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interview


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The founder of Barcelona-based chain DiR talks to Kate Cracknell about innovation and a possible budget club venture


RAMON CANELA


How did you come to work in fi tness? I worked in my family business from a young age before going on to study business and commerce. After my studies, I set up my own photography business, but a friend and I also decided to open a sports centre in my area of Barcelona; it had always been hard to play football as a youngster, as there were no facilities in my area, so I knew the demand was there. The club, which we called Sport Met, opened in October 1979. Then, in 1988, I began travelling to the US and discovered


fi tness and all its benefi ts. I immediately turned the offering at my facility on its head, introducing a gym as we know them today: CV and resistance equipment, plus group exercise classes. At the same time, I opened another 11,000sq m gym in a nearby area of the city. We called this club DYR – ‘deporte y recreación’, meaning sports and recreation – which we later translated into catalan, making it ‘Deport i Recreació’ (DiR). We were pioneers in bringing the modern gym concept


to Barcelona, and we became a reference point for fi tness in the city. I realised the impact fi tness could have in transforming the quality of people’s lives, and I made it my mission to introduce as many people in Barcelona as possible to its benefi ts, by bringing DiR to them.


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How many clubs do you have? Our aim is for everyone who lives in Barcelona to have a DiR club no more than 10 minutes from their home or place of work, and we now have 16 facilities covering almost every part of the city – residential and commercial areas. We currently have more than 80,000 members, with more than 5 per cent of the city’s population visiting our clubs every day. We will be opening one more club, DiR Tuset, before


the end of this year – a 4,000sq m facility located in a really good area of the city. At the moment I have no plans to open clubs outside of Barcelona.


How was DiR fi nanced at the beginning, and how is growth now funded? It was originally financed by a group of investors, but over time I’ve secured most of the shares. We’ve always funded our own growth, or used bank loans, and when we open a new club we sometimes sell shares or bonds to our members. This has been a great success, as our members trust our brand and buy into our philosophy; we currently have around 2,000 members who are share- or bond-holders. Finally, we’re thinking about floating the business on the MAB (alternative stock market) to


Read Health Club Management online at healthclubmanagement.co.uk/digital october 2010 © cybertrek 2010


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