Credit: S5 Elite Bomber

The S5 Elite Bombers are about to have a digital general meeting every day...

The S5 Elite Bombers are planning something completely new in eSports! The ProClub team from the gaming company Stage 5, will soon be controlled by an online community. This will be possible on the platform


Are you wondering what exactly is behind this new eSport project? We talked to Bernd Unger, the CEO of Stage 5 and Patrick Baur, one of the heads behind about the project. Find out all the details about the exciting project here in the interview!



Hi Patrick, you are one of the co-founders of UG. Can you briefly introduce yourselves?


We at doppelpass digital have been working for some time now on how to bring sports clubs, especially football clubs, and their fans closer together. Because we are convinced that sport is especially fun and enjoyable when it reaches and inspires many people. And when teams succeed in touching fans emotionally. As football has managed this very well for a long time. In this context, the idea came up a few years ago that fans could be even more involved in the decision-making processes of a football club. Participation is the keyword. At TC Freisenbruch, the model club, fans could become real football managers. But we'll get into that in more detail in a moment. When we presented this model at an eSports forum in St. Gallen in the summer, we were asked directly whether it would be conceivable to transfer the model into eSports. Now, some month later, there is the platform and with the S5 Elite Bombers the first team that wants to take a new path with us.



A warm welcome also to you Bernd. You are the CEO of the gaming company Stage 5. Can you please also briefly introduce your company?


Hello, of course I would be happy to do that. Stage5 is celebrating its 5th birthday this year. We started in 2016 as an eSports project. In many titles like CSGO, Rocket League, Fifa and many more we have made a name for ourselves in the Semi Pro area in Germany. Since this is not enough and I also noticed that there are too many exciting things around eSports like marketing, social media and conceptual work, I started to expand Stage5. So today we can offer fair and innovative marketing as well as concepts for clubs and companies that are finding or would like to find their way into this industry. In the meantime, we also see ourselves as an agency and consulting company.



As a company active in gaming, what made you decide to go into ProClub mode?


That's quite easy to explain. At the time, I quickly realized that the "real" football in the Fifa title is the Pro Club. Therefore, we quickly positioned ourselves there. In 2018/19, for example, we were the eSports organisation that had the largest Pro Club offering in Europe, with two PS4 and one PC team. Therefore, 11vs 11 is almost a matter of the heart for us.



Since August 2020 you guys from Stage 5 are active with the S5 Elite Bombers. Why did you decide to work with the Elite Bombers?


There were at least two reasons. First, we had to shelve our ambitious plan to build a local team from our home region. But the topic of Pro Club remained. Since it is hard to find continuity and reliability in the community, the search for a team was very difficult. But after contacting the people in charge of the Elite Bombers, it quickly became clear that in almost all things they were on the same level and had similar goals. And since the people in charge like Daniel and Viktor had already been active for several years, the choice quickly fell on those guys. For us it was important to focus on continuity in the Pro Club and not on quick sporting success.



We mentioned it at the beginning, Stage 5 and are planning something completely new in eSports. Patrick, can you briefly introduce us to the concept of "Dein Club"?


Attention everyone who used to play Anstoss 3 or the EA Football Manager on the PC: The core idea of "Dein Club" is that you as a fan become a football manager. Not in a game, but in real life! When a club implements "Dein Club", fans become team managers. The idea behind it is based on the principles of participation and collective intelligence. For fans to make good democratic decisions, they need to be more involved. They need insight and information. Information can become knowledge and knowledge is needed to make good reflective decisions. The beauty of the model is this: the whole system is a business model for the clubs. So that a fan buys into the role of decision maker. Comparable to traditional membership, where as a member I also have the right by statute to make decisions at the annual general meeting. Only that with "Dein Club" is daily annual general meeting, digital annual general meeting.



TC Freisenbruch is already controlled by an online community in real football with the "Dein Club" concept. What made you decide to transfer the concept to eSports?


We were approached by the eSports community. Marcus Meyer, managing director of Force of Disruption GmbH, who has been active in eSports for many years and, for example, brought eSports live to TV on Sport1, was immediately enthusiastic about the idea and ultimately gave the impulse.



Does the concept work in virtual football in the same way as in real football or are there fundamental differences?


Basically, the basic concept works the same way. We have a team, an organisation. And around this team, decisions have to be made on a regular basis. For example, who is on the pitch for a match. Today, these decisions are made by the voluntary club managers - and, in case of doubt, they reap the criticism. The model always works where decision-makers are willing to broaden their perspective on decision-making. Because: If I have a large team of managers, I will also get all kinds of different angles and perspectives on the respective decision situation - and thus usually make the decision in a more balanced way.



