Go to main navigation Navigation menu Skip navigation Home page Search

Global Sports - When Dreams and Dark Sides Collide

On Wednesday December 7th, the Center for Sports & Business at SSE held a joint alumni event together with the ESSEC Business School and WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management. This digital event was a collaboration with the Germany SSE Alumni Hub. It was the first time that these three leading European sports centres hosted a joint event.


During the event titled "Global Sports - when dreams and dark sides collide", the directors for the respective Sports and Business/Management Research Centers shared their views on global sports, namely Karoline Strauss (Professor and ESSEC Sports Chair), Martin Carlsson-Wall (Associate Professor and Director for the SSE Center for Sports & Business) and Sascha Schmidt (Professor and Director/Chair at WHU Center for Sports and Management). 

The event started with a brief presentation of each of the respective sports research centers.

The WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management Center for Sports and Management 

WHU's Center for Sports and Management (CSM) and Sports Business Academy (SPOAC) were founded in 2014. The CSM's research and teaching activities center around future readiness, corporate diversification strategies, the impact of technologies on sports and stadium economics. Further, they have partnerships with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for their xPRO executive education platform and The Laboratory for Innovation Science at Harvard University. Research cooperation also spans to the University of Reading and Queensland University of Technology. 

WHU Center for Sports and Management and SSE Center for Sports & Business are together involved jointly in a EU-funded program together with the Zagreb School of Economics and Management designing an online program for especially Olympic athletes looking for entrepreneurship opportunities during or after their careers. You can read more about the Micro-Learning Entrepreneurship for Athletes program here

The ESSEC Sports Chair 

The ESSEC Sports Chair was founded in 2020 and they offer specializations to students within ESSEC programs. Formerly, ESSEC also had a Sports Marketing Chair. Partnerships include Allianz, EDF, Paris Saint-Germain, Stade Francais Paris, French Federation of Basketball, National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performnace, and Sports dans la Ville. Topics of focus include career transitions in professional sport, but also more applied knowledge from case studies regarding leadership lessons learned from sport, among others. They are also currently putting effort into their Sports Hub, in order to give current and retired athletes access to ESSEC courses. 

The SSE Center for Sports & Business 

SSE's Center for Sports & Business (CSB) was founded in 2015 and has strategic partnerships with the Swedish Olympic Committee and many of the large sports (i.e., football, hockey, golf, equestrian, trot racing, skiing and parasport). A central research theme concerns the management of hybrid organizations and how sports organizations balance commercial and non-commercial logics. CSB offers educational programs to athletes, students and sports executives. 

Global Sports - when dreams and dark sides collide 

Next, the focus was on the main topic of the event: Global Sports - when dreams and dark sides collide. 

Firstly, Martin Carlsson-Wall noted the fact that the global sports market is growing quickly. Global sports is an industry with an annual turnover of about 500 billion euros and an annual growth of 4-6%, which already represents about 1% of global GDP. Further, the importance of digitalization in the world of sports was highlighted. 

Carlsson-Wall also shed some light on how leagues work with sports, with an example from LaLiga and an illustration from the representative of LaLiga in the Nordic Countries, Juan Fuentes Fernandez. LaLiga uses an "Ice cream to bread" fan strategy to expand globally. Historically, parents give their kids ice cream on weekends, and this is how football has been consumed, you have a game on the weekend. However, now with TV, the consumption pattern has changed where you have games almost everyday. According to Fernandez, kids in Spain eat bread three times a day, and instead of just interacting with LaLiga once or twice a week, he wants through digital means that all fans and consumers of LaLiga should interact 24/7. 

Regarding digitalization, Carlsson-Wall also mentioned the dark side that comes with it, namely a winner takes it all market. You have economies of scale where those who can afford investments in underlying technology will not only drive past all the smaller sports, but actually control them. 

Next, the strong growth in women's sport, especially football, was brought up, with the three games with the highest attendance constituting women's football games in Europe (two with Barcelona and the final between Germany and England in the Eurocup). 

The PPP-Model as a way to understand global sports

Making sense of the global sports world, Carlsson-Wall introduced the PPP-model: Profit, Passion and Politics. In the American model, focus is on profit and sports is seen as a business and fans are sport consumers. In the European model, focus is on passion and sports is seen as an identity project and fans are family members. Lastly, in the Chinese model, focus is on politics and sports is seen as national pride and citizens contributing to the state.

Analyzing the Qatar Football World Cup through this model, it starts with politics and they are very good with profit, but they have a challenge with the passion, and that is what we have seen and what has been the narrative from a European and North American perspective. But for those that have been to Qatar, focus is on profit and politics and how well-organized the tournament has been. 

Subsequently, Carlsson-Wall mentioned the failed launch of the European Super League. Analyzing this from an organizational level and accounting perspective, many European clubs did not balance revenues and costs so well. There is a need for an increase in revenues and the predictability of those, and that is where the Super League comes into play. However, fans were dissatisfied with the treatment of their clubs as a business, which is why the project failed.  

Analyzing the world of sports from an individual level, it is much about stardom and always being under public scrutiny, how stars with a big platform on social media can become real assets, and the issue of mental illness. 

The society level of analysis was demonstrated by the exclusion of Russia in international sports following the war in Ukraine and how this level interplays with the individual and organizational level. 

Finally, Carlsson-Wall talked about the Ocean Race with a business model of saving the ocean. On the one hand, it is a global sailing competition, on the other hand, they have increased revenues considerably from cities and donations from philanthropists because they are doing something beyond sports. From this, one can draw the conclusion that the 3P Model can be extended to a 4P Model with Purpose being an integral part that aligns the other 3 P's. 

After Carlsson-Wall's very insightful keynote presentation, the event concluded with a Q&A and next steps. 

Next Steps 

Concerning next steps, this digital event is going to be followed by two additional ones. In January/February 2023, Sascha Schmidt from WHU is going to hold a keynote presentation on the topic of how new technologies are impacting the future of sports in terms of athletes, consumers and management, and in March 2023, Karoline Strauss from ESSEC is also going to hold a keynote presentation on the topic of responsible talent development. 

Watch the Webinar 

Sports and Business SIR