Does it seem to be impossible to get women to take an interest in football? Is a scouting network too expensive for your club? The coach hasn’t any tricks up his sleeve to motivate his players? Don’t worry, your club just needs a president like Dr. Peter Krohn. Here is my ode to one of the most eccentric figures German football has produced.
Dr. Peter Krohn was the president of the Hamburger SV between 1973 and 1975, and the sporting manager at the HSV for the two following years. Krohn regarded himself as somewhat of a visionary. He saw problems in the world of football that nobody else saw. Related to former HSV player Hans Krohn, this visionary set out to revolutionize football.
The power of marketing
Krohn told the fans of the club that he wanted to see the HSV amongst the best clubs in Europe. At the time of this statement the HSV was running a deficit, and was not amongst the best German teams. In 1973 Borussia Mönchengladbach and Bayern Munich dominated the world of German football, but somehow Krohn was able to lift his first European trophy only four years later.
Besides using German comedians as linesmen, or putting a Bavarian band in the mid circle during a training match, Krohn was amongst the first in German football to realize that good clever and inovative marketing could lead to higher profits. Spectacular events during training sessions, tournaments during the summer break, and selling the ad-space on the jersey were amongst the move that transformed the HSV deficit into a surplus. Krohn lured the fans into the stadium by letting them vote on the club’s transfer policy. Players were bought according to the fans vote. Being a business savvy man, Krohn made tickets more expensive in order to follow the fans wishes.
However, not all of Krohn’s ideas were brilliant. The best example of that are the pink jerseys he made the players wear for the 76/77 season. Krohn’s reasoning was that not enough women watched football, so in order to get them into the stadium the team had to play in a color that women liked.
4-2-4, no, this not a typo!
When it came to Dr. Krohn’s dealing with the football side of his business his eccentricities came to light. Felix Magath is amongst the legends of the HSV, but he wasn’t scouted by any of the club’s officials. Krohn saw a couple of clips of Magath in the German football show “Sportschau”, and decided to buy that player.
At other times Krohn decided that rewarding players with alcohol was the right thing to do. Krohn very generously promised his players boatloads of alcohol. He is quoted with the words: “All of you guys will have enough champagne to take a bath in it with your girlfriends”.
Furthermore, Krohn decided that the way to success had to go though four excellent strikers, all of which had the reasonable expectation of playing. This is why the HSV in the 70’s actually went on the pitch with a 4-2-4 formation in some of their matches.
Krohn ordered his manager to start with this formation in the second leg of the semifinal of the European Cup-winners Cup. Hamburg had lost 1-3 in Madrid, but managed to win 3-0 at home with the 4-2-4 formation. When asked to comment, Krohn remarked: “The coach should have played this formation from the start of the season. Had he done that, we would have won the Bundesliga already!”
Well, characters like Krohn have slowly been replaced with conformity, and a collective thinking of how things are supposed to be. Clubs like the FC St. Pauli that go against that current are a rarity. Sometimes I wish that some of the eccentrics from the 60’s and 70’s came back to take over again.
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