Unlike many football clubs, Real Madrid is not owned by any one individual, family, consortium, or other corporate body.
Instead, it is owned by fans, who are called either “Madridistas” or ‘Socios.”
A “socio” will pay an annual fee of Euros 150, although once they have been a member for 50 years or more, this is waived.
In turn, they elect the President and the Board of Directors to run the Board on their behalf.
Florentino Pérez, a 76-year-old Spanish businessman, who heads Spain’s largest construction company, has been President of the club since 2009.
The last elections held in 2021 saw him re-elected unopposed for another four-year term.
Real Madrid has been owned in such a fashion since the very inception of the club back in 1902. An attempt in 1992 to force all Spanish clubs to register as PLCs (Public Limited Companies) was evaded by Real and their great rivals Barcelona, who took advantage of a loophole in the law.
Socios have the right to vote in club elections, and they also get priority when it comes to buying match tickets.
Every four years, the socios vote on a two thousand member assembly, which has the power to elect the club president and board of directors, approve the annual budget, and authorize loans and other financing arrangements.
Although in principle, anybody can become a socio, in practice, it is very difficult.
To register for eligibility, a prospective member needs to complete an application form, and they need to be endorsed by two existing members.
Even that is not enough because the waiting list is long to become a member and depends on if somebody who is already a member either dies or chooses to relinquish their status. Consequently, there have been some people who have been waiting years for the chance to become members.
Membership is also non-transferable.
This means that it cannot be sold to somebody else or bequeathed to a family member via a will.
Whilst the socio model is, in theory, more democratic than the situation at many football clubs, in practice, the individual member has very little power or influence on the way that the club is managed or governed.
For example, while many Real supporters, like fans of other clubs, were opposed to the idea of the European Super League, Pérez was one of the principal architects of the scheme and continues to be a major supporter to this day.
He is able to wield almost unquestioned authority because of the success that the club has enjoyed on his watch and also because of his policy of signing some of the biggest stars in world football.
On the other hand, it does keep the club out of the hands of corporate raiders. A takeover of the club by overseas investors, such as the Premier League regularly experiences, would not be possible in the case of Real Madrid. Proponents of the current ownership model would argue that this helps preserve the culture and identity of the club.