WFS Live speakers

Jordan Gardner: “American soccer needs major improvement to catch Europe”

Jordan Gardner: “American soccer needs major improvement to catch Europe” 960 580 WFS Live

Jordan Gardner is an American entrepreneur who has undertaken a variety of investments in European football, and is co-owner of Danish side F.C. Helsingor.

With Gardner one of the first confirmed speakers for WFS Livetaking place from November 23-27 – we caught up with him to discuss his investments and vision for the football industry.

Q. Why did you choose to invest in Denmark and F.C. Helsingor in particular?
A. Over the last few years, I’ve spent a lot of time on the ground in Europe, understanding the landscape and trying to learn from the mistakes made by prior American ownership groups over there. I’ve made several strategic minority investments into football clubs (Swansea City AFC and Dundalk FC), and eventually decided the time was right to buy a controlling interest of a club. Denmark was an attractive market, as almost everyone speaks English, there’s very few foreign player restrictions and there is a culture of playing (and selling) young players. FC Helsingør in particular was an attractive club, as it had very recently been in the Danish SuperLiga, had a new stadium under construction and was in good geographic proximity to Copenhagen.

Q. What are the main challenges that you’ve faced until now?
A. Once we took over, it was very challenging to change the culture at a club that had been losing for so long, and had gone through two relegations in a row. We felt it was very important change the entire leadership of the club both on and off the field, including many of the players. Once we made those changes, we saw a huge positive shift in the environment at the club, which ultimately culminated in our league championship and promotion last season.

Q. How would you evaluate the results you have reached up to now and what is your long-term objective there?
A. The project has been an unqualified success so far. We won the Danish 2nd Division last season and got promoted. This season, we are 4-2 so far having beaten three clubs already with significantly higher budgets and players wage bills than us. Our goals are to finish top 6 this season, and challenge for a top 2 spot and promotion to the Danish SuperLiga.

Q. How has COVID-19 affected your plans at FC Helsingor? How are you facing the challenges the pandemic has presented to your business?
A. There have been significant limitations on stadium capacity at our home matches, which has adversely affected our match day revenues. Beyond that, the COVID related travel restrictions has affected our ability to bring in foreign players.

Q. Do you think that European soccer is getting closer to the American model conceiving sport mostly as an entertainment business?
A. No, I think European soccer is still very, very far away from an American style model. The sport in Europe is more culturally ingrained, cultivated over generations. People in Europe (in general), do not support clubs or attend events for entertainment value in a way they do in North America.

Q. Do you believe that a European Super League that resembles the NBA (a closed championship with only the best teams/franchises involved) will ever be a reality? Would it be desirable for the market? 
A.
In a sense, the Champions League is a form of a European Super League. It’s certainly possible the top clubs may split off at some to form their own ‘league’ but I don’t think it’s necessary with competitions like the Champions League in place. Ultimately, the biggest clubs will do whatever they can to capture the most television/media revenue and if that means forming a Super League they will do that.

Q. The industry of American soccer is experiencing a constant growth and keeps attracting new investors. Do you see it reaching the influence of European soccer in a near future?
A. No, soccer still lags significantly behind other major sports in the United States, and even European soccer far outpaces American soccer in interest and viewership. American soccer will need major improvement in on-field quality, and off-field relevance to even approach the influence of European soccer for the foreseeable future.

Jordan Gardner: Supporters Helsingor Stadion

A bit Danish and a bit American: this is Jordan Gardner’s Helsingor.

Q. Is this the reason why many Americans like you still prefer to invest in Europe rather than in the US?
A. European soccer offers a very different investment profile for Americans than North America. With the promotion / relegation system, there is an opportunity to buy a smaller club and add expertise and value to get that club promoted. There is also a robust player transfer market in Europe that does not exist in North America. American soccer is a more secure investment, with a franchise model. However, currently the television viewership and general interest is quite low compared to European soccer while the price points in Europe continue to be more attractive.

Q. You have been announced as one of the guest speakers at the upcoming WFS Live, which aims to bring the industry stakeholders together to draw football’s roadmap for the future. What changes do you think are most needed to ensure that the game’s future is at least as bright as its past?
A. I think there needs to be significant changes in the way money flows to players and agents in the sport. Many clubs spend well beyond their means, and beyond any justifiable revenue that they have coming in. I’m not sure if a more ‘salary cap’ type structure like those proposed in the U.K. are the solution, but the spending is just not sustainable especially in light of massive reductions in revenues due to the pandemic.

Tickets are now available HERE for WFS Live, with 10% of all sales going to Common Goal.

