War in Ukraine and Corona Pandemic: Consequences for Basketball

Dhe pandemic has changed the market and caused financial 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 advisors in German basketball.

They see the state support programs in the Corona crisis as an important factor. “As a result, one or the other club survived,” says King. Wolf makes a similar statement, but also points out that with less aid there could be difficult times in the near future, since it is not foreseeable when the clubs will be able to generate more money through higher viewer income again.

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For the consultants, March 2020 in particular, when the Bundesliga stopped playing, was a phase full of challenges and imponderables. “From one day to the next, all the foreign players wanted to go home,” Ahnfeldt recalls. The clubs dealt with this situation differently. There was no clear line regarding contract terminations and waiver ideas. Looking back, King describes this period as “hectic, uncertain and frightening”. In more than 20 years in the industry, he has never experienced anything like this. Suddenly the consultants had to deal with new topics such as short-time work benefits.

The bubble, in which the German champions were 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 additional commitment.”

“Budgets in Russia will probably decrease”

“The feared dent did not occur in Germany, however, the budgets have remained relatively stable,” explains Wolf. Like Ahnfeldt and King, however, he also concedes that the desired amounts were not always achieved with new contracts. According to the consultants, the clubs have become more cautious. “Normally, the contracts for German players are signed in March. These talks are only just beginning,” says Ahnfeldt.

While reliable statements are already possible on the consequences of the pandemic, this is not yet possible in the case of the Ukraine war. Nevertheless, the trio draws a clear and consistent 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 actors. 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: “The budgets in Russia will probably drop significantly. This and the political situation would then lead to significantly fewer high-priced foreigners playing in the country.”

The three Russian Euroleague teams in particular have paid high salaries, not least because of the tax system there and the support from the state and the oligarchs. Now these teams are falling away as a point of contact for highly paid top players who are pushing towards Western Europe as a result.

Basketball players who have been making their money here so far but do not have a long-term contract may have to reorient themselves 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 play in the Western European leagues is likely to increase.

“Players are again asking themselves more pointedly where they should sign up,” King recognizes a trend: “There could well be players who will not sign in Poland or Bulgaria because of the halt to gas supplies and the geographic proximity to Russia. The tendency to look for secure framework conditions will increase.”

The Bundesliga has earned a good reputation in recent years and, in addition to geopolitical advantages, should also benefit from its sporting and economic stability. In principle, the bracket to the pandemic closes, in which many players wondered how safe their job would be if there was no play or only in front of empty ranks. “Basically, the imponderables make it more challenging for the consultant to make career decisions with the client,” says Ahnfeldt.

The author is a two-time Coach of the Year.



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