Research - 19.06.2014 - 00:00 

Football enriches society

Football creates emotions and attitudes among fans, anti-fans, the media and a wider general public which are also reflected in societal values. This is revealed by HSG business economist Timo Meynhardt and his team in a topical study.


19 June 2014. When the German Federal Chancellor goes into the national side’s changing room after a match, then this becomes a media event. Shamed be he who is not also reminded of political calculation and symbolic politics: football helps politicians to enhance their reputations. But football is about more: football enriches society, football creates public value.

Football informs societal values

This is clearly demonstrated, for example, if a top team is scrutinised in more detail. A current HSG study about FC Bayern Munich (cf. download on the right-hand side) revealed how profound an impact a football club has on society and how profoundly it shapes a community. The club has more than 200,000 official members, which is more than most political parties. A Facebook survey on “What does FC Bayern Munich mean to you?” elicited 4,000 answers within three hours. Some direct quotes:

  • My life. No less. Thanks for everything.
  • Rooting for them, suffering with them, sharing their joy, defending them against all enviers, for the last 20 years.
  • My life, my heart, my blood, my body, my soul, my everything. I was born to support FC Bayern Munich.
  • The FCB is my life my love my best hobby, simply awesome.
  • I’ve been an FC Bayern fan since childhood. It was the only thing I had in common with my father.

The club’s athletic performance, its behaviour on the side-lines and its activities in general lead to emotions and attitudes among fans, anti-fans, the media and ultimately a wider general public which are also reflected in societal values (public value) and have a defining impact on them. This results in the generation of entire mental pictures of “how life works” or “what really counts in society”. A club such as FC Bayern Munich creates meaning for many people, makes the world a little more comprehensible and is quite naturally an object of projection and identification in a way that other social institutions outside sports are hardly capable of achieving. It is not only young men who emulate their idols. Such public values affect all education and income strata, thus becoming societal reality.

Football clubs influence their countries’ worldwide image

The top public values ascertained in the study include the club’s identity-establishing function (Mia san Mia – which is Bavarian for “We are us”) and the active encounter of a wide variety of social strata (“social melting-pot”). FC Bayern also creates a worldwide image of Germany. What must not be forgotten is the maximum hunger for achievement, which essentially ensures that young people’s motivation to rise in life (“You can do it on the basis of your performance alone”) is retained. A bit of lateral thinking, but still a significant public value: instigated by a club’s enormous polarisation power, communities emerge – for or against the club.

Of course there is also a great deal of money at stake. Only: such a club cannot be run or understood in its essence on the basis of business management criteria alone. What happens, for instance, if the fans ask for the club’s commitment in political issues through Facebook (as occurred in Ukraine prior to the 2012 European Championship)? Or if politicians call for stronger measures with regard to issues of public safety? This requires a broader view. Thus local roots can quickly become a brake block for the brand’s global charisma, which is primarily about beautiful images.

Who wants to stand up and call football enthusiasm misguided or childish? That would be arrogant. No, football connects people, groups and entire nations in a way that political measures or economic activities are hardly ever capable of doing as effectively and peacefully. This public value collateral should also be put to the best possible use during the 2014 World Cup.

Photo: Riccardo Piccinini -

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