WFS Live returns in November, to build football’s roadmap for the future

WFS Live returns in November, to build football’s roadmap for the future 2560 1440 WFS Live

After the success of its inaugural edition, which gathered 158 speakers and over 3,400 professionals, WFS Live returns from November 23-27.

The second iteration will bring the football industry’s most influential community together once again to share experiences and lessons learned during the restart of competitions after the hiatus imposed by coronavirus, while pooling strategies for the crucial times ahead and exploring new paths for the industry to continue moving forward in the so-called ‘new normal’. 

Building football’s roadmap for the future will be the motto of this virtual gathering in which industry leaders will share strategies developed to cushion the multiple effects of the pandemic on their businesses, new opportunities they have encountered along the way, and their future prospects in light of the knowledge and experience gained in recent months. 

WFS Live will also stress the need to take this opportunity to evolve towards a more modern, more digital and more interactive industry, as well as one that is fairer, more inclusive and more supportive. The event will continue contributing to the fight against the effects of coronavirus on vulnerable communities, and 10 per cent of the ticketing revenues will be donated to Common Goal’s Covid-19 Response Fund.

“Resuming competitions and finishing them successfully has been the biggest challenge the sports industry has ever met,” said Jan Alessie, Director of World Football Summit.

“The experience and knowledge gained by the different stakeholders during the process is huge and it should provide invaluable guidance for the industry in the crucial times ahead of us. It’s therefore essential that leaders share their experiences, learnings and vision for the future, and together build a roadmap that will allow the industry to move forward with a firm step in this new and still uncertain normality.”

As in the inaugural edition, the WFS Live platform will allow attendees to engage with speakers by submitting questions during the sessions and to interact with other attendees via group discussions or scheduling one-on-one meetings and video-calls. In addition, new features will be released to improve the user experience and provide new networking opportunities for attendees, partners and exhibitors. 

The quality of the platform was the second most valued aspect according to the WFS Live Satisfaction Survey only after the quality of the speakers. A total of 94.1 per cent of respondents said they had met their goals, while 86.3 per cent of them were sure they would participate in a second edition.

Covid-19 has marked 2020 in every sector linked to sports, but the pandemic has not been the only significant event. The year will also be remembered as one in which sport firmly stood up to racism. The actions taken both individually by athletes of all sports, and collectively by organisations and companies across the industry undoubtedly signal a turning point in the need to eradicate racial discrimination. 

There were also significant statements of intent to bring greater parity between the men’s and women’s games, with the decision taken by the Football Associations of England and Brazil to pay their international female teams the same as their male counterparts, following the steps of Australia, Norway and New Zealand.

WFS Live: Building football’s roadmap for the future

These events are also featured in the comprehensive WFS Live Conference Concept, which pivots on five main themes:  

  • Explore: The ‘new normal’ in football
  • Bridge the gap: Partnerships, investments & more
  • Discover the next step: Sports technology & OTT
  • Inclusivity: This game is for everyone
  • Breaching boundaries: New global possibilities in sport

The WFS Live Programme, which will be released in the coming weeks, will also feature the final of the WFS StartCup by GSIC – the annual startup competition promoted by WFS and the Global Sports Innovation Center (GSIC). The WFS Industry Awards, issued annually by WFS to recognise outstanding works done by professionals of the different fields within the football industry, will also take place. Due to Covid-19, this year the awards will be handed virtually. 

Tickets for WFS Live will go on sale next Monday September 14th with a unique special offer, so keep an eye on your mailbox and the World Football Summit’s social media networks to make sure you don’t miss it.

In the meantime; if you are interested in being part of WFS Live and want more information on how to participate, send us an email to: live@worldfootballsummit.com 

Day 5 highlights: Drogba, Carney, Collina, Infantino, Ronaldo, and more

Day 5 highlights: Drogba, Carney, Collina, Infantino, Ronaldo, and more 1236 566 WFS Live

Day 5 of WFS Live was packed with action and relevant discussions. African leaders such as CAF General Secretary Abdelmounaim Bah or football legend Didier Drogba discussed the best strategies for the game to continue growing in the continent, Pierluigi Collina, Chairman of FIFA’s Referee Committee, addressed how VAR is changing the game for the good, and FIFA President Gianni Infantino shared his plans for the future with Ronaldo Nazário in a unique live conversation. And as a special treat for our Spanish fans, we had Vicente del Bosque, Fernando Hierro, David Villa and Juan Mata sharing their memories on the 2010 World Cup, in which the Spanish National Team conquered the world with their unique “Tiki Taka” style.

Gianni Infantino on hosting the FIFA Women’s World Cup every two years
“One idea that came in this period, and even before as well, is that maybe we should organise the Women’s World Cup every two years instead of every four years. For the next Women’s World Cup in 2023, we had a lot of interest around the world. We’ll go to Australia and New Zealand. Then, what happens next? Should we go to South America? Or maybe Europe or North America want to organise it again? Why not South America? Why not Africa? So, we need to see what we can do.”

