We decided to contact entrepreneurs from other countries and talk about the situation and the consequences of COVID-19 for the sports business.
Dr. Farid R. Zakirov, Managing Director, AF Sports Reactive (Hamburg, Germany)
What changes have occurred directly for your company during the pandemic?
First of all, I want to note that in connection with the pandemic, we were forced to cancel a number of trips, which are one of the key elements of operational activities. Like our partners, we switched to the “home office” mode as early as March 2, thus outstripping the general trend in Germany by almost 2 weeks.
What are the economic consequences of a pandemic awaiting your firm?
I suppose that the consequences of the “stop” in connection with the pandemic have affected and will affect almost all sectors of the economy, with rare exceptions. We are no exception. Unfortunately, this situation did not allow us to enter the self-sustainability regime in the spring without raising funds from the founders. Nevertheless, I am convinced that these consequences are not terrible in comparison with the serious fears for “survival” that many entrepreneurs all over the world have encountered.
Tell us about the actions that are being taken in Germany to save the economy. The German Federal Government and the Bundesland Hamburg Government have developed a series of measures to save various sectors of the economy. For example, according to the joint program of the federation and the Bundesland Hamburg, entrepreneurs in Hamburg can receive financial assistance from the state up to 30,000 euros depending on the number of employees. This subsidy is not refundable to the treasury of the federation and the Bundesland Hamburg. In addition, there are a number of loans that entrepreneurs can get on favorable terms. I want to note that similar measures are being taken in all 16 lands (Bundesländer) in Germany.
Has your company benefited from government assistance?
According to the terms of the support program in Hamburg, we could ask for help of up to € 14,000. As managing director I decided – to refuse the state subsidy, if possible. I suppose that taxpayers´ money should be transferred to small enterprises that really need this money to avoid bankruptcy proceedings. For reasons of solidarity in Hamburg, and indeed in Germany in general, we did not apply for a subsidy.
What are the implications for football in general?
The most terrible consequence, which is already a reality today, is the uncertainty in almost everything. At present, a sufficient number of European major league clubs (including several Bundesliga clubs) are on the brink of financial abyss. I hope that they will be able to “survive”. This situation all over the world is already leading to difficulties and delays in the payment of salaries for football players and club employees, and also, in part, to salary reductions of several months. It is just a small point on the tip of the iceberg. For almost 1.5 months, Western Europe, Russia and Uzbekistan have been living without football; the periods of certain tournaments have been violated. I think it is premature to assess the final consequences, but one thing is clear today – it will be very difficult for football and all sports and it will be necessary to seriously work so that we do not lose football and sports in general in the form that we are all used to. Football continues for example in Belarus and Tajikistan. How do you feel about holding matches in these countries? Unfortunately, until today I have not had the opportunity to visit Belarus. Partnership and comradely relations connect me with Tajikistan. Even before the foundation of AF Sports Reactive, I collaborated with FC Istiklol Dushanbe in 2017, the memorable joyful release of FC Istiklol to the AFC Cup final. Decisions in these countries have been taken by the competent authorities. I do not have knowledge in the field of virology to assess this situation. Nevertheless, I can already note a tendency to increase the recognition of the championships of Belarus, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Nicaragua, and Taiwan all over the world. Already today these championships are broadcast in many countries of the world, which was probably difficult to even dream in the middle of March. Will your projects in Uzbekistan continue after the pandemic? Of course! Difficulties always include two components: the first is prevention measures, and the second is the analysis and search for new opportunities. The current situation throughout the world has demonstrated the need for the development of biology, virology, the even greater development of medicine and, of course, the urgent need for the development of technologies that can minimize the need for restructuring the system itself. It is about communication, the development of platforms for various business and research processes. It is especially pleasant that our partners in Uzbekistan are looking in the same direction and are also looking for new solutions. We are currently advising a process of new cooperation between the Union of Football Players of Uzbekistan and the German company Lead Volume, in the process of which new opportunities for communication and work with members of the union will be introduced. Only through joint efforts and mutual assistance will we be able to cope with the consequences of the pandemic!