"The professionalization of the industry will get a new boost"

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Marc Mayer-Vorfelder and Dr. Marcus Hochhaus interviewed by SPONSORs.

The Corona crisis has also called into question many established concepts of everyday working life in the sports business industry. In an interview with SPONSORs, Marc Mayer-Vorfelder and Marcus Hochhaus, Managing Partner of the HR and strategy consultancy Sportheads, talk about the long-term consequences for salaries and job profiles in the industry.

SPONSORs: The Corona pandemic continues, forcing many industry players to take measures such as short-time working over a period of months and causing existential hardship due to the loss of orders. How serious is the situation?

Mayer-Vorfelder: Our industry is also undergoing a very demanding stress test. Important sources of revenue have been lost, which in many cases cannot be offset by our own reserves but only by Corona aid. The situation is likely to worsen again by the end of 2021 or early 2022 at the latest, when the option of short-time working expires and there is still no significant improvement by then. The news on vaccines at least means there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Hochhaus: In einzelnen Segmenten der Branche und bei einzelne Unternehmensgrößen gibt es durchaus unterschiedliche Auswirkungen mit einigen Gewinnern und vielen Verlierern. Etwa im Bereich der digitalen Vermarktung und Aktivierung nehmen wir vermehrt positive Signale aus dem Markt wahr. Schwierig bleibt es vor allem für kleinere Unternehmen und Agenturen, die Umsatzeinbrüche von wichtigen Kunden nicht kompensieren können. Hier sind bereits erste Konsolidierungstendenzen sichtbar.

SPONSORs: What impact has the crisis had on salary structures in sports?

Hochhaus: In the medium term, personnel budgets will grow again once sales have reached pre-crisis levels. In the commercial sector, however, the rebuilding of personnel will be accompanied by changes in requirement profiles.

Mayer-Vorfelder: The development of salaries is naturally based on the principle of supply and demand. We are observing changes on both sides that are influencing this, such as job cuts or a reduced willingness to change jobs. But I am certain that the professionalization of the sports industry will receive a new boost after the crisis. In the long term, I expect top executives and top professionals in particular to benefit from higher salary levels.

SPONSORs: Job profiles and requirements are currently changing rapidly. Which jobs are currently in particularly high demand and are paid accordingly?

Hochhaus: On the one hand, external expertise is being increasingly relied upon to provide new impetus and to adapt business models from other industries. On the other hand, the ongoing digital transformation is an increasingly important criterion in personnel selection. This applies both within the organization and in relationships with members, customers and partners. Depending on the position and management level, this translates into very different requirements.

Mayer-Vorfelder: Due to the pandemic-related uncertainty, the supply of newly created jobs has naturally declined. Demand is particularly high where market participants also expect an immediate benefit - such as in the area of data analysis or in the area of digital revenue sources.

SPONSORs: When it comes to choosing a job, salary is just one of many criteria. What else do employees in the sports business particularly value?

Mayer-Vorfelder: Today, it is difficult to score points with the "emotionality of sport" alone. The associated willingness to sacrifice something for the job is declining. We are seeing an increase in expectations with regard to mobile working, flexible working hours and scope for shaping content. Opportunities for further training and development, as well as corporate culture, are also playing an increasingly important role.

SPONSORs: How will topics such as home office and flexible working hours be handled in the future?

Mayer-Vorfelder: I am convinced that hybrid models will become established in the future, in which it will be possible to determine the place of work and working hours to a greater extent. The crisis has highlighted many advantages and disadvantages of the various working worlds - from both the employer's and the employee's perspective. In most cases, advantages only arise in a combination of a flexible and fixed framework.

SPONSORs: Many sports organizations still have a strict hierarchical structure. Does that make them less interesting for highly qualified employees?

Hochhaus: Above all, an organization should be efficient, agile and resilient and primarily serve the purpose of the company. The respective structure reflects only one way of organizing the work, i.e., more along the lines of "structure follows strategy". Agile organizations can adapt more quickly to new challenges. Rigid hierarchies have worked well in a stable environment, which is still often found in administrations and associations in sports.

SPONSORs: In terms of employees, however, a company does not only need highly qualified people, just as a team does not only need stars.

Hochhaus: Völlig richtig. Wertvoller ist oftmals die richtige Mischung aus „Spielern“ mit den entsprechenden Qualifikationen, der geeigneten „Aufstellung“ – der Struktur – und dem richtigen Zusammenspiel, der Prozesse.

Mayer-Vorfelder: From this perspective, in addition to structure, adequate "cadre planning", i.e. strategic personnel planning, is elementary for every company. This enables the right team to be found, retained and further developed. Then talents and stars as employees will also find an environment that supports them in their goals and with which they can identify.

SPONSORs: Gentlemen, thank you very much for the interview.