Ronaldo Nazário on fighting against racism every day
“The fight against racism is not just a fight for black people, it’s everybody’s fight. We have to fight it every day. Nobody is born racist, but somehow people learn to be racist. We have to fight to teach those who learn that when kids. But, it’s everybody’s fight.”

Santiago Solari on the mental challenges faced by players during the Covid-19 lockdown
“During the lockdown, players have had to rely heavily on self-discipline and self-motivation. They have worked for weeks without the control of any staff and without the motivation of the daily competition and also without their teammates. For the first time in their careers, they’ve experienced the harshness and the loneliness of the preparation for an individual sport, which is much more difficult.”

David Villa on why Spain has to quit looking for the new Xavi and the next Iniesta
“It would be a huge mistake to try to find the new Xavi, the new Iniesta, the new Villa or the new Casillas. Spain has great players and great coaches. They are different to the ones that won the World Cup in 2010, but they are perfectly capable of building an excellent team. If we want to succeed in the future, we have to stop comparing the current players with the past players. If we do so, Spanish football has an enormous potential.”

Didier Drogba on the need to educate football players in Africa
“Education is the key. We need to educate the players because, for example, in Ivory Coast some of them don’t know how to read, how to write. Education is vital, it is crucial because you can’t focus just on creating good football players. This is a career that lasts 10, 15 perhaps 20 years, but after that there is a life and the move can be very difficult.”

Karen Carney (Visa) on the importance of long-term partnerships in women’s football
“When I first started playing I don’t think there was any partners, there wasn’t really big sponsors. Nobody really cared if I’m honest. Then, as England started to get to major tournaments, you saw sponsors and partners drop in at key times, maybe a year before the tournaments and then they would drop out. There wasn’t really any consistency. And what I noticed since now is that for instance with Visa’s seven-year partnership, which is incredible, Nike, Barclays… This stops those peaks and troughs of coming in at the key moments and then dropping out. How can the women’s game ever really develop like that? Visa’s seven-year plan shows confidence in the game and it shows believe and that’s massive for other brands as well.”

Pierluigi Collina (FIFA) on how VAR is forcing referees to change their mentality 
“Referees today grew up as referees without VAR, so this generation is in a process of big change. They have to adapt their mentality. To be clear, a referee on the field of play has been educated to defend the decision taken against everybody. Today he has to change this mentality because he has to understand and accept that his decision on the field can be overruled based on something that can be shown on the monitor. It’s a matter of mentality.”

Day 4 highlights: Simon Oliveira, Al Guido, Joe de Sena, the WFS StartCup and more

Day 4 highlights: Simon Oliveira, Al Guido, Joe de Sena, the WFS StartCup and more 1097 521 WFS Live

Day 4 of WFS Live powered by R9 saw leading social media experts discuss why athletes are becoming powerful influencers and why this trend is only just starting. Successful entrepreneurs like Alejandro Agag (Extreme E) or Joe de Sena (Spartan Race) exchanged views on what football can learn from other sports, whilst Barça’s Marta Plana and Pixellot CEO Alon Werber addressed the crucial role of technology in the “New Normal”. Plus, we had the semi-finals of the WFS StartCup by GSIC.

Simon Oliveira (KIN Partners) on who can become the LeBron James of football:
“If you look at the audiences of Messi, Ronaldo or Neymar I think they have the power of a Ferrari in their hands but they’re still learning to drive. They have enormous potential, some individually have more than the combined audience of The New York Times, The Washington Post and the LA Times put together. However, I think where LeBron was very clever was he very much identified what the content slate would be from his perspective. It was built around American black culture and things that he was passionate about. I think any footballer going to this are needs to be very clear as to what their identity is and what the content stream and platform should be for.”

Al Guido (49ers) on the need to embrace user-generated content
“We have 20 people on our content team capturing 49ers and other sports every single day. However, we have 10 million fans all over the world capturing 49ers content, so you have to embrace it. User-generated content is just another form of our 49ers Studio team. Last year, Live Nation and Ticketmaster had more reaction for tickets going on sale for the NFL season based on user-generated 30-second advertisements versus studio-recorded production quality, because people want to be in the action, they want to see what happens there.”
Alon Werber (Pixellot) on how automation and AI can save clubs post-Covid
“A lot of clubs in the world live on venue tickets and are going to lack revenue streams in the coming season, in which there are going to be severe restrictions on stadium attendance. Bringing quick and low cost production to allow them to continue connecting with their fans via a subscription model or through sponsorship deals can be almost a matter of life or death for these clubs in the coming season. At Pixellot we’ve been engaging AI and computer vision to film, produce and stream completely automatic games for 4 years and today we are installed in around 8,000 fields of 16 different sports. Last January we were producing live 100,000 hours of life events.”
Ricardo Dias (Ambev) on bringing content to people’s homes
“It’s time to stay at home. We are taking the opportunity to create new occasions for consumption. We are investing in e-commerce, lives and bringing them to people’s homes. It was not part of the plan, but it will certainly add a lot of value in the future.”
Diogo Kotscho (Orlando City SC) on creating and engaging digital communities

