What is the corona crisis doing with football? What will it look like in the future? Prof. Sascha Schmidt gives an in-depth view of this in an interview.
With the study “We are a national team”, in which he examined “Development and social importance of the national soccer team”, Professor Sascha L. Schmidt became known to a broader audience in 2013, the thesis of the “fourth power in the state”, which “everyone Angle of Society Reached ”was often quoted. It is time again to talk to him about the effects of football - especially now, in special times. Professor Schmidt is director of the Center for Sport and Management at WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management .
Prof. Schmidt: "It was foreseeable that a crisis would come"
Professor Schmidt, you examined German football seven years ago, when it was experiencing a strong upward trend. Where does it stand in 2020 if we go back to the time shortly before the Corona crisis?
The positive development has continued. We had a German final in the Champions League in 2013, winning the World Cup in 2014. Proceeds from media rights and sponsorship increased, the stadiums were full, a nice growth story. But it should not be left unmentioned: the threat of overheating was also discussed, there was talk of blistering. It was foreseeable that a crisis would come. Now we have it. Corona will bring us a new reality.
What will this new reality look like?
It is still difficult to say. We are at level four on an uncertainty scale from one to four. Too many variables are still unknown. We only know that this highest level of uncertainty will be temporary.
Helpfulness in football is given
Football is now faced with the challenge of coming out of the crisis economically sound, without this being the case, for example, in the form of special treatments at the expense of more socially important areas. Will he succeed?
Let's look at the facts. What happened? We are experiencing special campaigns such as "We kick Corona", initiated by players - Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka, Mats Hummels - for which more than three million euros have already been donated. TSG Hoffenheim has announced that it will set up a corona aid fund. There is the 20 million aid campaign by the four Champions League participants, one reads of nationwide voluntary wage cuts. All of this proves that there is a willingness to help those who are in need through no fault of their own. And both the DFB and the DFL have repeatedly emphasized that football will not claim any special rights, for example in the case of laboratory capacities. That is positive.
Nevertheless, the DFL has built up pressure so that it can get started again soon.
A lot depends on ghost games. To worry about how such games could be technically implemented is a legitimate immediate measure when it comes to survival. The DFL does not set an appointment.
"You can equate amateur football with other sports where ghost games are not profitable"
The amateurs will not be able to play before September, the professionals will. Are the federal leagues not even more committed to solidarity with amateur football? The relationship is not an easy one, especially since the basic contract between the two parties has so far capped the allowances from professionals to amateurs.
It is difficult to predict how this will work out. The principle that there can be no point without width remains. You can equate amateur football with other sports in which ghost games would not pay off. The professional football has the peculiarity that ghost games pay off because of the media rights revenue.
An anecdote from the 90s: At a time when the economic situation in the Ruhr area was deteriorating, Borussia Dortmund committed the international Karlheinz Riedle for a lot of money. At the time, a BVB fan spoke the phrase: "I would rather be unemployed with Riedle than unemployed without Riedle." Today the salaries are much higher. Will this still be accepted by the fans?
In the past, the fan base around the matchday and around the stadium was structured, but digitization has changed that. Fans are no longer so homogeneous, "the fan" is difficult to define. There are different groups that have become more important. Local fans and fans abroad have completely different needs; there are often conflicts of interest between the groups. The question is: how do you pick everyone up?
Is Covid-19 creating a new reality?
There are certainly wishes expressed by fan scenes that football may recall the past. Is this possible in professional sports?
We have seen a growth race so far where only clubs that have been able to continuously increase their budget for players have been successful. In no area of life can you turn the wheel back so easily, but Covid-19 will create a new unknown reality and offer the chance to think about a lot, such as limiting player salaries and consultant fees. But that is an international question to be solved.
Could 50 + 1 be easier if there is an urgent need for liquidity?
Strategic investors are an option, but that can also be done within 50 + 1, as can be seen from the examples from Bayern Munich and Hertha BSC. They have investors who are interested in the long-term development of the club.
Opportunities through digitalization
Will football be able to keep its head start on other sports - or will we experience a realignment of the sports landscape?
What you can see is that Corona is driving digitization faster. This can be an opportunity for many sports to reach their respective target groups digitally, be it through highlight offers or new formats that create a special proximity to the athlete. Social media is always about guys, and so are other sports. They can be staged digitally without public broadcasting time. And whatever will become an ever bigger topic in sports ...
... is sustainability. Interesting developments can be seen there. Sustainability reports have been around for a long time in the Bundesliga. Now something remarkable has happened around Hoffenheim. TSG has adopted a strategy for the future, which includes topics such as environmental protection and waste prevention, and has thus found a name sponsor for its stadium: PreZero, a recycling company. In this way, sustainability becomes part of the business model and ignites a completely different force. This is not a fair weather phenomenon, but of strategic importance both on the B2B side, i.e. in the direction of sponsors and advertisers, and on the B2C side, in the direction of fans. It grows with completely different behaviors than the previous generations. Sustainability and environmental protection are very relevant to them.
Football in the next decades - no longer need to visit the stadium?
There was a study in England that shed light on sport in a few decades. It said there: Two of the three top-selling companies in London will be football clubs, they will operate their own educational system with schools and universities, and thanks to new transmission technologies, fans no longer have to go to the stadium. Spectators who come anyway are paid.
The clubs would then have been able to successfully expand their brand names to other areas - this is not unreasonable. I am currently completing a book project in which we look into the future of sport until around 2050. New technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics or blockchain will have a major impact on him. We work with researchers from MIT in Boston, Cambridge University in England and technology specialists in Australia, Sweden. Austria works closely together to develop well-founded future scenarios for sport.
Interview: Günter Klein