The football of the future looks very different for Gerard Piqué. More show, more action, much less playing time: With this recipe for his Kings League, the former FC Barcelona professional wants to win the fight for attention and a young audience.
"90 minutes is very long. You have to create short, entertaining content, because nowadays the product football itself is outdated," said the former world and European champion about his project, which makes headlines outside of classic football and is organized by his own agency becomes.
The Kings League concept combines traditional football with show elements. Twelve teams with ex-stars, active soccer players, YouTubers and streamers compete against each other in two halves of 20 minutes each. The game is played on a small field in a seven-a-side format.
Goal: Higher attractiveness
Radical approaches such as larger goals and a net playing time have long been considered in German football. "You have to be able to discuss everything with an open mind so that it becomes more attractive: bigger goals, bigger penalty area, playing time, flying changes. Just discuss everything," said RB Leipzig's sports director Max Eberl recently to the "kicker". He advocated thinking unconventionally in order to continue to inspire young people.
"Considerations are never bad, but as soon as the Bundesliga makes changes, it becomes difficult to take part in international competitions," says marketing expert Mario Leo. He has been following developments in football for years and urges us to remain realistic. "If the goals are bigger in Germany, they won't be bigger in the 54 UEFA countries."
The Kings League is already driving change to the extreme. There is no draw in the games. Shootout instead: Run towards the goalkeeper and try to score. The classic kick-off is also replaced: whoever gets the ball first gets to keep it. Action cards that can be redeemed during the game - such as an instant penalty or an extra man on the pitch for two minutes - add to the excitement.
In the first season, eleven match days, the teams dueled for around six hours on Sundays in an exhibition hall in the port of Barcelona. "In the league phase, the Kings League is not geared towards a certain number of spectators in a stadium or an arena. The approximately 300 seats in the hall are intended exclusively for guests of the teams," explains Leo. "It's primarily about reaching the target group in the living room."
Spectators always close to the action
All games are streamed live on the Internet and commented on. The spectators are always close to the action: During the break, the transmission is broadcast from the cabins, the referees wear small cameras on their bodies and audibly explain their decisions. "The transmissions are moderated in a very emotional, empathetic and euphoric manner. Even if less is happening in the game, there is always an arc of suspense," says marketing expert Leo and sees this as a recipe for success.
But even off the Internet, the Kings League aroused a lot of interest in its first season. For the finals at Camp Nou at the end of March, more than 90,000 spectators, mostly young people, came to FC Barcelona's home ground. After this success, the league now wants to expand. With the established big leagues and the great interest in football, France, England and Germany are certainly target areas, as well as the Spanish-speaking countries, explains expert Leo. "With the speed at which the Kings League is acting, I can imagine that it could start in Germany as early as spring 2024."
No competition to classic football
However, Leo does not see the project as a competitor to classic football. "For me, this is currently the greatest competition for futsal, which hasn't been very popular in Germany so far." In this country, the Bundesliga still enjoys a high status - despite the series titles of FC Bayern Munich and teams that are more difficult to market such as Heidenheim, Darmstadt, Wolfsburg or Hoffenheim. "Of course highlight games like Bayern versus Dortmund are more attractive than Heidenheim versus Hoffenheim, but the interest is there," says Leo. This can also be felt in the stadiums.
The basis for future success is also sporting variety. "If you manage to keep the fight open in the championship, the Bundesliga will remain attractive in the long term. But the importance of the league will not increase further if Bayern win the championship for the 12th, 13th and 14th time," says Leo .
In his opinion, however, classic football can definitely learn one thing from the Kings League: "With only eleven match days, the Kings League does not achieve permanent radiation. With the many competitions in football, there are no breaks. The exaggeration of products and offers is a high risk."