“At Orlando City, what worked was creating and engaging an entire community. As a result, today it is easier to see Orlando City flags, shirts and stickers around than Orlando Magic, the traditional NBA team and more related to tourism. We brought Kaká in the first year, which was important to start our journey with the fans.”

Experts call for women’s football to receive more investment during the Covid-19 crisis

Experts call for women’s football to receive more investment during the Covid-19 crisis 1237 588 WFS Live

While the coronavirus crisis has impacted sport at all levels, the effects on women’s football have been especially severe and this is why industry experts have called for there to be even more investment in the women’s game than in the men’s game at this time. Given the weaker fundamental structures of women’s football, equal investment wouldn’t even be enough. Instead, the argument is that there’s a need for the authorities to put greater resources into women’s sport.

This was one of the main talking points during the ‘Women’s Sport: The Necessary Steps For A Progressive Future’ panel during WFS Live powered by Ronaldo, which was moderated by Alexandra Gómez Bruinewoud, senior legal counsel at FIFPro. It had Tatjana Haenni, director of women’s football at the Swiss Football Association, Bex Smith, global director of the women’s game at COPA90, Khalida Popal, founder and director of the Girl Power Organisation, and Jorge Garbajosa, president of the Spanish Basketball Federation, as guests.

As Gómez Bruinewoud explained: “At FIFPro, we have been studying women’s football in general, but also we’ve put a little bit more interest on the effects of COVID-19 on women’s football. Of course, as everyone who is interested in football in general and in women’s football in particular, we were really really worried about what would happen. We did some research and what we’re encouraging and suggesting is that actually, in this moment, it’s not enough to say ‘ok, we’ll invest the same in women’s football’, which is not even the case by far anywhere. It should be even more! They need extra support because the structures are weak and the basis is still not there.”

In certain countries, solid structures are in place and Smith raised the positive example of the DFB, the German federation. She said: “I think the structures need to be in the right place. If you have the right structures then a great example of that is what the DFB did with the solidarity fund that the top four clubs then distributed and it actually went to women’s football because that was the equitable thing to do.”

Such a positive example is rare, though, and the panelists agreed with the need for financial backing of women’s sport at this time. “To really convince the last people who are still not seeing the opportunity and the potential, we need some money coming into women’s football and you can actually make a business case, but you need a decent plan,” said Haenni.

It’s not only about financially supporting women’s sport during the times of COVID-19. It’s about doing so at all times. Encouragingly, Garbajosa revealed that the Spanish Basketball Federation were thinking about this issue even before the pandemic and they realised that there was a need to not just fund women’s basketball equally, but to actually allocate a little more to the women’s game.

We are investing a little bit more in women’s basketball than in men’s basketball,” Garbajosa told the WFS Live audience. “In terms of the commitment of the men’s basketball players with the women, here in Spain in our federation it is 100 percent. When they get a bonus, the bonuses for the men and the women are completely equal. The money that they get for every day that they practice or play games is completely equal also. It’s a matter of being fair because the effort they show on the court every day is the same so they have to get the same from our federation.”

Ultimately, having more women in leading roles will help to bring about the positive changes that are needed and this was another takeaway that the panelists agreed upon. “I think it’s very important to create more job opportunities and educational opportunities for women to gain the skills to be more involved in developing the women’s game, as we need more women,” Popal concluded.

This panel took place during the third day of WFS Live, which is running from Monday July 6th to Friday July 10th. It is still possible to buy a ticket here, with all net proceeds to be donated to Fundação Fenômenos and the Common Goal COVID-19 Response Fund.

Quotes from the ‘Women’s Sport: The Necessary Steps For A Progressive Future’ panel

Tatjana Haenni, on the business case for women’s football:
“I think women’s football is a business case. I think it’s the biggest growth opportunity in terms of participation, sponsorships, partnerships, media partnerships. If you don’t have a proper business plan and investment behind then you just don’t get the results as quickly as you can. If I look at the FIFA Women’s World Cup as an example. It still doesn’t have its own sponsorship packages. It’s not unbundled as far as I know. That might have reasons for it because maybe the contracts are so long that they can’t unbundle it. But, I haven’t really seen a plan. Whereas, at the UEFA level, you see that there are specific sponsors for the Women’s Euros. So, there is the momentum for a commercial business case for women’s football.”

