Going from manufacturing boxes for the collection of tomatoes and cucumbers in the Almeria garden to elaborate the seats of the main football temples of Spain seems an impossible evolution, but it is not for a family business in Cordoba that saw the opportunity 40 years ago and today is One of the world leaders.
The company is called Daplast, and is responsible for the seats of the Santiago Bernabéu, Camp Nou, Mestalla, Benito Villamarín, Park of the Princes of Paris, Olympic of Amsterdam, the speed circuits of Jerez and Montmeló or the Martín Carpena, Buesa Arena and Gran Canaria Arena basketball halls.
How does this unlikely transition from the agri-food industry to the sports industry take place? The CEO of Daplast, Rafael Pérez-Esparza, he explains with one word: vision. He refers to his father Rafael, responsible for discovering in football a new market for this Andalusian company in the eighties.
'My father founded the company, which began as a distributor of plastics for agriculture. He always had a very entrepreneurial spirit, and trying things he had the vision that in football there was going to be a new market, 'explains the current head of this family business to EFE, who lost its founder last year.
Daplast (acronym for Andalusian Plastics Distributor) began its journey in 1973 manufacturing these plastic containers, when the fruit and vegetable sector exchanged the wooden and cardboard boxes for this material to reduce deforestation, but after the oil crisis of 1979, the sector began to stagnate.
That was when Pérez Esparza Sr. began to set up stadium seating as an accessory activity.
The former 'El Arcángel' stadium in Córdoba (500 meters from the current 'New Archangel') was the first venue, some projects were also made in France and Germany, but its first major exam was the Jerez Circuit, in which they carried out their first global project in 1984, and that led them to launch a metal fabrication workshop to elaborate the structure of the stands.
'Today, most of the circuit seats are the ones that were put on then. There we went from being plastic transformers to project managers of seats for sports venues', explains the son of the founder, today CEO.
But its great moment would come a few years later, in the 90s, when the problems of violence and security in the stadiums – in 1989, 96 fans died in Sheffield (England) after an avalanche in a stands, known as the 'Hillsborough Tragedy-, made the installation of seats in the first level stadiums mandatory.
It was the explosion of the business of the Cordoba company: the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán (Seville), The Carmenes (Granada) and many other works arrived at that time. 'We become one of the referents,' adds Pérez-Esparza.
The Bernabéu and the Camp Nou arrived later, at the beginning of the 21st century, when they made the complete reform of both coliseums, first the Real Madrid (2002) and then the Azulgrana (2005). "It was not done at once, but in several phases, replacing fixed seats with folding, which have more safety and comfort advantages," he explains.
At the same time, the Cordoba company began exporting its seats outside the Spanish borders (Europe, South America), a business that was growing driven by the projection that it gave to have equipped the two great Spaniards.
Being a sector with 'a lot of volatility', since stadium renovations tend to go through waves and are projects that have a half-life of decades, Daplast He says that the last few years have been 'pretty good' in the national market.
"The clubs are making an important effort to raise the category of their venues, LaLiga also pushes a lot because the letter of introduction of the competition is the image of the stadium, and an important part of it are our seats," says Pérez-Esparza.
In recent years, the stadiums that form the spectacular mosaic of Benito Villamarín have emerged from the Cordoba factory, in whose main stand a player is drawn, the recent reform of Anoeta (Reale Seguros Stadium) in San Sebastián or that of Nuevo Zorrilla ( Valladolid). They are also reforming Balausos (Vigo).
Daplast has completed international projects in Switzerland, France, Hungary, Holland, Kazakhstan and Thailand, and in portfolio for the next few years it has, among others, the reform of El Sadar de Osasuna (Pamplona), the stadiums of Fez (Morocco) and Luxembourg or the seats of an ice rink in Canada. It also has a good number of covered sports halls in its portfolio.
The seats have long since made the boxes of vegetables forget in the company's income statement: 90% of their income comes from the sport, and the 2019 accounts will be closed with 9 million euros of turnover, half of which comes of the international business. 65 people work in the company.
Looking ahead, the Cordoba company, led by four children of the pioneer Rafael (Rafael, Ana, María and Teresa) has also decided to transform his image and his name, to be called Insitual, a brand with which he wants to reflect his specialization towards seating sector.
In that future, they appear again Real Madrid and Barcelona, immersed in renovation projects of their stadiums, about which Rafael Pérez-Esparza cannot reveal anything, but that does not hide that they have contact with both clubs, which remain their clients. 'The environment is very competitive,' warns the executive.
From Córdoba to the world, the company that went from the boxes of tomatoes to the seats of the great sports coliseums continues to evolve in technology, use of recycled materials, attention to multipurpose enclosures and comfort, in stadiums that increasingly demand greater customization in their seats .