Sport Bild: What question will journalist Stephen Simon ask the new German Football Association’s director of media, Stephen Simon, first?
Steffen Simon (57): Possibly: “Can I have prior confidential information about the German Football Association?”
will your answer be?
I started at DFB on May 1st. Her departure after 19 years at WDR and the ARD Sports Show came as a surprise. Did you make lists of pros and cons before making a decision?
If I had made such a list, I would have stayed with WDR. The termination rate there is 0.8 percent, which proves that WDR is an ideal employer. But my work in Cologne took place 19 years later. It’s time for change.
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Source: BILD / DAZN / AP / Reuters / Instagram
What excites you about the German Football Association?
DFB has lately been more often in the motivating role. I want to help him reemerge for who he really is – the driving force of German football.
How would you like to do that with the scandal-ridden association?
Without wanting to step on anyone’s toes. As an outsider, there was a clear lack of team spirit among the people who were previously in charge. This has changed in the past few weeks. But the German Football Association has had a better reputation in recent years. He supports a lot of good grassroots initiatives funded with money raised from above. In Frankfurt, with the DFB’s campus and its heart, the Academy, a fascinating vision has become a reality in an unusual building. Our goal is clear: after the reorganization, we want to be on top again.
Was Bernd Neuendorf, the new German Football Association president, a decisive factor in the change?
Yes, we have known each other for many years, since he was Minister of State in North Rhine-Westphalia. He would like to bring back the spotlight on football, with a special focus on football for children and youth. I think this is the right way.
How will you communicate? Open an eyebrow and cure the bad stuff?
I am the initiator of “Sports Within”, Germany’s only investigative sports format. I do not give my convictions to the gatekeeper at the headquarters of the German Football Association. Good PR work includes taking a critical look at your company. Also, you don’t get stuck in any conversation.
What does your new work area look like?
I am responsible for the public image of the German Football Association, working closely with Bernd Neuendorf, Heik Ulrich and Oliver Bierhoff and Marketing Director Holger Plaske. My area also includes Fans and Social Responsibility, where we oversee many projects on the topics of human rights, sustainability, child protection, addiction, violence prevention, and diversity. I have staff responsibility for 45 colleagues.
Where are you most in the fire: as a commentator or in the DFB as a communicator?
As a speaker, I will work in the background, as I did in my final years at WDR. Commentators are always on fire.
You’ve received a lot of criticism as a commentator. How much does that bother you?
Each person has to find his own way of dealing with it. You handled it well.
One of the problems I addressed in times of WDR was the waning euphoria of the national team. Where should you tackle to reach the level of the 2006 World Cup or the 2014 World Cup? Is this just for success?
In football, it is generally beneficial to win matches. But in 2006 we learned that a team can reach the hearts of a nation even without a title. On average, Bundesliga players stay at their club for less than two years. Germany’s best play of their entire career. Hansi Flick’s credo for players is: “You are always a patriot.” There is a lot of enthusiasm in that. and commitment.
The sports show has seen ratings drop by about 17 percent this season compared to 2020/21. Is Bayern being blamed as permanent champions – or dwarfing the league since Werder, Schalke and HSV only played in the second league?
In general, fewer people watch linear television than in the pre-season closing periods. The main reason for the shrinking range of sports shows – and by the way the sports studio – is the gradual loss of the main game on Saturday afternoon.
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What role did personal reasons play in the change? There was a tragic death at WDR in January 2022. Close colleague Christian Wagner passed away at the age of 45. Did this event influence your decision to try a new challenge again?
Christian Wagner was one of my close companions. A wonderful person and a visionary programmer. Among other things, we designed ARD’s coverage of Euro 2020 together. During a small outpatient surgery, he contracted resistant germs in hospital and died shortly thereafter. His gait hurts me every day – and yes, it did play a part in my decision. I’ve been more conscious of my time since January.
Your new office in Frankfurt, you are moving from your place of residence in Cologne. daily?
I’m in Frankfurt every day. I preferred the BahnCard 100 to the company car I was offered and got a folding bike.
Is it true that you received an inquiry from Cologne Carnival for the position of general manager?
There was no offer, only information that there was a vacancy there and whether my name should be used. Before I could answer it, the FA called.