An open letter to the WFS community and entire football industry

· by WFS2017

Today, we should be inaugurating the fifth edition of World Football Summit. It would have been a proud moment to celebrate what would surely have been our best event to date, and to celebrate five years of WFS in Madrid, as well as the achievements of the football industry. It would also have been the fourth summit of 2020, following the celebration of our first edition in Africa, our second edition in Asia and the second Football Innovation Forum, which was due to be celebrated on the eve of the originally scheduled UEFA Champions League Final in Istanbul.

It would have involved a hell of a lot of work, we would have accumulated many air miles and met and shook hands with innumerable people. We’d have made new friends, forged new partnerships, generated amazing content and continued on our path in building the largest community of football and sports professionals in the world.

But our industries – both in sports and events – have been hit particularly hard by this pandemic, and the plans we had at the beginning of the year have, essentially, gone to shit.

How can we serve the football industry in these difficult times? That was the first thing we asked ourselves as soon as we managed to shake off the initial shock which, to be honest, took some time. It’s not easy to accept that what was supposed to be the most important year for the project you’ve dedicated your life to is suddenly threatening to destroy everything you and your team have worked so hard to build.

That question brought us back to the very beginning of WFS and the reasons why we decided to bet so much on this project. It has been our only guide in these unprecedented and challenging times. Looking back, I can say that it’s the main reason why today we’re looking to the future with optimism despite the many challenges that still lie ahead.

A few weeks later, in May, we were launching Talking Sport, a series of seven live webinars developed in partnership with Eleven Sports in which we brought together some of the industry’s brightest minds to assess the impact of the pandemic. It was especially important to start paving the path that leads to a brighter future for the industry in what we were starting to call the new normal.

By July, we continued paving that path at WFS Live powered by Ronaldo, a five-day digital event that saw the industry’s global leaders come together to develop a communal response to what was arguably the trickiest challenge the business has ever experienced. Our first ever digital congress turned out to be our biggest event to the date. We put together 38 conferences, hosted a total of 158 speakers, attracted 3,407 attendees from 120 countries and generated €42 million in media value. Above all, we achieved our ultimate goal, which was providing the platform the industry required to come together and unite in times of social distancing.

In August we launched Box to Box, a new brand with which we aim to make our knowledge, experience and network that we have accumulated over the years available to companies that are looking to stand out in this complex, fast-changing and extremely competitive business.

Now in September, we’ve announced the second edition of WFS Live, where we aim to again bring the football industry and its key stakeholders into one place, in order to continue working together to lay out the solid foundations that the sport needs to keep growing in the post-Covid era and build football’s roadmap for the future.

Today I wanted to tell this story because I know it’s one shared by so many projects and companies across the industry. So many of us have been forced to completely reinvent our products and services and the way we market them, while facing extremely difficult financial situations and sometimes personal and family tragedies due to the devastating effects of Covid-19.

This virus has digitally transformed our industry, a transformation which no doubt was both timely and necessary. It was one of the biggest takeaways from our last online summit – that this pandemic has accelerated innovation in such a way that those of us who are left behind won’t survive in the new world post-coronavirus. And in that sense, I believe that the sports and events industries have probably been two of the sectors who have innovated best.

Ultimately, when we come out of this pandemic, we’ll have generated new products and solutions that will allow our industries to create greater value for our overall community.

WFS21 is scheduled for September 22nd and 23rd 2021 and I’m hopeful that by then we will be able to turn Madrid into the capital of the global football community once more. I can’t wait for that to happen and, in the meantime, we will continue working to create the best conditions for the industry’s stakeholders to come together in whatever way is required.

See you soon!

Jan Alessie, World Football Summit co-founder and director