Born in Teruel, “where the love of bullfighting has been sucked since he was a boy”, Alberto García Buj was a professional trimmer before a respected bullfighting businessman who at 35 manages 15 bullrings and the careers of six bullfighters.
The pandemic has hit him hard. This year it has only organized nine celebrations of the 90s that it had planned among popular and older people. The photo of the Tauroemoción office, the company he has run since 2009, is eloquent: it is empty, and its nine workers, in ERTE.
But the businessman does not lose heart. He has just returned from Colombia, where he has signed the management of the first-rate Cali plaza, because he says he is convinced that next season will be different.
Meanwhile, this young entrepreneur analyzes with dismay the present of bullfighting, and bluntly affirms that the bullfighting sector is debating a capital dilemma: either it is organized or it will have little life left.
“Being a bullfighting businessman is not profitable”
“The pandemic has highlighted the lack of structure of current bullfighting,” says the businessman. “The sector is divided,” he continues, “and lacks an organization to defend and promote it. Hence the need for a national federation with economic muscle, credibility and authority that represents it before the administrations, publicizes it before society, is inflexible with the professionals in compliance with the rules and does not hesitate to sanction those who violate them ” .
Alberto García created Tauroemoción with 24 years, dedicated especially to the celebration of popular festivities, rooted in his province; At the age of 26, he agreed to manage the Teruel plaza in the company of the Lozano Brothers, “with whom I did an intensive master’s degree and learned to be an honest businessman.”
Today, recognized as the new lifeblood of modern bullfighting, experience has shown it its most acidic side.
“Being a bullfighting businessman is not profitable,” he confesses. “The costs are abysmal and the income is minimal. You take on a lot of risks and your options for benefits are very limited. This situation forces businessmen to enter the field of empowerment to gain strength and obtain income. For this reason, I insist on the urgency of the federation … “
Alberto García considers this matter to be transcendental and the whole conversation revolves around it, the bullfighter convinced that it is the only solution for modern bullfighting.
“That federation would be above the Toro de Lidia Foundation, which must continue to exist to defend bullfighting, but it does not enter into professional matters. The organization that I advocate must be professional, maintained with quotas or percentages of ticket sales, made up of bullfighters, ranchers and businessmen, and directed by people outside the sector. A federation in the style of football, that leads, manages, negotiates and represents the entire sector ”.
Not many young entrepreneurs try to make their fortune in the world of bullfighting, and Alberto García is clear about it: “The effort to make a bullfighting company profitable is very difficult,” he says.
“The problem in large squares tends to lie in unfair competition from ourselves and the leonine conditions of the lease contracts, and, in small squares, the high costs of taxes, Social Security (9,000 euros are paid for two show hours) and the bullfighters’ collective agreement. You cannot charge what is not generated, a situation that leads to the elimination of the show and to opt for other more competitive ones ”.
García Buj understands that it should not be tendered when a contest is not governed by logical norms, and the rental fees of public squares must be eliminated “since the State does not help like other cultural industries, and invest that money in its own sector”. “On the other hand, a bullfight in a third place cannot cost 75,000 euros, and a bullfight, 45,000. I think the national bullfighting agreement is outrageous, and we have to look for formulas to reduce costs ”.
“I advocate a federation that leads, manages, negotiates and represents the entire sector”
“What is inadmissible”, insists Alberto García, “is that each Autonomous Community is governed by a different bullfighting regulation, that the bulls depend on who governs -there is the case of Catalonia- and that they are subjected to an iron interventionism by part of public administrations. It is not normal that since the bull arrives in the plaza everything depends on the presidential team, and neither the businessman nor the rancher have anything to say. The bullfighting show must be regulated by the sector itself, and not under the constant suspicion that it tries to deceive the public ”.
He is critical of ANOET, the employers’ association of the great bullfighting managers, which he praises for their work and reprimands for their informative obscurantism. “There has been a sin of lack of unity in the case of José María Garzón, who acted as I would have, and there is a lack of communication, to the point that he does not sell anything, and therein lies a part of the bad press of the business sector.”
“I am very clear that the future is going through a new structure for all bullfighting,” he says. “Circumstances force us to reinvent ourselves; A few years ago new ideas were not needed, but now we do; more and more cornered, without income from sponsorships and without subsidies, it is not easy to find the economic sustainability of the show ”.
In his opinion, this ‘reinvention’ today involves combining the work of an entrepreneur with that of a proxy. Alberto García directs the professional destinies of six bullfighters: the matadors Emilio de Justo, El Cordobés, Rubén Pinar and Joselito Adame; the rejoneador Leonardo, and the bullfighter El Rafi.
“If I were not a proxy, I would not be able to maintain the structure of my company,” he confesses.
“This activity is the most profitable business in the bull world because you do not assume economic risk and you make a profit. I have a bad time, of course I do, because I see how hard it is to be a bullfighter and achieve the objectives. Today there is only room for superstars. I enjoy being a businessman more, although this year I have suffered anguish for not knowing if the celebration will be held until the last minute, because they are watching you with a magnifying glass, and because you know that the slightest outbreak of the epidemic will be blamed on the bulls. There have been nights that I have had a bad time ”.
“I consider that the employer should only be empowered by his subscribers,” he continues, “but I have no choice but to balance the interests of my clients with those of my clients; I am not obliged to announce it at my fairs because I bring a bullfighter. They are warned, and so far I have not had problems with any of them.
“We need a sustainable bullfighting sector managed by serious people”, concludes Alberto García.
“We must all be generous; otherwise, we will have little life left … “