Bex Smith, on the media’s role in setting and defining value:
“Actually, media has an even bigger role to play than just giving visibility. I think that just in the way how media divides the time that women get and men get, that puts a value on it. [It suggests] that men are actually worth more and valued more and that people should then invest more in the men’s side of the game.”

Khalida Popal, on unhelpful comparisons between women’s and men’s football:
“Media has a huge impact on women’s football. It helps women’s football a lot, but we have to also understand that the way some media communicate is wrong. We have to stop comparing women’s football and men’s football. Women’s football is a beautiful product. We have to communicate it and we have to sell the story differently. Most of the media channels are making the mistake of comparing women’s football. That’s why we’re getting hurt in terms of sponsorship deals, in so many ways and also getting fans.”

Jorge Garbajosa, on investing in women’s sport for the right reasons:
“Sometimes, from the men’s point of view, the investment in women’s sport is like a kind of charity. No, it’s not a charity. It’s a strategic pillar of the development, at least in Spain, of our sport. Here, there’s no difference between men or women. Our goal is to develop our sport and one of the main pillars is women’s basketball as we try to reach our goals.”

Alexandra Gómez Bruinewoud, on how some women footballers are more political in the media:
“We’re seeing in women’s football lots of very highly educated women that have a lot to say and probably that’s also connected to how they’re expressing themselves in the media, how they put through strong messages, how they’re a little bit more political if you want to describe it in a word maybe. I think it was, I don’t know if surprising, but something to highlight and pay attention to if we looked at the awards of The Best of FIFA, where Messi won The Best for the male players and Megan Rapinoe for the women players. Then, you looked at their speeches. Without needing to compare them, you see how different they were. Rapinoe was really giving a political stand, whereas Messi was not and was giving more of a personal speech.”

Day 2 Highlights: Asian football, investments, gaming, data and more!

Day 2 Highlights: Asian football, investments, gaming, data and more! 1239 567 WFS Live

Day 2 of WFS Live powered by R9 saw international leading experts engage in fruitful discussions around a wide variety of topics spanning from Asia’s journey te become a global football powerhouse to how Covid-19 will impact investment flows and reshape sponsoring strategies, the need for all sports to have a gaming strategy or the increasingly crucial role of data in all areas of the industry. Here are some of the main highlights:

Assia Grazioli-Venier (Muse Capital and Juventus), on clubs realising they truly are lifestyle brands:
“I think teams need to realise that they truly are a lifestyle brand. Ten years ago, or longer than that, if you said that teams were selling merchandise and selling mugs and pins then you would have said that was crazy. Now, it’s full speed ahead. It’s a strong source of revenue. So, there are still a lot of new opportunities that we can explore.”

George Pyne (Bruin Capital) on why sports will continue to be a great investment:
“Over the long run, sports is going to be a great investment. Long term, there’s nothing like sports. Sports represent who you are and what you stand for and your values. So, there’s nothing like it. Sports brings people together during difficult times for positive outcomes. So, that’s an incredible outcome in a world that is going to be more fragmented from a media standpoint. Sports is one of the few things that you can invest behind that gets you big and passionate audiences.”

The

Eelco van der Noll (AB InBev), on sponsors demanding more access to content:
“The whole media rights is going to be reset, not only because of new players coming on the scene, like streaming platforms or social media platforms, but also because sponsors like us are demaning more access to content that historically has been reserved or protected by broadcasters. When we work with the likes of LaLiga or the Premier League, as sponsors we expect more access to content. I think that was already in process, but it is being accelerated by this pandemic.”

Ralf Reichert (ESL Gaming), on why every sport needs a gaming strategy:
“All sports need a gaming strategy. It needs to be very varied from the center of what they’re doing. It could be archery, it could be golf, it could be football, but every sport needs a game. Everyone who went to this (the Covid-19 lockdown) prepared had a good outcome. Most of the racing stuff went to online competitions pretty fast… Gaming was the big winner of this and eSports is kind of the logical follower.”

Ashraf Adam (Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium) on the inefficient nature of stadiums:
“Stadiums in nature are inefficient because they cost a lot of money to build maintain and operate. We need to offer activities around them and we’re looking at renewables. What was seen as radical before is now possible.”

Esteban Granero (Olocip), on the crucial role of data in football:
“I think data is part of the daily life of football clubs. I also think that we still have a long path ahead, specially in terms of education. I think that, from a conceptual perspective, it’s important that clubs have professionals capable of understanding the potential of data. Not only to know what sort of data is available, but also how to process it in order for the team to benefit the most.”

