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Sports

Mad World of Sports Still Calm Amid Financial Crisis

With banks battling to survive, markets seeing takeover bids and company chiefs facing penalities for poor performance, it seems commerce chambers are beating sports pitches and locker rooms for sheer drama these days.

German fans turn out to support the German soccer team

Passion for sport seems not to have been dimmed by the financial crisis

The world of sports -- as yet -- appears remarkably unaffected by the global market crisis.

This is why tennis player Andrea Petkovic will be keeping her focus firmly on fitness, not on finances, these coming months.

"To be honest, the economic crisis has not affected me at all," the 21-year-old told German news agency dpa.

Petkovic is currently in Italy trying to return to top form after rupturing a cruciate knee ligament in January at the Australian Open.

After almost eight months on the sidelines, the former top 100 player says training and matches are her priority more so than lucrative winner's purses.

'Recession-proof' world of sports

A Brazilian soccer fan wearing vampire teeth and a watermelon on his head

Some die-hard fans will never abandon their teams

Jens-Peter Hecht, a former German tennis federation spokesman who nowadays runs his own public relations and marketing agency, also said the global financial turmoil was not upsetting his calm.

"The crisis has not hit me," says the 62-year-old from the northern German town of Lueneburg.

Tennis officials have said in recent weeks they do not expect global sports to take too big a hit from the worldwide financial crisis.

"We have to be concerned. But sports tends to be recession-protected. There is always a lot of investment into sports," the head of the women's tour WTA, Larry Scott, told dpa.

Nonetheless, the WTA title sponsor, Sony-Ericsson, reported third-quarter losses of 23 million euros ($30 million) last Friday as turnover dropped 10 percent to 2.8 billion euros.

The impact these types of losses will have on the global sporting landscape is as yet undefined.

Soccer clubs' futures uncertain

Icelandic investor Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson

Foreign soccer club owners such as Icelandic investor Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson say they'll stick with their teams

In Soccer, West Ham United's Icelandic billionaire owner Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson said he remained committed to the English club although he was a major stakeholder in Iceland's Landsbanki which had to be nationalised in mid-October.

The London club may have to reduce its roster but is also reportedly close to signing a new lucrative shirt sponsor deal.

English clubs have not yet suffered despite foreign ownership, but could be hit by a possible recession leading to less money flowing in from advertising and sponsorship, according to observers.

"The big question is whether we are moving into a recession where the advertising spending drops and companies are less inclined to pay money for sponsorship," said Uli Hoeness, general manager of German champions Bayern Munich.

Uncertainty over this question is fuelling debate in soccer club boardrooms, with the future of teams -- whose sizes vary from Bundesliga giants Bayern down to lower-league amateur side Hansa Lueneburg -- still unclear.

Nonetheless, Hecht, who is involved with the Lueneburg team, remains cautiously optimistic in his northern German town near Hamburg.

"The big companies would be more affected. We have small local sponsors. They would not immediately feel the impact," he says.

Ups and downs of sports

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Hecht said he has seen the rise and fall of German tennis. He was DTB spokesman in the heydays of Boris Becker and Steffi Graf when big money was generated, but he also saw tennis incomes fall dramatically once the icons retired and no new stars appeared.

The ardent golfer is still responsible for the magazine of the Hamburg tennis tournament, which recently lost its prestigious Masters Series status and was downgraded to a tier two event. Production of the magazine largely depends on sponsors.

Apart from tennis, Hecht has organized motorcycle events in Kiel, was the venue media officer in Hanover at the 2006 soccer World Cup and is in talks to become venue boss in Wolfsburg during the 2011 women's World Cup.

But while his sports involvement remains promising, he says his non-sports activities, such as running PR workshops for local businesses, may suffer if the economy declines.

"Things can happen quickly. The companies may say 'lets scrap this or that.' I may see it in seminars organized with the chamber of commerce," says Hecht.

All in all, Hecht counts himself lucky not to have been affected by a financial crisis which has reeked havoc across a plethora of industries throughout nations developed and developing.

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