Real Madrid unveil plan for holiday resort in UAE

Major tourist, sporting centre of great dimensions

MADRID - Real Madrid football club will spread its brand to the Middle East and Asia by lending its name to a $1 billion theme park on a man-made island in the United Arab Emirates, it said on Thursday.
Executives unveiled plans for the "Real Madrid Resort Island", featuring an oceanside stadium and hi-tech club museum in the northern Emirate of Ras Al-Khaimah, on the doorstep of the lucrative football-mad Asian market.
"Real Madrid Resort Island will be a major tourist and sporting centre of great dimensions and the highest level," club president Florentino Perez told a news conference.
"This extraordinary complex will attract millions of people looking for quality leisure services," he added at the event, also attended by Real players including captain Iker Casillas and striker Karim Benzema.
"This is a decisive and strategic step which contributes to strengthening our institution in the Middle East and Asia," Perez said. "Real Madrid will be present permanently in a key region of the world."
The complex, with $1 billion (758 million euros) of investment and backed by the government of the Emirate, is scheduled to open in January 2015, the club and executives said.
It will include a five-star hotel, beachside bungalows and an amusement park with a rollercoaster and hologram show recreating Real Madrid's goals.
Sports facilities will include training pitches and swimming pools plus a marina for yachting, as well as the 10,000-seat football stadium open on one side to a view of the sea.
Benzema and fellow French football ace and Real hero Zinedine Zidane posed holding white team shirts bearing the logo of the resort, along with coach Jose Mourinho, goalkeeper Casillas and defender Sergio Ramos.
Executives of the investment group behind the project, the RAK Marjan Island Football Investment Fund, said its location, 45 minutes from Dubai airport, put it in reach of 2.0 million visitors.
"The Emirates and Ras Al Khaimah is really the gateway to the Middle East and to Asia and that's really our target here today," said Louis Armand de Rouge, a French executive on the project.
Rouge said that more than half of Real Madrid's 300 million fans were in Asia.
"Football is the most popular sport in the world (and) Asia is also the world's fastest growing sports market," he said.
Real Madrid ranked top this year in the Money League of richest football clubs published by consultancy Deloitte, with revenues of 480 million euros in the 2010-2011 season.
They currently sit six points ahead of fierce rivals Barcelona at the top of the Spanish league.