Sam Wallace: Madrid fantasy island brings dystopian satire into the Real world

Talking football: There is a good chance that Madrid's motive relates to Uefa's new Financial Fair Play regulations

In his 1998 novel England, England, Julian Barnes imagines a giant England theme park, the idea conceived by a ruthless, rich entrepreneur and based on the Isle of Wight. It encapsulates everything most commonly associated with the country – the royals, pubs, Robin Hood, cricket, Big Ben, imperialism – and sells itself to tourists, sparing them the inconvenience of having to visit the real thing.

Eventually, the theme park becomes more important than England itself and assumes sovereign status while the original declines and depopulates. As you would expect from one of Britain's greatest living novelists, it encompasses some major themes, yet even Barnes' brilliant mind could not have imagined the central conceit of his novel would become, in a way, a precursor of reality.

But then, few of us could have anticipated the breathtaking self-regard of Real Madrid, a club who for some years now have regarded success as simply something that can be bought. Thankfully, hilariously, the grand plans of their president, Florentino Perez, have largely been foiled by the unfortunate coincidence of them colliding with the greatest Barcelona team of all time.

So last week Perez rolled out the master plan. Welcome to Real Madrid Resort Island. A $1bn resort built on a specially constructed island in the United Arab Emirates featuring sports facilities, a marina, luxury hotels, villas, an amusement park, a club museum and a 10,000-seater stadium, all to open in 2015. Move over Galapagos Islands, this is the Galacticos Islands.

England, England has come to pass, or rather Real Madrid, UAE – and it sure is crass. In a sport in which we thought the levels of rampant commercialism no longer had the power to shock, Madrid have succeeded in taking it to a whole new level. And to think that people once used to cringe at the concept of a stadium "megastore".

What are Madrid up to? The concept of football theme parks is not entirely new. The Premier League was approached three years ago, over a Premier League theme park located in the new markets of the East, by a leisure company run by a former director of a Premier League club. Mercifully, the project went no further.

Perez made his fortune in construction and it has long been suggested in Spain that Madrid's relentless touring of the Far East in recent summers has been a way of forging business contacts in China, the primary market at which the island is aimed. Certainly, the project, part-backed by investment fund RAK Marjan Island Football, will see lucrative contracts aplenty.

Yet, as with all the moves of Europe's biggest clubs, there is a good chance that Madrid's motive for backing the island relates to Uefa's new Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations forcing clubs to move towards a "break even" financial model. FFP will penalise clubs for spending beyond their capacity to generate revenue, but not if the money is spent on infrastructure, which is generally understood to mean stadiums, training grounds and academies.

The broad scope of FFP is to prevent owners such as Sheikh Mansour at Manchester City simply pumping money into a club. The key is to generate what Uefa classifies as "relevant income". Could a themed resort in the Middle East be relevant income? The criteria for non-relevant income, the FFP document says, is income that is "clearly and exclusively not related to the activities, locations or brand of the football club".

In those categories Real Madrid Resort Island falls down on location – located, as it is, 3,500 miles away from Madrid – but in terms of "activities" and "brand", the island qualifies as relevant income under FFP.

In a separate point Uefa also says "operations clearly using the name/brand of a club as part of their operations" count as relevant revenue streams that could contribute towards a club breaking even under FFP. There is no reference to those operations having to be based in the same country as the club. In fact, the guidelines are so vague any decent lawyer could make them mean pretty much whatever he wanted.

If it turns out that Madrid have done their sums and believe that the Chinese public is eager to fly to Dubai to be served Sergio Ramos-themed tapas, on plates bearing the face of Pepe by waiters who spend much of their time plotting behind the restaurant manager's back, then this island could be a march stolen on their rivals

Closer to home, Madrid have long toyed with turning an undeveloped area of land near their training ground, itself by Barajas airport, into a club theme park. The idea being you fly in, visit the theme park, watch the team train and fly out, never having to set foot on the Gran Via.

At the Bernabeu stadium itself they have been thwarted by local planning authorities in their attempts to redevelop a car park into a commercial centre. If they do get permission they will also put a roof on the ground. Not because the fans get wet at the Bernabeu – it has hardly rained at a game all season – but because the roof will offer lucrative advertising space.

In England, England the consultant hired to design the theme park regards his job as selling people the idealised view of England, as opposed to the reality. "We are already what others may hope to become," he says. "This isn't self-pity, this is the strength of our position, our glory, our product placement. We are the new pioneers. We must sell our past to other nations as their future."

It could stand as the spec for Real Madrid Resort Island. Of course, clubs like Madrid, Chelsea, Manchester City et al cannot go on spending indiscriminately for ever, especially under FFP. But if the solution by Europe's elite clubs is a series of themed islands in the Middle East offering holidays from hell, well, that is some price to pay.

Crouch's class should never be in doubt

If you have followed Peter Crouch's career closely, his goal against Manchester City on Saturday was not that much of a surprise. He scored Mark Hughes-style volleys twice for Liverpool against Galatasaray and Bolton. For technique, the third goal of his hat-trick against Arsenal at Anfield in 2007 was not too shabby either.

Crouch has always had to live with being underestimated but it would be extraordinary if the new England manager omitted him from the Euro 2012 squad. Andy Carroll and Bobby Zamora are not in the same class, and their form is nowhere near that of Crouch who has 12 goals this season in a team that does not create many chances. As for 22 goals in 42 caps, that speaks for itself.

Loose lips sink ships: and they could cost City

It was Patrick Vieira who called it on with Manchester United last week over their "desperate" decision to bring back Paul Scholes, a move that will look increasingly wrong-headed should United win against Fulham tonight and open up a three-point lead at the top.

Roberto Mancini has generally been unflappable in his approach to Sir Alex Ferguson and other rivals. Vieira is City's football development executive as well as a kind of club ambassador (despite everyone associating him with Arsenal) and now, it seems, the resident pre-bout trash-talker. One comment does not decide a title race but it can contribute to a mood around a club, a mood that Mancini had been trying to keep as low-key as possible.

Arts and Entertainment
books
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
people
Voices
Nigel Farage arrives for a hustings event at The Oddfellows Hall in Ramsgate on Tuesday
voicesA defection that shows who has the most to fear from the rise of Ukip
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Life and Style
Brave step: A live collection from Alexander McQueen whose internet show crashed because of high demand
fashionAs the collections start, Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution