenue of 822 million euros this current season, which is dependent on qualification to the Champions League quarterfinals. When he wrapped up, Delegate Members were given an opportunity to “intervene”.
One by one, Delegate Members were called up by their Membership number and full name and took a podium on the right side of the stage. 12 Delegate Members took approximately five minutes each to present questions and statements to the Board. While most kept to the agenda items, three decided to veer off course and voice displeasure about other topics, which forced Don Florentino to interrupt and remind each to respect the rules. After this first round of interventions, Enrique Sánchez called for voting to commence on each agenda point. A staff assistant then asked all Delegate Members to raise the following coloured sheets of paper when called: Abstentions (green), Against (red), and In Favor (white). For each row, ushers dressed in white vests counted the votes. At the end, each agenda item was approved with over 98% in favour.
At this moment, Don Florentino called for the ‘ordinary meeting’ to end, and for the ‘extraordinary meeting’ to begin. An extraordinary meeting is where special agenda proposal are brought for discussion and voted on by the Board of Directors for Member approval. In this case, the special proposal was the absorption of Club Deportivo Tacón and creation of Real Madrid female soccer program starting July 2020. After Don Florentino gave a brief address, Members were allowed to “intervene”. Eight Members gave shorter discourses and stayed within the topic. Only three voiced opposition. Don Florentino responded to this second round of interventions and then Enrique Sánchez called for a vote. The same process to count votes was utilized. With over 90% in favor, the historic measure to create a female soccer program was approved.
When Florentino closed the extraordinary meeting and re-opened the ordinary meeting, the last item of business was a final round of Member interventions. For one hour, 14 Members took the podium to address numerous topics, such as concerns over low stadium attendance, membership dues increasing, lack of competitiveness in La Liga, prioritizing foreign talent over homegrown academy players on the first team, and support of current Board leadership. Even a couple of Members called out how disrespectful fellow Delegates were in leaving early. When the interventions were completed, Don Florentino gave a final response to those questions and statements. Four hours and 15 minutes later, the 2019 General Meeting was convened and the Board of Directors exited with Plácido Domingo’s Hala Madrid song playing through the speakers.
Sunday’s Meeting demonstrated the democratic process which the Club goes through. Gerardo Tocino Pérez, who has been a Delegate Member since 1978 and was in attendance, re-iterated who has the ultimate responsibility, “It is not that it (the Meeting) is not important, it is obligatory. As a soccer Club the owners are the Members and they need to approve the management of the Chairman and his Board of Directors.” While he approves the current direction and hard work of the Board, he has one piece of advice for Don Florentino, “I would say that he take into account the Delegate Members that have never missed, it is a pity that as a rule only 50% of those should have to be present actually attend.” Out of 2,000 Delegate Members on record, only half appeared this year and the previous year. As the old saying goes in politics - decisions are made by those who show up. Hopefully there is more participation in the coming years. In the end, Real Madrid has and always should belong to the Members. ¡Hala Madrid y nada más!
Christian Paredes (@Xian_D_Paredes) is a Founding Member and former Chairman (2012-2016) of La Peña Madridista Sur de California (@RmSurCalifornia)