In entering into a strategic partnership, FC Cincinnati and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim of Germany’s first-division are hoping to accomplish more than exchanging token gestures of goodwill and selling T-shirts.
High-ranking representatives from FC Cincinnati and Hoffenheim jointly announced their transatlantic partnership to international acclaim, and FCC is pushing to make use of the cooperation immediately.
The partnership was more than a year in the making and appears primed to surpass the ambition of strategic partnerships developed in the past by other Major League Soccer clubs.
The cooperation will see FC Cincinnati and Hoffenheim share information at every level of their respective organizations, including knowledge of strategy and talent identification on the soccer side, along with some potential for player development initiatives.
Branding, image and business innovations will also be shared on the business side.
FC Cincinnati General Manager Gerard Nijkamp started his search for a foreign club to partner with upon taking his current position in May 2019. Initial conversations about the endeavor were included as part of his hiring process, Nijkamp said during Friday remarks via video-conference call.
From multiple clubs that had interest in FCC, Nijkamp and FC Cincinnati and Hoffenheim chose one another because of what the organizations have in common.
FC Cincinnati President Jeff Berding highlighted the allure of a German club because of Cincinnati’s German heritage.
The partnership serves as another example of elevating Cincinnati via the global soccer community, Berding added.
“We have, I think, both the dedication to create a high-level sporting performance organization (with) innovation as the driving force,” Nijkamp said. “And the connection of the building and binding sense on the social responsibility part. We will build it on four pillars: Two more technical-oriented and two more to the business side, so technical knowledge, talent identification and three, branding and four, business.
“At the end of the day, it’s about the people who have to manage and have to execute. I think, and I’m convinced and very confident, that we have two organizations with very motivated and hard-working people with a good understanding in soccer in their own environment but also globally.”
As far as what fans can look forward to, FC Cincinnati could serve as a proving ground for Hoffenheim players based in South America and elsewhere. Nijkamp said FC Cincinnati could be the beneficiary of Hoffenheim prospects as early as the ongoing transfer windows, which extends to Oct. 29.
An international friendly match between the clubs could be on offer at some point down the line, Berding said, adding that it was hard to know what the landscape for such events would be in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“While we are an ambitious club, we are a young club and the opportunity to learn from a partnering club on the technical side but also on the branding side in the front office (and) also share some of what we learned, what we’ve been able to achieve,” Berding said during a Friday video-conference call. “We thought was an opportunity that we wanted to pursue.”
Hoffenheim, which plays at the 30,000-plus capacity PreZero Arena, is one match into its 2020-21 German Bundesliga campaign.
The club has enjoyed more than a decade of top-flight German soccer and participated in Europe’s top club competitions, the UEFA Champions League and the Europa League, for two consecutive seasons from 2017-2019.
A sixth-place finish last season confirmed Hoffenheim for the Europa League again this season
The clubs already shared common threads. Jürgen Locadia, FC Cincinnati’s on-loan striker was recalled from a loan spell at Hoffenheim by English club Brighton & Hove Albion just prior to joining FCC.
Locadia scored four goals in 11 matches for Hoffenheim last season.
Joseph-Claude Gyau also played in the Hoffenheim system during his extensive stay in Germany. Gyau was mentioned by name during Hoffenheim Managing Director Peter Görlich’s Friday remarks on the partnership.
”We are delighted to have gained a cooperation partner in the USA’s growing football market,” Görlich said in the news release. “Many shared values connect us with FC Cincinnati, including a commitment to social responsibility, a clear focus on elite-level sport and a consistently innovative approach.
“We are striving for a wide-ranging partnership that will not only focus on the football academies and the mutual exchange of innovations, but will also bolster our companies with a brand and image exchange.”