Football lives from the community. Training together, celebrating victories together, mourning defeats together. That’s why the coronavirus hit the sport right in the heart, also financially. The distancing measures left stadiums empty, and training sessions were cancelled.

But like all companies, football clubs have to pay operation costs and some of them became resourceful.

Some sold “ghost game tickets,” others “virtual bratwurst.” In both cases, you bought nothing except the good feeling of supporting your own team during the crisis.

The district league club KSV Eschenrod also took part in such initiatives. However, the club board also had a completely new idea: tree sponsorship.

KSV Eschenrod was hit particularly hard by the coronavirus, its chair, Marco Strauch, told EURACTIV Germany.

The club lost income from home games, to begin with. But a large part of its budget comes from activities at other events, such as when the club takes over the counter service at supra-regional events or organises its own events such as an Oktoberfest. These too were naturally cancelled.

All in all, this tears a five-digit hole in the club’s coffers, said Strauch.

Overwhelming response

While searching for alternative sources of income, a member of the board had the idea of tree sponsorship, which was immediately and unanimously welcomed.

In cooperation with a local tree nursery, it was offered to have a tree planted for €25 in their own garden, on the Eschenroder sports grounds, in the Eschenroder district or, more recently, on the local golf course.

“The response was really overwhelming,” said Strauch. Within a very short time, interested parties contacted us and many of them took over several tree sponsorships, he added.

The head of the village, Marcel Böck, was one of the first “tree sponsors.”

“One woman thought it would hurt her to see fallen trees, so she bought three sponsorships at once,” said Strauch.

In fact, a significant portion of the budget shortfall was filled by the sponsorships. The trees will only be planted in October and November, because they need a lot of water in the beginning.

Idea goes into extra time

Sustainability plays an important role for KSV Eschenrod. We play largely in nature, said Strauch, so we want to take care of it.

At home games and events, the club avoids disposable cups and cutlery wherever possible, but instead uses normal dishware as much as possible. KSV Eschenrod also participates in an annual local waste collection project.

The tree sponsorship project was originally conceived as a one-off action during the coronavirus crisis. But now that it is going so well, Strauch wants to “carry the idea forward,” either in the form of further tree sponsorships or by having even more campaigns for environmental and climate protection.

In general, Strauch thinks that the pandemic may increase awareness of sustainability. Forced renunciation teaches people to ask themselves “do we have to?” before consumption or travel, he said.

Back to the roots

Above all, however, the pandemic will have a lasting effect on football, not only because of the current financial problems but also in its social role, Strauch thinks. What he and his team missed was not just the game itself, but the sense of community. The long break showed them that they missed each other above all.

This reminds the 48-year-old Strauch of his youth, when there was little else to do in the countryside but play football.

The fact that this sense of community is now coming to the fore again “strengthens cohesion” and underlines the important social role of sport. “It’s just great to get the boys together again,” said Strauch.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]