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One month to go – who would you like to meet? Interview with Günther Grohall

Senior Researcher, SportsEconAustria (SpEA)

The final session on Day 2 at the MOVE Congress 2013 will feature a range of experts presnting their ideas on the theme ‘Social Economy of Sport: Sport’s impact on the economy’. The session’s theme and structure (exploring the direct, indirect and total effects and sport-related economics) is inspired by a recent European Commission report on the economic impact of sport, led by Günther Grohall from SportsEconAustria, called 'The Impact of Sport on the European Economy'.

With one month to go until MOVE Congress 2013, we find out more from Günther Grohall about the impact of SportsEconAustria’s report and what he expects from this year’s Congress.


Who is Günther Grohall?

Günther Grohall is a Senior Researcher from SportsEconAustria. After completing an academic and post-graduate education in business administration, economics, finance, and computer science Günther Grohall has been working in the wide field of applied economics since 2002. In 2007 he became employed at SportsEconAustria to research the different aspects of sports and economics in the EU focusing on Austria. The topics he covers span from regional impacts of alpine infrastructure to EU-wide impacts of sport in general. The methods he usually uses are numerical, computer-based, analytical models, as well as inductive statistics and time series analyses.


What is SportsEconAustria?

SpEA, SportsEconAustria, was founded in December 2004 as an initiative of the Federal Chancellery as a non-profit association. SpEA positions itself as a highly specialised institution for research, teaching, and policy consultancy in sport economics and adjacent disciplines. Expertise in the topic, methodological-quantitative competence and networking capital are the pillars of the institute.


The project you led last year, 'The Impact of Sport on the European Economy', found that sport’s impact on economy is comparable to agriculture, forestry and fishing – put together! How have people reacted to this finding, which for many would be a surprising fact?

For most it was surprising, for some it was less so. Those who already had an idea about the real size of sport had no possibility to pin down the number precisely. Most of the others were astonished that sport can be found in so many parts of our economy. Most people only think of a few stereotypical kinds of sport when asked about the economic impact of sport, like skiing in Austria, cycling in France, golf in the UK, football in Germany, and so on. But sport is also part of our education and health systems; it can be found in almost all daily newspapers; and travelling to and from fitness centres and football fields often requires a car or public transport. In many cases the people who have underestimated sport react by nodding and murmuring things like: “Ah, I nearly forgot about this.”


How do you believe your report, and other similar reports like Sport England's 'Economic value of sport in England', will influence stakeholders’, governments’ and local authorities’ approaches to the grassroots sport sector in the future? Have you seen any changes so far?

Grassroots sport has a two-sided effect. On the one side it increases economic activity in the countries where the necessary equipment is produced, traded, and sold. Thus added value is increased, jobs are created, and taxes are paid. On the other side it also has a decreasing net-effect on health-related costs. Since grassroots sport can reach an enormously large percentage of the population, all measures taken can multiply accordingly – in both directions: economics and public health-related budgets! As the economic effect was very much unknown before, I hope that these projects will now support grassroots sport.


It is, however, probably impossible to say that a change has occurred as a reaction to a single piece of new information. Policy makers base their decisions upon a constantly changing set of data which we hope to have enriched with our project. New information can also prohibit changes that might have occurred without it, which complicates the determination of causes even more.


On the MOVE Congress 2013 website you mention that you would like to find out how to connect different aspects of sport like a net. Which sectors do you think have most potential to connect or strengthen their connections to each other?

As I work on economic questions of sport nearly exclusively, I am very interested in the more or less directly connected research fields. Examples would be sport and health or the advertising value of athletes and teams. At SpEA we know how to calculate the economic impact of, for example, grassroots sport through buying equipment, travelling to the sport facilities, and so on as well as the value of keeping people healthy through reducing probabilities of developing diabetes. But to calculate this reduction of the probabilities is out of the economist’s scope. To calculate this preventive effect would be a task for a specialised physician. Therefore, we both benefit from each others’ work in this area.


The other example I mentioned tackles sponsorship. It is comparatively well known how much money is transferred to sport clubs and athletes in return for advertising. But the positive effects for the sponsors are hardly understood at all. Here again, specialists from outside economics are required to properly answer questions related to this win-win situation for sponsors and recipients.


Finally, what are your expectations for the MOVE Congress 2013?

Of course I hope to disseminate and promote our results on the economic impact of sport on our economy. Additionally I hope to find colleagues from different fields, may they be from the scientific community, sport organisations, or industry. Every bit of new knowledge is valuable and may lead to further and/or more profound research and new insights.