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Good values even in tough times

Borussia’s business director Stephan Schippers discusses the economic outlook from the 2020 financial year, the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the club's attitudes and values.

Borussia VfL 1900 Mönchengladbach GmbH ended the 2020 financial year (1st January to 31st December 2020) with a loss of 16.8 million Euros, with the club’s annual statement having been checked by an auditor. We spoke to business director Stephan Schippers about the clubs finances and more…

Mr. Schippers, Borussia generated revenues of €163.4 million during the 2020 business year. That’s a drop-off of around €50 million from the previous year. That comes as no surprise due to the coronavirus pandemic, but could you describe the result for us anyway?

Stephan Schippers: The key factors behind the result have been out of our hands, as we’ve said before. Above all, it is down to the effects of the coronavirus. For 9 1/2 months, from the middle of March to the end of December, we have suffered from a lack of fans in the stadium, reduced TV income and lost sponsorship  and advertising revenue. Another factor is that we haven’t sold any players and have kept our squad together. As a Business director it is unpleasant to say, but it should be considered a success to close the year with a loss of just €16.8 million considering the extremely difficult conditions of 2020. Obviously our participation in the Champions League and the revenues that come with that have helped us enormously. Our special thanks also go to our fans and our sponsors who have supported Borussia in this difficult time.

Has this year served as proof of the old saying that you learn who your real friends are when times get tough?

Stephan Schippers: I want to put that slightly differently: Borussia Mönchengladbach stands for a certain attitude, for the values by which the club is lead and carries out its business. For many years, true fans and partners have known and appreciated those values; perhaps they are a reason why they became fans of Borussia or want to be involved with the club. On the flip side, we have noticed during the pandemic that fans and sponsors have been sticking to those values and have been a good reflection of our club. When the pandemic began and play was interrupted, and when football later returned without spectators, our fans asked us how they could help the club – they offered, for example, to turn down a refund on prepurchased tickets and season tickets. It’s a similar story with plenty of our sponsors, who have agreed to different forms of compensation in exchange for the advertising that they originally paid for. There was a message to their actions: we stand by our Borussia, even in difficult times.

Borussia have announced that they will give a complete refund on season tickets should the entire season take place without fans. There are some fans who have asked why they can’t forgo a refund…

Stephan Schippers: Our fans’ attitude has helped us a lot but we said straight away that we can’t rely on our fans refusing a refund. We have cut our planned investment, postponed projects, reduced costs and generated additional revenue elsewhere – in the end we have reached our goal. It hurts but it is bearable. As it stands, we have gotten off lightly.

Why did Borussia decide not to take public money in the form of credit, as some other clubs did?

Stephan Schippers: In light of the huge damage that this pandemic has done to our society, we didn’t see that as the right thing to do. I don’t want to criticise anybody though. We didn’t want to do it that way so we did it differently. End of story.

Borussia had managed to consistently increase revenue year by year, reaching a peak of €213 million in 2019. The results from 2020, with revenue of €163 million, are similar to those from 2015. Is it possible to say that the coronavirus has set the club back five years?

Stephan Schippers: No, I don’t want to put it like that because we also have to take the clubs around us into consideration and look at the top two divisions as a whole. We have been able to maintain our financial position in comparison with other clubs. It’s helped that we have a really strong structure with regards to our costs and that we were able to react with flexibility to the reduced revenue. 2020 was a major test for us, just as it was for all of society and the economy. The same will go for the year 2021.

What financial results do you predict for 2021? Will Borussia have to endure another year of reduced income due to the ongoing pandemic?

Stephan Schippers: I don’t want to talk about potential results for 2021 yet since there are too many unknowns. It will require a great effort once again because in all likelihood it looks like we will be playing to the end of the season without fans, and we can’t assume that we will be able to start the 2021/22 season with full stadiums. We hope that fans will be allowed back as soon as possible, but we still don’t have a date for that.

Borussia must also plan for the ongoing year with TV revenues that are reduced by around €20 million. Why is that?

Stephan Schippers: That’s right, and there are two reasons for the reduction. Firstly, the new TV contract for the Bundesliga isn’t worth as much, starting from the 2021/22 season. Secondly, the clubs have changed how the TV money will be shared so that the smaller clubs and the Bundesliga 2 teams will benefit more. That’s a disadvantage for the bigger clubs like Borussia Mönchengladbach.

You prefer not to comment on sporting issues, usually handing those questions off to Max Eberl. But we have to discuss one thing: how much has it affected you to see all the reaction to Marco Rose’s decision to join Borussia Dortmund this summer?

Stephan Schippers: I understand the fans’ disappointment, which was probably quite strong in this case because he was such a highly-regarded coach. But I’ve told every fan that I’ve spoken with to trust Max Eberl. To trust Borussia. I’m going back to the idea of values. Borussia Mönchengladbach stands for certain values; these values are what we are. We operate with conviction, independently of outside influences. It’s not in our values to let the coach go because he’s taking a decision that hurts us. Marco Rose is no worse of a coach in April than he was in January when we beat Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich. We have to show the same attitude even when we are hurting. That attitude should not be like a breath on a mirror. Borussia is a club with values and we have a sporting director who shares those values in Max Eberl. That’s how Borussia Mönchengladbach are perceived from the outside, as a club with values and a good attitude. It might be that not everyone can understand that, or that they even want to, but I will say it loud and clear: attitude and values are more important to me than our place in the table. They are the foundation for our sporting success.


Borussia's business director Stephan Schippers

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