Wolfsburg (AP) – VfL Wolfsburg is the first Bundesliga club to play another international match on Thursday and must fly to a risk area in Albania.
Sports director Jörg Schmadtke (56) tells in an interview with the German news agency about his concerns about this trip, the return of fans to the stadiums and other consequences of the corona crisis.
Question: Mr Schmadtke, next Thursday you have to play a Europa League qualifier in the middle of the corona pandemic in Albania. How do you approach this journey? Professional? With incomprehension? With discomfort?
Answer: I am not an expert on the pandemic. But there are always situations where I don’t understand because I can’t understand certain things. Normally you should not consciously send someone to a risk area. But that’s the case with a Europa League game in Albania. This is a risk area. And we have to go there to fulfill our obligations. But I am also interested in something else: in the DFB Cup, some smaller clubs could not play their home games because they had not implemented the hygiene concepts. And then I see cup games where no gaps are kept and no masks are worn. I wonder: where is the hygiene concept? Isn’t that the case anymore? I do not understand that.
Question: Is that a concept or implementation problem?
Answer: We have concepts that demand a lot from the clubs, but that are understandable. And when I see the corona numbers in football, this system seems to work too. In the end, it all seemed a bit softened. Spectators were allowed in some areas and not in others. That’s a bit complicated.
Question: Does this mean that you are in favor of a nationwide uniform regulation for the return of spectators to the stadiums, which the politicians have now agreed upon?
Answer: In my opinion it is only possible with a uniform concept. We experienced it ourselves when we played our test match in Magdeburg in front of 1000 fans in preparation. That changes the game and the experience on the field. If one club plays permanently for 300 spectators and another for 8,000, then we have competitive differences. That is why we naturally welcome the decision of politicians and I hope that the testing phase will succeed.
Question: Do you think it is also possible that many people have left football during the ghost games? That they won’t come, even if they can go back to the stadium?
Answer: Yes, we have to monitor this process. There is a difference between football on television and football as an exciting stadium experience. We must be careful that the lack of experience does not lead people to turn away completely. But that is not the only factor: with our actions we also influence how we are perceived and how acceptance is. That football remains compatible with the masses.
Question: Fans like the “Our Football” alliance are ardently demanding a reform of the Corona era professional affairs and lessons. What do you think of a different distribution of TV money?
Answer: of course it is possible. However, I find some of the things said in this context difficult. As VfL Wolfsburg, we have been part of this Bundesliga for 23 years. And I have the impression that one or the other believes that we can live here in the economic Eldorado and do what we want, just because we have a big company behind us. But we also have a location here that is rather difficult: we are a small town. Other clubs located in a city of over a million people apparently think this gives them privileges. I find that funny, and it is not taken into account at all in the discussion about VfL Wolfsburg.
Question: Do you think it would change competition in the Bundesliga if you gave smaller clubs or so-called traditional clubs with a large fan base more money?
Answer: The importance of money for national television for competition is relatively small. But nobody seems to pay much attention to that in the discussion. If you think that the championship race will be more exciting if you take 15 or 20 million euros from Bayern Munich’s national TV money, then you are wrong. If you really want to make a change, you would have to reach an agreement at the national level and then campaign internationally to ensure that the money from the Champions League is distributed differently.
Question: How has your daily life as a manager changed as a result of the Corona crisis? Have transfers or salary negotiations with players become more difficult? Or just less often?
Answer: In any case, contacting us has become more complicated. Usually you travel to or have someone come to make personal contact. This is now increasingly happening online. That makes it a bit more difficult for me. Because I like to sit in front of people, so that I can organize things better. Otherwise, I have the impression: When clubs want to buy a player, they are very happy to lead the pandemic to discuss prices. If they want to sell, I have the impression there is no pandemic.
Q: Does VfL Wolfsburg currently have a competitive advantage because it has Volkswagen as its parent company behind it? Do you therefore have to lose less weight than other clubs?
Answer: No. We have as many problems with the pandemic as anyone else. But there is a difference: we don’t have to look for a bank to help us, we have a parent company that can intervene in an emergency. But there are also traders who can read balance sheets. For example, if we had had a competitive advantage, we would have invested tens of millions in our infrastructure this year. However, these plans have been canceled. Nobody sees such a thing and nobody wants to see it.
ABOUT THE PERSON: Jörg Schmadtke (56) has been Managing Director Sport at VfL Wolfsburg since 2018. After 13 years as a Bundesliga goalkeeper with Fortuna Düsseldorf, SC Freiburg and Bayer Leverkusen, he started a brief coaching career with Borussia Mönchengladbach (assistant) and Fortuna (goalkeeper coach). However, at Alemannia Aachen, Hannover 96 and SC Freiburg, he has been promoted to one of the most prominent managers in the Bundesliga since 2001.