Bernd, how did you become aware of the "Dein Club" concept at Stage 5?


You really have to blame the entrepreneurial network of the business development and the CoWorkit, the Solingen community space. I had the great pleasure of holding a very well-attended "lecture evening" on the subject of marketing and eSports. There, unconsciously, the first tender contacts were made. Many weeks later Patrick actively approached me and now we are where we are. At the beginning of what I think is a spectacular journey.



What decisions exactly will the fans be able to decide on in the future?


That will be the basics, of course. Tactics, line-up, training etc. But of course we would like to integrate a lot more through interaction with the community. For example, I could imagine voting on jersey design or sponsor contacts. We are there certainly for many innovative options to inspire.



That sounds great. However, one or the other may not yet be able to fully imagine how exactly the project can be implemented in practice. Bernd, can you give us a brief insight into how the votes are to be implemented in practice?


First of all, the concept offers the chance for me as a fan to be very close to a development. Just imagine you could have been there when FC Bayern built up its management structures back then. The situation here is comparable. Virtual sports have not yet been marketed and their structures are as encrusted as perhaps other team sports are. Digital football has a strong product in Germany with Fifa Ultimate Team (FUT) and the Virtual Bundesliga (VBL). But we believe that the real heart of digital football beats in the ProClub sector. Here, eleven men, women, old, young - whoever - slip into the role of digital avatars and play as a team against other football teams. ProClubs is about similar virtues and also in the team spirit - but on the console. This will attract more fans in the future. Because we are convinced that sport unites. And fans who become a manager of a team on can play a significant - or even decisive - role in shaping this development. All you have to do is register and then regularly take a look behind the scenes and actively help drive decision-making processes.



What quality should an online manger bring to the S5 Elite Bombers?


He should enjoy dealing with the team on a regular basis. He should also enjoy making decisions. And: We are convinced that fans who really get to grips with the subject matter are real know-how carriers and therefore make better decisions. Moreover, when we have a large and heterogeneous fan community, we create a fully comprehensive view of the decision-making situation. So a team manager should be interested, curious, committed, constructive and supportive - and above all, enjoy what he is doing. This is how he best supports his team.



Why should fans become online mangers with the S5 Elite Bombers?


From my point of view simply because it is a sensational and awesome idea. Where can you become part of a real manager game please. Anyone who loves football and has or loves managers will find themselves here. Building something real together, having influence with suffering, but also celebrating successes with us, is a strong incentive after all. I personally, and I have played some and still do, consider this the ultimate in football manager games.



Which sporting challenges do you want to master in the short and long term with the online community?


There are of course many goals. In the short term, there's the sporting stabilisation. The team has a lot of potential, but doesn't quite live up to it from time to time. In the Pro League, a repeated qualification for the European Cup would be a goal. In the VPG, promotion to the 2nd division is the clear goal there. In the long run we would like to bring the titles to Solingen. We like to take an example from our neighbours Equality05 who come from Wuppertal. There we could already bring championship titles and European cups home. Of course, these are also our goals and aspirations for the future.



How is the project received by the team? And what does the coach say about no longer having the final say in the line-up?


In the meantime, many video calls have made it clear that those responsible are not at all unhappy about having to hand over responsibility. It is of course also a relief of the daily routine in a pro club if you are a coach or VM. And everyone who decides to join the Elite Bombers as a player will quickly be introduced to this exciting project. So far we only hear positive voices from the team's environment. And that makes us immensely happy, of course, because it's not a matter of course that you give relevant pieces of the mosaic of your "baby" out of your hand.


Voting, especially on the Internet, can also backfire. Patrick, do you have any fears that problems could arise in the project?


Now we are at a fundamental question: Can democracy work? Yes, always when I succeed in involving people in terms of content and then empowering them to make a good decision. Empowerment is the key. To do that, of course, I have to do something as a team. I have to let people look at my cards to some extent. Training insights, transparency about developments, possibly financial aspects later on. I have to be close as a team and give people the security that the decisions made by the community will be executed. And should it ever be the case that a community decision could demonstrably harm the team, there are always the project managers in the background who will then enter into a targeted dialogue with the community.



Patrick, can we finish by hearing what your goals are for the project?


Let's take a moment to reflect: Sport has always been something that has united people. Sport is physical exercise, learning rules and conventions, measuring each other in competition - but above all it is community. When played in front of and for spectators, it is also a very good form of entertainment. But it is precisely here that the next generations no longer demand passivity alone. It's about participation - it's about being in the middle of things instead of just being there. In the future, virtual sports simulations will connect teams and their fans so closely that fans will become part of the (management) team. Because sport unites.