Monica Esperidião (Women Experience Sports) on the need to think of women’s football as a business:
“We have to think about women’s football as a business. And we need more people with an interest in women’s football in organizations, clubs, everywhere.”

Mauro Silva (Paulista Football Federation) on the need to promote clubs in foreign markets: 
“As we do not sell our international TV rights, it is difficult to promote our clubs in the entire world. We are stuck, without visibility. This process took place in Spain, it transformed all Spanish football and can also transform Brazilian football.”

Day 1 Highlights: Tebas, Sir Martin Sorrell, Desiree Bellia, Butragueño and more

Day 1 Highlights: Tebas, Sir Martin Sorrell, Desiree Bellia, Butragueño and more 1238 583 WFS Live

The first ever edition of WFS Live kicked off today with seven panels featuring top-notch leaders from properties such as LaLiga, FIFA or Real Madrid and companies such as S4 Capital or Eleven Sports. Speakers discussed deeply around the impact of Covid-19 on different areas of the sport and the industry such as European competitions, women’s football, media rights, the transfer market or player’s salaries. Here are some of the main highlights of Day 1:

Javier Tebas (LaLiga), on Covid-19 and the transfer market

“There will be some transfers, but those which each club can manage economically. But big signings paid in money, we’re not going to see that. One of 100 million euros is impossible. And those above 50 million euros, we’ll be able to count on the fingers of your hands and mine.”

Ornella D. Bellia (FIFA) on the lessons learned from Covid-19

“One of the lessons of Covid-19 is that more women leadership positions are needed to help deal with crisis situations. If you look at the countries with some of the best Covid-19 responses, they are countries lead by women. If you look at Germany, but also New Zealand, Iceland… These countries stood out for their prompt, efficient and effective response tu the crisis.”

Ebru Koksal (Women in Football) on the lack of support mechanisms for women in the industry

“I didn’t have a good support mechanism, I didn’t have a mentor, I didn’t have another women in the Board of Directors, I didn’t have anyone to got to, I was all alone. It’s so difficult to survive in that environment because everyone is trying to crush you. It’s very hard to survive unless you have the support mechanisms, but also equally important is having self awareness in your leadership journey.”

Magda Pozzo (Udinese & Watford), on women thriving in innovative areas of the business

“We need to do more as women, we need to create a movement, but I think it’s just a natural development of the business. I think we’re seeing a change with so many innovative areas of the business growing. Areas in which women are very good, so it’s going to come very natural. I’m very positive and very optimistic about that.”

Sir Martin Sorrell (S4 Capital) on the effects of Covid-19 on football

“In my view there are too many football clubs, they have to be consolidated. Players are probably over-remunerated, they will have to be remunerated in different ways. The leagues are going to have to be run more efficiently and professionally because the competition is going to be huge.”

Paul Barber (Brighton & Hove Albion) on Covid-19 being a wake-up call for the football industry

“One of the problems for some years is that clubs have been living beyond their means, they’ve been spending more money than they’ve been bringing in and relying on either player sales to get out of trouble at the end of each season or an uplift in TV or sponsorship income. I think that perhaps this is a wake-up call for all of us to manage our business more prudently that we’ve done in the past. We’re all guilty at some point of just stretching that little bit too far.”

Emilio Butragueño (Real Madrid) on the lessons learned from Covid-19

“The first lesson is that what seems imposible is possible, everything can change overnight. The second is our ability to overcome difficulties. We’ve been able to comeback and we should be very proud. The third lesson is that we have to be united. When we are united, we win. I think these are the three lessons of this period.”

Luigi de Laurentiis (SSC Bari) on the impact of Covid-19 on player salaries

“Salaries will probably be going down around 20-25 percent, which would help. I think overall if we’re talking about big players they will keep their value, but definitely in the shorter period we’re definitely going to see some minor numbers in that department. So yes, I think salaries and transfers will be affected for now.”

Javier Tebas: “Within three seasons, football will be back to what it was”

Javier Tebas: “Within three seasons, football will be back to what it was” 1349 639 WFS Live

The coronavirus pandemic has completely shaken up the football industry, with some leagues having to be cancelled and with others only returning without fans. LaLiga falls into the latter category, having returned on June 11th to complete the final 11 rounds of the campaign behind closed doors.

There have been significant financial losses for those involved in Spanish football, but LaLiga president Javier Tebas does not believe that there will be serious long-term effects from Covid-19, assuming a vaccine can be found and distributed. Speaking on the opening day of WFS Live, Powered by Ronaldo, Tebas mapped out a timeline for football’s gradual return to complete normality.

