The future of professional football

Steffen Merkel (Center for Sports Marketing, EBS Business School, Oestrich-Winkel, Germany)
Sascha L. Schmidt (Center for Sports and Management, WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, Vallendar, Germany)
Dominik Schreyer (Center for Sports Marketing, EBS Business School, Oestrich-Winkel, Germany)

Sport, Business and Management

ISSN: 2042-678X

Publication date: 11 July 2016



The purpose of this paper is to explore the future of professional soccer by 2025. Scientific foresight studies on this industry do not yet exist despite its current position at a crossroads: toward further exploitation of profit potential? Or clear commitment to the traditional European Model of Sport?


The authors conducted a Delphi-based scenario study. In total, 62 high-level experts from sport, business, and society evaluated the probability of occurrence, impact, and desirability of 15 future projections over at least two rounds. The resulting 5,940 quantitative judgments and 670 qualitative comments were condensed into probable scenarios and surprising wildcards.


Two probable scenarios for European professional soccer by 2025 exist: in an extrapolation scenario, clubs will reap long-term gains from fulfilling public demands regarding stadium security, competitive balance, and social engagement. The less likely alternative is an extensive commercialization, including a short-term exploitation of all imaginable income sources, such as virtually augmented stadiums, financial investors, and league-owned broadcasting channels.

Research limitations/implications

The findings are primarily based on qualitative research and an all-German sample. Further studies could incorporate additional quantitative data or might survey an international panel to increase predictive accuracy.


The paper is novel in that it examines a yet unaddressed research gap – the future of professional soccer – with a common scientific foresight method that is already established in sport management research – the Delphi technique.



Merkel, S., Schmidt, S. and Schreyer, D. (2016), "The future of professional football", Sport, Business and Management, Vol. 6 No. 3, pp. 295-319.

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