Why UEFA Should Engage In “On-Demand” Player Sharing For The Champions League

The UEFA could change the dynamics of football forever. How? By borrowing some techniques from Silicon Valley’s latest unicorns. In short: Allow clubs to rent players from other clubs on-demand. Before I lay out my idea, let me share why I came up with this in the first place.

Cristiano Ronaldo took Munich out almost entirely by himself, scoring five out of six goals in two games.

This April, Bayern Munich played Real Madrid. It was the quarter finals of the Champions League (the European play-offs). And Munich lost. Some attribute it to the referee’s decisions. Others reason the absence of star striker Robert Lewandowski in the first game due to injury. (After all he has already scored 44 goals this season.)

In the German league, people consider the Munich team as untouchable. But it is this time of the season that is crucial. And whenever they fall short on the international level, critiques arise. That is when media starts spreading names of new possible players for the next season. You’ll find the hottest names on that list. Some of them with a price tag of up to €100M — that doesn’t include salary. But maybe they don’t need to pay this much!

Short term need over long term investment

Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge gave an interview on signing a back-up for Lewandowski. He said how difficult it was to sign a player of that format (for a high price) who would accept spending most of the season on the bench.

This points out a real problem. There is a demand for a player with that quality — but only in certain moments (unless you want to pay the $100M). The solution to that might not be that far off. To be exact, one might find it in the on-demand economy!

Everything is getting UBERized — why not also football?

On-de-what? There is a Silicon Valley company that has really coined this term. It’s called Uber and valued at $70B in the private market. They are famous for sending you a driver “at the push of a button.”

Ever since they came out, everything has been Uber-ized. Laundry, flowers, fine dine dishes — you name it. Why shouldn’t the same be possible in the football industry? Both the UEFA and the FIFA have proven in the recent past that they’re open to discuss new ideas.

… and now add a pinch of Sharing Economy

At the same time you have a term that is being equally used: The sharing economy. The most famous company in this area is Airbnb. Airbnb follows a simple logic: Some people have available capacity (their apartment or house). Others are willing to pay for renting that capacity. With Uber it’s the same thing: You have a car that is not being used all that often, so you use it to give people a ride and earn some extra cash.

How this could look like in football?

After this little digression, please allow me to tie the bow back to football. How could something that look like in practice? As pointed out, Bayern Munich was in need of an equal replacement — for one game!

In the scenario that I am drawing, Munich could have rented a player like Romelu Lukaku (who is currently leading the Premier League scorer list — but also has a market value of €50M). His team Everton didn’t qualify for any international competitions this season (just like Chelsea with Diego Costa, currently at 19 league goals).

In my scenario Munich would pay Everton a fee (plus a salary for the player). The same could apply for players whose teams already got kicked out in those competitions (like Edinson Cavani of PSG or Harry Kane of Tottenham). Of course, the UEFA would have to come up with certain bylaws. After all, we don’t want clubs to rent players whenever they need to. Or for league games, where other teams with smaller financial resources couldn’t compete.

Everton’s Romelu Lukaku is curently leading the Premier League scorer list with 24 goals.

Romantics will blow up a storm — but fans want to see the best

This use case would allow clubs to earn a nice side income. (Not even thinking about the viewing figures or jersey sales.) Sure, you would also put your player at the risk of injury. But at the same time, players could present themselves on a bigger stage. One, that clubs cannot always provide them. A stage, that every player dreams of — and why many choose to move to different clubs. In a scenario like this, players might even stay on board (longer) — or increase their selling price.

What will fans think about this? Well, at least speaking for myself: I want to see the best players. But what is even more important to me is the highest pace, the finest touches and the most impressive goals. We have this sport at such a professional level because it has been institutionalized.

Only that allows it to unfold itself in all it’s splendor and majesty. And the usual fan (like myself), who has to stretch every Euro, wishes value for his money. We want entertainment. We like the video game FIFA because we can materialize unrealistic scenarios. Now it might seem possible.

It’s the same as in the case of Airbnb or Uber. Most cars or apartments shouldn’t spend most of their time unused. And players like Lukaku are known for the special moments. They might be the only reason why we turn on the television or buy a ticket.

So, in an (extended) nutshell

I am well aware that this article will receive a lot of criticism — if it should reach a broader audience. And that is ok! I would never claim that I have thought everything through to the bottom. Especially since I was only looking at this from the structural angle. I might totally underestimate the proper time a player actually needs to be somewhat integrated into a team.

At the end I felt like starting a conversation and putting my thoughts out there. Every innovation starts with a lose idea. Most ideas will never see the daylight. This one will likely also run dry somewhere in the vast desert of the internet.

I also admit that there is always two sides to an idea. Every innovation that challenges the status quo, comes with changes. For some (or many) this might be too drastic. They will say that this will change the game forever. But remember what Henry Ford said: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

To me, there is the chance of spicing up the games to the largest possible. Football is a club thing. I agree with that. Especially if you come from a city like myself, Bremen. Here the club is deeply embedded into the city’s culture and identity — as are the players.

The same goes for the first league club of Berlin, where I have been living since I moved here for my studies in 2013. And yet, the Berlin club also took money from a foreign investor — and is seeking more (which is absolutely ok!). Rumor has it that Bremen is also talking to possible investment partners. As mentioned, football as you know it, is also a business. Someone has to pay for the party. (Especially if the fans also demand good players.)

We live in a fast moving age. When I still went to high school, I used to drive my parent’s VW Golf to school every day. Now I drive a Mercedes A-Class. And a B-Class. And a Smart. And if I wanted to, I’d also drive a BMW 1. And a Mini Cooper. How? Because I have a car sharing account that lets me rent these cars only when I need them (a.k.a. moving stuff or being late at night) — and when they’re available in near proximity.

€0,24 per minute might sound kind of expensive. But you know what? It’s not if you book them when only when you need them. Compare it to the math of owning a car: You have to maintain it, pay taxes and do a technical inspection every now and then. For something that you use one hour each day at the most.

In short, I do not want to shatter football in its basic structure. Instead, I want to present an idea for certain situations. Now it’s on you to let me know what you think.