Holger Siegmund-Schultze is part of the steering committee of football club Karlsruher SC. He also works in the field of property management and had a big share in the recent rebuilding of the Wildpark stadium. We met on the pitch to discuss fairness and integrity in modern football and his organization Nummer 12.
innomaniacs: Many people regard the World Cup Title in 1954 as the hour of birth of the BRD. Football continues to be of great importance in German society and this was further strengthened by the creation of the Bundesliga and the World Cup Title in 1990 with a reunited Germany. What is the reason for the very high status of football in our society today?
Holger Siegmund-Schultze: It is a historic ascertainment that the World Cup Title in 1954 marks the birth of the young BRD. For the first time after the war, the people had the opportunity to be happy collectively. To be happy as a collective always means that there must be a wide base and in Germany, but also in Europe and many other countries football is an event for the masses. Football is publicly displayed life of society.
SENSE OF BELONGING TO SOMETHING
Maybe you can briefly talk about you as a person? How did you end up in the steering committee of the Karlsruher SC?
“This project is my childhood dream and it finally comes to fulfillment.”
I only had contact with football on an amateur level and as a young boy when I went to the stadium with my parents or my older brother. I have always been interested in my home town club. Through the construction project of the new stadium I became a functionary of the club, as I am specialized in property management. I decided to apply for a functionary post, because I really wanted to make the new construction project of my hometown club happen. After being part of the board of directors, I am now part of the steering committee for almost three years. Since November last year, the Wildpark is a construction site and we are on a successful journey towards the new stadium. This project is my childhood dream and it finally comes to fulfillment.
In which direction does football develop at the moment?
The most discussed topic in football right now is money. For most people football only revolves around money and maybe around too much money. My opinion on this issue is a different one. I do not think that money is a problem in football. I firmly believe that a problem in football is when fairness and integrity disappear. When a player, like Ronaldo, earns 10 million euros per season then I do not really care about it. It is relevant that he plays fair and then it is not important if he earns a lot of money. Elements that provide the sense of purpose of football are much more essential. . It is vital that you do not loose what clubs always lose when everything revolves solely around money.
What is the reason for people to still go to the stadium, despite the fact that the tickets cost 15 times more than the tickets 30 years ago?
I think that there are various reasons and this is actually the great thing about football – a large audience can be attracted to the stadium and the whole experience can be charged with a great amount of identification. Naturally, there are fans who want to identify themselves with a successful club because they do not really have any personal success. It is just the case in everybody’s life that one fails over and over again and that one is only mediocre. It is important for people to identify themselves with something successful and, therefore, many start to support Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund.
I have recently participated in a talk show with the chairman of Union Berlin, who stated that around 2000 English fans are coming to every home match of Union Berlin. He said that the English fans are coming because they can live a type of football at Union Berlin that does not exist in England anymore. At Union Berlin they can watch the game from a standing place and they can drink alcohol on the stands. The English fans argue that the flight to Berlin is cheaper than a ticket for a football match in London. Their relation to Union Berlin has nothing to do with the Club itself, but with the feeling conveyed by football and the sense of fellowship and belonging to something. These two examples show the extremes, in which football can move.
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THE GAME?
In the past, many clubs have instated former players in the board of directors and in various other positions, for which the players did not even have the skills or knowledge. The aim was to strengthen or maintain the connection of the fans to the management of the club. Nowadays, things have changed immensely…
It is definitely a more common phenomenon of the past that clubs have been led by former players. Nowadays, things are the other way around and clubs have to really make sure that there is any football expertise left in the board of directors and on a management level. Naturally, as in all other industries processes have to be optimized when it comes to securing the club against the future. In order to do so, things have to be professionally managed and not every good football player is automatically also a good manager. I think that there needs to be a good balance that is unique to every club. Bayern Munich as a global club wants to present itself very differently than a club from a region with deep local connectedness and with a culture in which mistakes are overlooked from time to time. Hence, I think that the identity of the given club plays the overall role in determining the mix between professionalization and the DNA of the club, which includes the involvement of former players.
The position of the head coach seems to be more volatile and fragile than ever before. Many coaches change the club or are sacked in the middle of the season. What is the reason for this development on the coaching position?
The question should be concerned with: what is the meaning of the game? When the sense of the game is victory, then I will strengthen such mechanism and effects. However, my perspective is that winning is not the ultimate aim of the game. Excitement or excitement through entertainment are the paramount ingredients of the game. Scientific studies have determined that most people come to the stadium when the home team has 60 to 40 percent probability of winning the match.
When victory is almost guaranteed then people are not really interested in watching the game. When somebody is a fan of the losing team, then this person will sooner or later stop going to stadium. Sepp Herberger once stated: the people come to the stadium because they not know the outcome of the match. For me, excitement is the emotional core of the game and to align someones actions with this perspective would mean that a coach, who is deeply rooted with the club, should not be sacked immediately when results are not perfect.
What do you think football can learn from the business world and vice versa?
The current situation of coaches is a perfect example. Most coaches are sacked in periods of failure and especially at a point in time when the stress of the public and the media is at its peak. With regard to future results, no business would fire an executive when it is at full speed in a period of failure and definitely not its most important figure, who one could argue is the head coach. Football clubs only do this when they are under influences that we have previously discussed. Such actions are only limited in professionalism, as the people that have to work together in the future do not really know each other, have only a very short settling-in period and they have to immediately perform under the highest expectation and pressure to succeed.