“I think it will depend on the autonomous communities,” he said when asked when we should expect fans back in Spanish stadiums by interviewer Alfredo Matilla of Diario AS. “We’ll see if it happens at the end of this season or at the start of next season. It’ll be something awkward and in percentages. I think 30% of the stadium’s capacity is the maximum that there will be. And it’ll be awkward because there will be a need to have people entering early and they’ll need to be told where to sit and at what hour they can go.”

Despite the inconveniences that will come with the matchday experience in times of Covid-19, Tebas still expects supporters will want to go. He said: “It will be more uncomfortable to go to matches. But, I think that many fans will go at this 30% level to see their team, even with this awkwardness. Until we have a vaccine that allows us to all go together without any problems.”

Once a vaccine is ready, Tebas is convinced that football can completely return to normal without lingering aftereffects from the crisis. On that, he told the WFS Live audience: “I think that football will return to what football was. Once we find a vaccine, maybe then it’ll take another year. But, it will go back to what it was, with fans in the stadiums, with the stadiums full, with the passion for football, with the same audiovisual broadcasts. The economic values will once again be where they were. It won’t change a lot. It’ll change what we’re doing right now, but we’ll return to what we were before and I have no doubt about that. There won’t be an economic shrinking within three years. I’m convinced that within three seasons, or maybe a little less in my opinion, that we’ll be back in the kind of situation that we had been in.

Despite his optimism for the long-term health of the football industry, Tebas does believe the 2020 summer transfer window will be quite different to those of previous years. The LaLiga president stated: “There will be some transfers, but those which each club can manage economically. But, big signings paid in money, we’re not going to see that. One of 100 million euros is impossible. And those above 50 million euros, we’ll be able to count on the fingers of your hands and mine.

Tebas spoke on the opening day of WFS Live, which is running from Monday July 6th to Friday July 10th. It is still possible to buy a ticket here, with all net proceeds to be donated to Fundação Fenômenos and the Common Goal Covid-19 Response Fund.

A selection of Tebas’ quotes from his WFS Live panel
  • On how LaLiga’s audiovisual rights are worth the same as before to broadcasters:

“I believe that the audiovisual value won’t be affected immediately. Everyone is saying there’s a need to reduce the fees and what is being earned, but in my opinion the audiovisual and entertainment sector is one of those that has come out reinforced from this crisis. If we look at Netflix or HBO, these companies have seen their subscriber numbers go up a lot. What can be affected is the money that consumers have, but in general I don’t see there being a major effect that can then affect us.”

  •  On the potential damage had the season been cancelled like in France:

“Only up to June 30th of the 2019/20 season, it would have to been something over 1,000 million euros or 1,100 million euros in losses, also counting what teams would have lost in the Champions League and everything. By no longer bringing in revenues, it would have generated a problem in terms of losses because we’re not a sector where the profit margins are very large.”

  • On the need for economic control measures to be maintained or perhaps made stricter:

“In Europe there has been an important debate that we’ve been involved in about UEFA’s economic control, where some big clubs wanted things to be laxer. We and the Bundesliga insisted that it can’t become laxer. Quite the opposite. There’s still a need to be more rigorous so that there isn’t a major difference between the revenues you bring in, which have gone down because of COVID, and the spending, especially that on wages and others you have in the club.

  •  On coronavirus’ effect on the European Super League project:

“What this league has shown us, especially for UEFA, is that strong national leagues together can organize the calendar. Together we’ve tried to ensure the audiovisual rights don’t lose value. We’ve realized that together we can do things a lot better. That UEFA and the big clubs should not go on their own. I think that has weakened the Super League project quite a lot because many clubs have realized that it was very important to maintain their national market and to save it during this situation.”

  • On whether he’d prefer Xavi or Neymar to return to Barcelona:

“For Messi to stay at Barcelona.”

WFS Live kicks off with 150+ speakers and 3,000 attendees

WFS Live kicks off with 150+ speakers and 3,000 attendees 1417 642 WFS Live

Over 150 top-notch speakers will be taking the virtual stage from today, July 6th, until Friday, July 10th, at the first ever edition of WFS Live, a global online event organised by World Football Summit and Ronaldo Nazário that will gather football’s major stakeholders to discuss the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino, S4 Capital Executive Chairman Sir Martin Sorrell, LaLiga President Javier Tebas, Real Valladolid President Ronaldo Nazário, ASER Ventures Chairman Andrea Radrizzani, FIFA Referee’s Committee Chairman Pierluigi Collina, Secretrary of the Board of Directors of FC Barcelona Marta Plana, Spartan Race Founder Joe de Sena and football legends such as Vicente del Bosque, Iker Casillas, Didier Drogba, Kristine Lilly, Juan Sebastián Verón or David Villa are just a few of the names included in the stellar lineup.

