Tour to the US: Interview with Jörg Wacker
FC Bayern depart for the Audi Summer Tour 2018 on Monday. After the German record champions travelled to China and Shanghai last year, this year's destinations are Philadelphia and Miami. A few days before the departure to the US, FCB Board Member for Internationalisation and Strategy Jörg Wacker spoke to fcbayern.com about the goals and expectations.
Interview with Jörg Wacker
Mr Wacker, the FC Bayern squad will travel to the US on Monday. First to Philadelphia, then to Miami. What are the priorities on the Audi Summer Tour 2018?
Jörg Wacker:Basically our Audi Summer Tour is about continuously expanding the FC Bayern brand internationally. The focus is of course on the International Champions Cup [ICC] with the top matches against Juventus and Manchester City, the respective champions of their leagues. With these games and our stay in Philadelphia and Miami we want to become even more tangible for our American fans. That's why there will also be local fan parties and a small-field tournament in which our legends will take part. In addition, a large number of marketing, cultural and press events will be staged. In addition, meetings with representatives of the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Football League (NFL) are planned. The programme is demanding, versatile and emotional. I'm really delighted!
The destinations were Chicago, Charlotty and New York on the US tour 2016. Why Philadelphia and Miami this year?
Wacker: Both East Coast cities are highly attractive and fit our international strategy perfectly. Philadelphia is lively in terms of sports. The *Eagles*are reigning Super Bowl champions. There is also a large FC Bayern fan community there. Miami is the gateway to Central and South America. This is very interesting for us because we have been focusing on Latin America intensely for some time.
**How popular is football in the US today?
Wacker: Football in the US has been developing very positively for years. Football has become the number one sport among young people, which is very remarkable. There are currently 25 million active footballers in the US, 18 million of them are under the age of 18. No other sport in the US can keep up with that, and the development cannot be stopped. It is very much driven by the growing proportion of the football-loving Hispanic population which now totals 60 million people.
Does that mean that FC Bayern profit from a dynamically developing market?
Wacker:Definitely. But also from the fact that the FC Bayern staff under Rudolf Vidal in the US office have been doing a great job since 2014. In the past four years, the number of FC Bayern sympathisers in the US has almost doubled to around 27 million. The number of fan clubs in North America has multiplied to 139, with more than 6,500 members. We're on the right path in terms of economics too: FC Bayern have already entered contracts with seven companies that are headquartered in the US: Apple Music, Courtyard by Marriott, Goodyear, Procter & Gamble, Beats, EA Sports and the water supplier OXiGEN.
You recently extended your partnership with GPS...
Wacker:Yes, a great partnership and a good example of a working, successful grassroots programme. GPS [Global Premier Soccer] had about 60,000 kids at the beginning of the cooperation in 2014. Today, four years later, there are more than 100,000 kids from 25 states. It's a real success story.
FC Bayern and MLS club FC Dallas entered a cooperation a few months ago. What are the goals?
Wacker:Our goals are the promotion of talent and the exchange of training philosophies. FC Bayern signed the first player from FC Dallas, Chris Richards, for the U-19s last week. Chris will join us for the tour and make first experiences in the pro squad.
The US failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia. Instead, countries like Panama contested the finals. Hasn't that slowed down the enthusiasm for football in the US?
Wacker:The American fans' disappointment at the fact that the so-called US boys failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup was big of course. But one negative experience is not enough to destroy the whole. Football will become even more important in the US. Major League Soccer is leading the way here: ratings and spectator numbers are rising continuously. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Roone are currently the MLS's stars. New teams have been founded in Orlando, Atlanta, Minnesota and Los Angeles. They will be joined by a new team from Miami in 2020. The 2026 World Cup will be staged in the US, Canada and Mexico. I expect the next big boom in the build-up to it.
The three FC Bayern legends Giovane Elber, Martin Demichelis and Lothar Matthäus will join the squad for the US tour. What are their tasks?
Wacker:Our FC Bayern legends are world-famous. Giovane, Martin and Lothar will take part in a number of appointments: among other things, they'll feature in interviews, at fan meetings, small-field tournaments and autograph signing sessions. It will relieve our team of course. The players will be able to train with focus, usually twice per day - and most of the time we'll welcome spectators for training. It's wonderful for our fans in the US!