Dthe pandemic has changed the market and caused economic losses, the war in Ukraine will also have consequences in this regard. But the dimensions have so far been less dramatic than feared. Bennet Ahnfeldt, Patrick King and Ingo Wolf came to this conclusion – three of the most important advisers in German basketball.
They see the state aid programs in the Corona crisis as an important factor. “As a result, one or the other club survived,” King says. Wolf makes a similar statement, but at the same time points out that with less assistance, difficult times may come in the near future, as it is not clear when the clubs will again be able to generate more money through higher viewer income.
For the consultants, especially March 2020, when the Bundesliga stopped playing, was a phase full of challenges and unmanageable. “From one day to the next, all the foreign players wanted to go home,” Ahnfeldt recalls. The clubs handled this situation differently. There was no clear line regarding contract terminations and exemption ideas. Looking back, King describes this period as “hectic, insecure and frightening”. In more than 20 years in the industry, he has never experienced anything like it. Suddenly, the consultants had to deal with new topics such as short-term work services.
The bubble, which the German champions then played in the summer of 2020, ensured that basketball remained a topic of conversation. However, players whose contracts had already been terminated had to be renegotiated. From Ahnfeldt’s point of view, the bigger blow came a year later: “After the difficult 20/21 season, the clubs were much more defensive because many sponsors could not maintain their further commitment.”
“Budgets in Russia are likely to fall”
“The dreaded bulge did not occur in Germany, but budgets have remained relatively stable,” Wolf explains. However, like Ahnfeldt and King, he also admits that the desired amounts were not always obtained with new contracts. According to the consultants, the clubs have become more cautious. “Usually the contracts for German players are signed in March. These conversations have only just begun, ”says Ahnfeldt.
While reliable statements are already possible about the consequences of the pandemic, this is not yet possible in the case of the Ukraine war. Nevertheless, the trio paints a clear and coherent picture. The fact is that national players are protected in the basketball Bundesliga. The quota system prevents international stars who have been active in Russia from competing for their place with local players. However, this does not apply to foreign professionals.
Wolf, who among other things represents the German national player Johannes Voigtmann, who is under contract with CSKA Moscow, knows the Eastern European market very well: “Budgets in Russia will probably fall significantly. This and the political situation would then lead to significantly fewer expensive foreigners playing in the country. ”
In particular, the three Russian Euroleague teams have paid high salaries, not least because of the tax system there and the support of the state and the oligarchs. Now these teams are falling away as a point of contact for high-paying top players, who as a result are pushing against Western Europe.
Basketball players who have earned their money here so far but do not have a long-term contract may have to restructure and suffer financial losses. Clubs with money and flexibility in the squad can use this constellation for themselves. Although the war will have a negative impact on the market, the quality of the game in the Western European leagues is likely to increase.
“Players are again asking themselves more precisely where to sign up,” King recognizes a trend: “There may well be players who do not want to sign in Poland or Bulgaria due to the halt to gas supplies and the geographical proximity to Russia. The tendency to seek secure framework conditions will increase. ”
The Bundesliga has built up a good reputation in recent years and should, in addition to geopolitical advantages, also benefit from its sporting and economic stability. In principle, the parenthesis closes to the pandemic, where many players wondered how safe their jobs would be if there was no game or only in front of empty rows. “Basically, the unmanageable make it more challenging for the consultant to make career decisions with the client,” says Ahnfeldt.
The author is twice Coach of the Year.