The rapidly advancing digitalization - also in German football

The demands in terms of personnel automatically grow - new forces for new challenges are needed!

Richard Golz
(PresseBox) ( Frankfurt, )
By Richard Golz, Business Unit Manager Sports, Hager Unternehmensberatung

As a former soccer professional, Richard Golz (50) is one of the top 25 players in the Bundesliga with 453 matches for Hamburger SV and Sport-Club Freiburg. Since last year autumn, the former goalkeeper has been working for Hager Unternehmensberatung, a management consultancy specialising in executive search, at its headquarters in Frankfurt am Main, where he heads the newly established sports division as Business Unit Manager. His sporting career and other professional activities have brought him a wealth of experience.


This time the topic will be continued:

As I last mentioned, 90 percent of all lectures and discussions at SPOBIS 2019 were about the topic of digitization. Everything and everyone is now being digitized. So, it is only logical and all too easy to understand that this aspect is also becoming increasingly important in German soccer: the digitalization of the world's most important sports: The trend is clearly rising rapidly!


However, soccer in Germany has rather the reputation of the most conservative institution after the Catholic Church. Whereby the German Football Association (DFB) recognized the signs of the times, decisively advanced by Oliver Bierhoff and recognizable among other things by the future soccer academy, a huge training complex in Frankfurt. And at the German Football Liga, the so-called Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL) as the umbrella organisation for the Bundesliga and the 2nd Bundesliga, Managing Director Christian Seifert has a clear plan to establish German professional football as an innovation driver in a leading position. Last year's DFL measures included the first organisation of Sports Innovation in Düsseldorf as a technology and industry platform for high-performance sport, with the second edition to follow in 2020. At an early stage, the DFL also became involved, committed and positioned itself in the field of eSport. Together with the DFB, another premiere was initiated in 2017 with the "Game Analysis Congress". With Sportec Solutions, the DFL has also established a competence centre for the areas of game data and sports technology, which covers the growing needs of clubs and media partners, for example.


Along with such general changes, the demands in terms of personnel automatically grow. New forces for new challenges are needed! As with the sports federations, the demands on the clubs are also enormous. In the field of sports, for example, they include objectively measurable parameters in the search for new talents and potential transfer targets or columns of figures for forecasting the career development of football players. This, however, unfortunately from my point of view, makes it even more difficult for clubs such as the Freiburg Sports Club to compensate for competitive disadvantages of an economic nature in the future. The successful "Freiburg Model", which has been in place for many years to attract new talent at low cost through very good scouting and to transfer them later with a good plus, no longer works so easily because the once smart unique selling proposition no longer exists. It is therefore becoming more and more difficult to make a real "snapper" when buying and selling, as it is called in football language. Because basically every talent is identified and classified and given an objective value - comparable to the price of real estate. The establishment of Internet portals means that there are hardly any bargains left in such areas either - ultimately to the advantage of the buyer or interested party. Artificial intelligence replaces the so-called "nose".


Clubs, however, are not only concerned with the necessary progress from a sporting point of view, but also with business as a whole. Digital analyses are helpful for strategic decisions. A large amount of data is collected, among other things, for interaction with customers, i.e. stadium visitors or sympathisers, and for tailor-made offers for merchandising articles.


Another important keyword is Connected Stadium. Basically, we consider ourselves lucky to have modern and safe football stadiums in Germany. On closer inspection, however, the infrastructure appears to be anything but progressive. This already becomes clear when we look at the topic of video assistants and the related transparency for stadium visitors. Currently, only two of the 18 German official ‘Bundesliga’ venues have video walls or cubes on which decisive scenes can be played in sufficient top quality for the fan to see.


Eintracht Frankfurt is therefore investing 30 million euros in order to achieve a leading position in the field of digitization in German football. Among other things, this includes a modern video cube and an electronic payment system as well as bus and train tickets. The football and high-tech concept in Frankfurt also includes cooperation with start-up companies whose focus is on digital applications in the sports sector. There are currently only 50 television screens in the Commerzbank Arena on which the current match can be watched while the fan is eating at the Bratwurst stand. For comparison: at this year's Super Bowl in Atlanta there were 5,000 such TV sets. It would be hard to imagine what Berlin (doesn't) have there. In contrast to the BayArena in Leverkusen, which has been very well-positioned in this respect since mid-2013 - to name just one positive example from the Bundesliga - there is no WLAN in the Olympic stadium in the capital due to the structural requirements for the spectators ...


But in many places the stadium world has already changed considerably for fans due to new technical possibilities. Likewise, training and play for professionals and coaches are no longer comparable to what was a few years ago. So I will soon be providing more details on the effects of digitisation for the sports business and consumers.


In all this, I see the approach for us at Hager Unternehmensberatung as being supportive and finding the right person for challenging management positions. The search for the right people is a big challenge, because every (sports) organisation has its own special characteristics and requirements, which we in the Business Unit Sports have to consider when selecting candidates.

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