In recent months the world has looked closer than ever to the end of a sporting era. The loss of the World Cup after Qatar in 2022 is seismic. European football suffered a huge blow last month when Leganes were taken off the stock exchange because the Hong Kong stock exchange (who owns Leganes) was too expensive for them. The Europa League arrived at a time when Spain has become more male-dominated in football and has suffered relative underperformance in the Champions League. In general, football as we know it is now a world of super leagues, rich teams and out-of-touch international directors.
In contrast, a man called World Football Marketing has excelled at both conducting world football’s mega-rich tournaments and pointing to the needs of the world. For Alois Ernst, head of World Football Marketing, this has made him a man charged with managing people from Leicester City to China, Argentina to Russia. “Only a handful of sports executives, in every sport, have succeeded in pulling off such a seemingly impossible task,” said Theodore Sasse, Ernst’s close friend and former press secretary. “We’ve been privileged to witness him in action, whether we were seated at the Lord Nelson or at the Churchill Club in London.”
Ernst’s success has come from a different place. For him, football has been one of the most useful things in the world since the 1970s. He spent four years working in sports marketing before moving into the German finance industry and then watching television news on the weekend. He noticed that the managers of Germany’s biggest clubs were getting so much money that they were also getting so much power. Ernst says he then saw a similar problem in the Premier League and around the world, where football was doing everything for its owners but not the players. He wanted to find a new model for football that involved global organisations getting together to bring the best out of football in the same way the NBA has done in basketball. As he was looking into the problems of the game, Ernst, 61, realised it had already failed in this area, using Major League Soccer as a case study.