Monday, January 25, 2021

Horst Dassler: The man behind Adidas and the murky worlds of football

Horst Dassler, the son of Adolf Dassler, the founder of Adidas, was the visionary behind the rise of Joao Havelange as the immortal emperor of football.

“I have come to sell a product called football.” These were the words of the newly elected President of FIFA, Jean Marie Faustin de Godefroid Havelange. Joao Havelange, as he was known, had dethroned Sir Stanley Rous and had reached the summit after the 1974 elections. The Brazilian had outmanoeuvred his English counterpart and came out on top to everyone’s surprise.

He would then go on to rule the world for the next couple of decades in a manner which was unprecedented. But behind all this was a 38-year-old German entrepreneur who was set to become the most powerful figure in the world of international sports.

The rise of Horst Dassler

Horst was the first one to appreciate the commercial opportunities of having “friends” and controlling the workings of sports governing bodies. He started to use Adidas to extend his influence throughout the world. After establishing friendships, Horst engineered elections in a way to obtain de facto control. He then used it to enhance the value of his sportswear empire.

Horst Dassler, the son of the founder of Adidas, Adolf Dassler.

Patrick Nally was a key weapon in the Horst armoury. Nally, the co-founder of West Nally Group, worked alongside the German in the development of something which would lead to the creation of an entirely new industry. The pair coined the term and the idea of sports sponsorship and any developments in the coming decades could be traced back to Dassler and Nally.

The timely hand of an Macedonian goalkeeper

Horst Dassler was seated in his hotel room in Frankfurt a day ahead of the FIFA Presidential elections in 1974. The scion exuberated confidence in his manner. His man, Sir Stanley Rous, was set to be re-elected as the head of football’s governing body. But things suddenly went pear-shaped. One of his invitees had told him that he was backing the wrong man.

Apparently, Joao Havelange was the current favourite. Blagoje Vidinic, a former Yugoslavian goalkeeper, then went on to hand Dassler the room number of Havelange. The Brazilian, fortunately, was also stationed in the same hotel. An hour later, thanks to Vidinic, Horst returned with a bottle of champagne and a long-lasting friendship with the man who was set to rule the sport in the coming years.

Sir Stanley Rous (L) was outsmarted by his Brazilian counterpart Joao Havelange (R).
Photo: Medium

The plan that change the sport forever

Joan Havelange, after being elected as the 7th President of FIFA came up with an idea which would fill the treasury for years to come. He, along with Horst Dassler and his marketing protege, Patrick Nally, drafted a plan. It essentially had four principles, as described by sportswriter David Goldblatt.

  • Only the biggest companies would be allowed to officially sponsor the World Cup.
  • Only one company from each sector would get sponsorship rights. Which meant one company from the soft drinks industry, one from the credit card industry and so on.
  • FIFA would have complete control of selling these rights. The host nations had to comply with it even as they financed the arrangements for the tournament.
  • FIFA would not be administering everything by themselves but had to use an intermediary.
David Goldblatt spoke about Horst Dassler and Patrick Nelly’s plan in his book.

Horst Dassler set up a company called International Sports and Leisure (ISL) which was to act as the intermediary. FIFA sold the sponsorship and TV rights to ISL. They, in turn, went in search of a company willing to take them up. Given that the tournament expenses were borne by the host nations, the money from such sponsorship deals ultimately landed into the pockets of the people in power. A part of it was also used to develop the sport in areas which required attention.

The fall of ISL

Horst Dassler died in 1987 at the early age of 51 and it seemed to unsettled Havelange. After the Adidas director passed away, ISL struggled to estimate the value of the rights they bought from FIFA and sold on. By the year 2000, the company had a loss of over $800M.

In September, ISL negotiated a discount deal with a Brazil broadcaster if they paid their World Cup rights fee early. TV Globo came through with over $80M but rather than being directed into a FIFA account it was redirected to an ISL account. FIFA caught wind of this side-deal which signalled the end of the company.ISL was sent into bankruptcy in May 2001 and was ultimately liquidated.

The June 5, 1996 file photo shows then FIFA President Joao Havelange of Brazil, left, and then FIFA General Secretary Joseph Blatter of Switzerland attending the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Congress in Kuala Lumpur.
Photo: Daily Mail

Author’s Take

Horst Dassler was undeniably one of the most influential figures of the sport without holding any official position. The former Adidas supremo chanced the way the game functioned in an administrative way. His associate, Joao Havelange, handed over the baton in 1998 to Sepp Blatter, another one of Horst Dassler’s proteges. But things didn’t end well for either of the men. The governing body came under investigation for corruption and both the names were dragged through the mud. Joao Havelange resigned as the honorary President in 2013 and later died in 2016 at the age.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Top Articles

Recommended Articles

Latest Article

Mbappe’ Comments Left Chelsea and United in Sorrow With Haaland Pursuit

French striker Kylian Mbappe is considered as the world's best in his range and continuing his stunning form with League 1 giants...

Manchester United Decide Time to Hold Paul Pogba Contract Talks

Manchester United is sitting at the top of the Premier League table with 40 points in 19 games. Manchester City is breathing...

Barcelona End Their Interest in Signing Chelsea Outcast Player

La Liga club Barcelona not interested to sign an English Premier League player who presented Chelsea for the last couple of years....

Roman Abramovich and Marina Granovskaia Clash Over Frank Lampard Decision?

The manager of a club is the face of the club. However their many people behind the scenes who are even more...

Must Read

Liverpool 0-0 Manchester United: 5 Talking points as Man United keep hold of the first spot

Manchester United made a trip to Anfield to lock horns with their arch-rivals, Liverpool. The game ended in a 0-0 draw as...

5 Talking Points: Burnley 0-1 Manchester United as Reds move to the top

Manchester United's trip to Turf Moor ended on a bright note as the Red Devils defeated Burnley 1-0. An exquisite volley from...

Leicester City vs Man United: Preview, Line-up and Prediction

The Red Devils will be traveling to King Power Stadium to face Leicester City on the boxing day action. These two Premier...

Manchester United vs Leeds: Preview, Team News, Line Up and Prediction

Manchester United under Ole Gunnar Solskjear has shown great character and strength. Whenever they have been doubted they have come back stronger....