This online event, in which attendees will be able to engage and interact with speakers through group discussions, live polls and one-on-one video-calls, will gather 450 clubs, leagues and federations, 800+ companies and 3,000 attendees from 120 different countries.

The Conference Porgramme includes all the major topics affecting the sports fraternity, but there will be a special focus on the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic across the different sectors of the industry as well as the opportunities that will arise in the aftermath of the crisis.

All net proceeds to be donated

Sir Martin Sorrell, Magda Pozzo (Udinese Calcio), Paul Barber (Brighton & Hove Albion), Emilio Butragueño (Real Madrid) or Juliano Belletti (FC Barcelona) will be other top speakers taking the stage on the first day.

Apart from kicking off a new beginning for football after the pause forced by Covid-19, WFS Live also aims to help fight the devastating effects that the pandemic has caused on vulnerable communities around the world. That’s why all net proceeds will be donated to Common Goal, charity platform founded by footballer Juan Mata and Fundação Fenômenos, founded by Ronaldo Nazário.

Paul Barber: “For most of the industry to be losing money every year is clearly an unsustainable model”

Paul Barber: “For most of the industry to be losing money every year is clearly an unsustainable model” 2560 1440 WFS Live

Paul Barber is the Chief Executive of Brighton & Hove Albion FC and will be one of the speakers during the WFS Live powered by Octagon, which is taking place from July 6th to July 10th. We recently caught up with him to talk about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead fort the football industry in the post-Covid era.

Q. You’ve been in the football industry for over 25 years, do you recall any crisis similar to the one we are currently facing due to the Covid-19 pandemic?
A. No, this is by far the worst crisis for the football industry.

Q. Which have been the major challenges that you’ve had to overcome, personally and professionally, in the past months?       
A. Similar to most people; concerns for people’s health; financial concerns for our business; and general uncertainty.

Q. As a chief executive of a large business, how have you managed to balance the financial pressure of having to get back to business as soon as possible and the huge responsibility of taking care of the well-being of the club’s players, employees and fans?
A. Health must come first. Then it’s about being adaptable, flexible and pragmatic. We’ve tried to be open and transparent to all stakeholders at all times.

Q. Although football is restarting it seems clear that it’s going to be a TV only entertainment for quite some time, meaning that there will be no match-day revenue at least until 2021. How is Brighton preparing to face this unprecedented situation?
A. We’ve taken action to halt major projects and to reduce costs where we can. We’re also lobbying to get fans back in as soon as it is safe, even on a phased basis.

Q. This crisis has proved that clubs rely too much on match-day income and media rights and that if football is to continue growing there is a huge need to explore other revenue streams. Where do you think these new revenue streams can be found considering that investment in sponsoring is also likely to decrease since most industries have been seriously hit?
A. In my experience, clubs have always looked to build new and more sustainable revenue streams. Achieving this while maintaining focus on core objectives is challenging.

Q. A couple of months ago, Brighton Chairman Tony Bloom said he wished Covid-19 “sparks a change in football’s broken financial model”. Do you agree? Which would you say should be the most urgent changes?
A. For most of the industry to be losing money every year is clearly an unsustainable model. We need to be prepared to manage our cost base – player salaries – far more robustly to reverse the model. This is easier said than done in a competitive industry that relies on the best talent.

Q. Changing the financial model will undoubtedly take some time. In the meantime, how do you think this crisis is going to reshape the football landscape and what do you think will be the main consequences?
A. This crisis has shaken all of us. We need to ensure our contracts are more resilient for the future, and we need to ensure we have better protection in our contracts.

“We need to ensure our contracts are more resilient for the future, and we need to ensure we have better protection in our contracts” – Paul Barber

Q. We’re focusing a lot on the challenges, but obviously there will also be opportunities arising. From where we stand today, which do you envision?
A. The obvious one is to learn the lessons of the past 3 months – there are many!

Q. You are going to be one of the key speakers at the upcoming WFS Live powered by Octagon along with a number of global leaders across the industry. How do you think a gathering like this can help football at this moment and what topics and issues are you most looking forward to discussing?
A. It’s always good to share views and opinions, there is much to learn from colleagues.

Q. At WFS Live we believe this crisis can provide an opportunity to kick off a new beginning for the football industry. From the perspective of a top club like Brighton, what do you think can be done in this new era to make football even greater?
A. Well, we’ve all shown we can adapt to very challenging circumstances. We can innovate. We can survive. Hopefully, moving forward we can prosper too.