June 13 2018

China als heißer Kandidat auf die WM 2030?/ China, a hot candidate for the World Cup in 2030?

Germany, FIFA World Cup

Please find the English translation below.

Bei der Fußball-Weltmeisterschaft in Russland gehört Octagon zu den Big Playern unter den Consulting- und Full Service-Agenturen, die vor Ort im Auftrag der Partner und Sponsoren des Weltverbandes FIFA in Aktion sind: Managing Director Karsten Petry und Vice President Dennis Trautwein sprechen im "SID"-Interview über eines der dominantesten Themen in der Welt des Fußballs: die Kommerzialisierung.

Das Interview finden Sie auf der Sport.de Seite hier.


At the World Cup in Russia, Octagon is one of the big players among the consulting and full service agencies, who are part of the action onsite to support partners and sponsors of world federation FIFA. In this “SID”-interview, Managing Director Karsten Petry and Vice President Dennis Trautwein are talking about one of the most dominant topics in the world of football: commercialization.

Mr. Petry, Mr. Trautwein, Octagon supports the majority of FIFA partners and sponsors at the World Cup in Russia in various forms. Provoking question: Are you on the dark side of power as a service provider?

Karsten Petry: Uhm, what are you trying to say?

In Germany, there is an undeniable debate, if the sport hasn’t already been sold out and lost its identity. You are one of the protagonists of the sport business.

Petry: And now you’re trying to make the argument that sports is merely sport business? No, that’s not the case. Sports definitely still has its heart and soul. Sport business by itself has to have its heart and soul as well. Certainly, athletic goals are tied to commercial ones these days, but that they are its slave – that wouldn’t work. Then the means to achieve athletic success would inevitably have to be become illicit.

Keyword doping, keyword manipulation…

Petry: I don’t see the sports world this negatively. Of course, fame and glory is no longer the sole motivator in professional sports, but sponsors, companies and brands, without which global, professional sports wouldn’t be possible anymore, do follow certain values. In most cases it’s very much about responsibility for the sport, not only as a self-preserving mechanism and for commercial gains. It is about the message and values that form the company culture. This impacts the core of the enterprise.

Doesn’t a World Cup seem to be more and more like a huge marketing platform these days?

Dennis Trautwein: Allow me to point out that the discussion you’re referring to seems to be a typical and primarily German one. Of course there are tendencies and developments that need to be questioned in a critical way, but in this country, many topics are viewed as one-dimensional, especially by the media. I wish people would differentiate more, even if that’s not very popular right now. 

But football is a billion-dollar business far away from its base. The next World Cup is in Qatar. And eventually, China will be a host, because Chinese companies are storming the markets with high investments. Aren’t we losing the fan culture considering this level of commercialization? Isn’t tradition being left behind?

Trautwein: That’s exactly what I mean: In Germany, these perspectives result in suspicion. My recommendation is to remove the German goggles and put on the ones of FIFA. The debate about commercialization only exists at this level and in this form in markets with a long tradition in football and in which the sport is unrivaled number one – so called mature football markets.

Classical football markets such as Germany and England…

Trautwein: Of course, these are very important football nations with a huge fan base and culture. Here, the development is seen differently than in many other parts of the world, as well as by FIFA. In other parts you don’t have these kinds of topics, at least not as negatively as over here. That Germany and England are significant markets in FIFA’s endeavor to identify growth potential for its products, is highly questionable.

Petry: We are not going to turn back the clock. Nevertheless, concerns that are being voiced by classic football nations don’t exist in Asia, Africa, North America or the Middle East.

Trautwein: …and that’s why FIFA is going to subtly try to ignore it in Europe or South America – where necessary.  It’s not that much of a challenge for FIFA or its partners. On the contrary, they are on a different journey, because the business potential in World Cup markets of the future, especially in China, is enormous and by far not fully exhausted. China is a hot candidate for the World Cup in 2030.

And FIFA is going to focus on that?

Trautwein: Yes. A participation of China in the World Cup would be of immense global significance, based on latest surveys. Among other things, it would raise global TV viewership by 3% alone. China already is an important player for FIFA. And though it still sounds futuristic: the next interesting market could be India. Even though organizing a World Cup would be a huge organizational challenge in those countries.

Aside from the question, which country is going to be the next host, a lot of fans are annoyed with the ever increasing size of such tournaments, the last European Championship for example, which is to the detriment of the athletic level. If the World Cup grows from 32 to 48 teams, that level isn’t going to get any better either.

Trautwein:  An argument that I can absolutely understand from an athletic point of view, but that FIFA certainly is viewing less critically. For FIFA, the expansion is a logical one: If the tournament grows, so do marketing opportunities, even if this is questionable in light of the sport. But FIFA long understood that a World Cup has to be promoted as a global party. And if that party takes longer and more guests are attending, many will benefit.

And FIFA is realizing significant financial gains.

Trautwein: From FIFA’s viewpoint that’s legitimate. The World Cup is an intercultural festival, in which many nations meet. That’s FIFA’s real goal for such a spectacle. And they understand how to communicate this accordingly.

Petry: Of course it has to be a requirement that political and social conditions in host and participating countries are suitable; hereby FIFA definitely has some catching up to do in regards to selection and decision criteria. Once this is given though, I don’t see a reason why mature football markets are elevating themselves above other federations und claim the right to judge the amount of participants or hosts. As mentioned, a World Cup is a huge intercultural spectacle, which gradually should be made accessible to all parts of the world.

So you’re saying that discussions about commercialization should be held in a much more differentiated way?

Petry: Exactly. There are significant differences between the global development and what is happening in this country.

Trautwein: The DFL and its sponsors need to realize that there is a fine line between its original identity and the commercialization of football. Same goes for the Premier League. Hereby, the close cooperation with the fans is tremendously important, especially since the negative mood in the media is undeniable.

Petry: The decision makers in and around German football – DFL, DFB, clubs, sponsors, marketers – need to be sensitive enough to listen to the opinions of the fans and take them seriously. That is an absolute requirement. So, putting on the German googles again: whether Monday night games make sense should be reconsidered, given the obvious negative opinion in the media and of its base. Organizers have to face this debate. Because in this case, it truly was all about increasing TV revenue, while the needs of the fans and ticket holders were completely ignored.

For you, what is crossing the line in terms of commercialization?

Petry: If the sport gets twisted around too much, when its original identity is lost, that’s crossing the line for me. For example, if football games would now be played in thirds to add space for additional ads, that would be fatal – that’s not part of the DNA of football.