FAIRNESS AND INTEGRITY
With what kind of challenges are managers and coaches confronted nowadays? What developments do you notice and what do clubs have to focus on when it comes to the two positions?
In my opinion clubs should try to become less obsessed with the match results of their teams. Neither does winning a game mean that everything is perfect nor does losing a game mean that everything is bad. It is more important to think about the creation of a brand and of identification. These two elements enable you to reduce the volatility that is naturally present in sports, due to the two outcomes of victory and defeat.
The clubs can alleviate the downward pressure and strengthen the upward pressure. There are many things that clubs can do because of the emotional willingness of their fans, in particular when we look at very big football clubs as Liverpool. At such clubs the event of a home game and the sense of belonging are so emotionally charged that the actual result of the match plays only a subordinate role. I think that this a state that every club should aim for.
Such topics and themes are also addressed by your organization Nummer 12. Could you tell us more about Nummer 12?
Nummer 12 is the name of the organization, as it addresses all the things that are part of football except the core business. That means, we focus on everything that does not involve the 11 players on the pitch. Our fundamental task is to comprehend and analyze all future developments that can take place in football. However, it is important and also to me personally as a long time football fan that we ensure that things relevant to the game continue to be a part of football and are not lost in the future. At Nummer 12 we have two essential factors for the game: fairness and integrity. This does not involve the ethics of the whole business, but it does involve the question of what makes football valuable to the fans and fairness is definitely a key element. When a team wins in an unfair fashion then this devalues the victory and it will eventually have a negative impact on the team. On the contrary, a team that lives sportsmanship and fairness increases the value of what it does on the pitch and this is crucial to the audience in the stadium.
“In my perspective fairplay is the overfulfillment of sticking to the rules”
One more example involves the discussions surrounding dives by players. When you look at the benefit of the dive for the player in that particular situation and compare it to the long lasting image damage, then you will notice that it is negligible. You can make a lot mistakes situationally, but in hindsight you should be fair and admit your mistakes. Therefore, fairness does not only involve that one follows the rules. In my perspective fairplay is the overfulfillment of sticking to the rules. That means, a player should not exploit the rules to the disadvantage of his or her opponent and the player should only want to win the match in a fair fashion.
How does what you have just said translate into the business activities of Nummer 12? Do you support individuals in professional football or do you support entire clubs?
We have two general directions at Nummer 12. One competency is to support professional football clubs through a cognitive distance. With the state of mind „Tradition for the Future“, we strengthen positive elements from the pastand align them with the future. That means, we find a good balance in the given business area, in which the club wants to progress. This development can be on a regional or global scale and there is always a peer group and a benchmark. Our competencies for individuals revolve primarily around the topic of leadership.
That means, we support professional football coaches who are external optimizers of their players with the aim of making them better on the pitch. However, the coaches often have deficits in self-optimization and this is where we step in. We do not tell them how to improve their training, but we help them in orienting themselves in the institutional environment of the club and in ensuring that they keep their job. There are many agencies and companies that broker coaches. In our opinion the most significant thing is that a coach keeps his job because then he will be permanently successful. To support the coach and to ensure that he is successful within the organization is our core task at Nummer 12.
FOOTBALL ≠ MATHEMATICS
Most of the time, very good football players are not the best coaches. What are the reasons for this?
As a professional football player, you have to always make sure that you make yourself better and that you are in competition with the other players on the team. There is always an internal and external competition. There is an internal one within the team, so that you can play your position and there is an external one with the players from the opposite teams. When a former football player becomes a coach, then from one day to another he is responsible for making other people better and this something completely different. We also know this phenomenon from executives in the business world, who have to keep track of the collective success and the imprint of a football player makes ensuring collective success difficult for them. Indeed, it is very rare that good football players are also good coaches.
In which areas should the clubs have more courage?
You can clearly observe in the Bundesliga, but also on an European level that there are clubs that give young players a lot of trust. Borussia Dortmund is one German example of a club that sends young players, who are only 19 or 20 years and who have not really matured as a person, into Champions League games. Obviously, Borussia Dortmund is not doing this for no reason, as this approach helps to raise the value of the players and subsequently increase the amount of money received from transfers. However, Borussia Dortmund also does this because it fits their style of play, which involves taking risks and failing because of courage.
In the UK you also witness a certain trend, for instance at clubs like Chelsea, which probably has one of the best academies on the whole island. The coach of Chelsea argued at the beginning of the season that he cannot let young players play because he has deliver results. In my opinion this is a very interesting stress ratio, as the excitement, the courage to take risks and the possibility of defeat are much interesting for the people in the stadium than planned results. Football is not mathematics.
What was the best home game of KSC in the current season?
This was definitely the match between Karlsruher SC and Würzburger Kickers on the 3rd of November 2018, which was the last game before the reconstruction of our Wildpark. Luckily, we won the game, but the results played only a subordinate role on that day. The most important thing that day was what constitutes football, namely a sense of belonging and a certain form of homeland, which refers to a feeling and not a location. You could really notice that the people enjoyed living this feeling collectively, which is something that starts to disappear from our society. The various life plans need room, in which humans as social beings experience the feeling of comfort. Football is definitely the perfect environment for conveying this feeling.