Hans-Peter Wild is a billionaire who has a billionaire idea of what "little money" means. Heidelberger RK's local rugby club asked him in 2003. "They did not want very much," he says, "maybe 20,000 euros." Fifteen years later, 20,000 euros has changed to 20 million euros.
The family, whose family made their money at Capri Sun, decided to spend a piece trying to gain professional skills in German Rugby. "I got sucked," she says, "because I think if you're going to do something, you do it right."
It worked almost. Wild's built team is three games away from playing Rugby World Cup. Only three are probably the last games they ever play.
Germany is one of four teams that will compete in Marseille this month's World Cup. It is a round Robin tournament involving Hong Kong, Canada and Kenya. Anyone who wins will take the last qualifying round in Pool-B in Japan next year alongside New Zealand, South Africa, Italy and Namibia. Wild members, staff and administrators have been working for 10 years now. Wild describes it as "the dream of his life".
The Rugby Leader, Kobus Potgieter, is one of them. In 2007, he worked as a consultant at the Blue Bulls rugby academy in Pretoria when he was Wild's lead person who wanted to help set up the rugby academy in Heidelberg.
"It was a big question for me," Potgieter says, "because I've never heard of German rugby before." He admits well to a "minority bargain", but in Germany there are still some 120 clubs Potgieter estimates that there are about 3,000 adult male players.
Strong rugby ground
Germany was once a strong rugby country. The first clubs were founded in the 1870's, and in the 1920s and 1930s the national team regularly rolled over to Italy, Romania and even France. But most of these players died during World War II, and then the sport was full of football. It became a university game where Wild first heard about it. "My dad was an Olympic champion and also a rugby player," he says. "When you are a student in Germany, line up in the summer and play winter sports, so my dad was there a lot."
The wild has never played for himself, but he is a great believer in what he calls the "values" of sport. "These principles of integrity, respect, passion, discipline and teamwork should be appreciated and taught, because I think they are needed more than ever, he says." Football, he says, is a "hooligan" problem. TSG Hoffenheim. "After 20 years, he still personally attacked him." Hopp recently challenged a number of fans wrongly.
So Wild put his money on rugby. He founded the Wild Academy, built a training center with a 4G heated field, a gym and worked with overseas players and coaches in the company's wage bill. "He paid for it all," Potgieter says. In the national team, "80% of players and staff are people who came directly from Wild's program." Many of them, like Potgieter, did not even have contracts with the federation, but they were directly employed by Wild. "The whole reason why the German XV-Series rugby was ahead, all thank you to him."
Then everything broke. Last year, the project collapsed in two rows. Problems began when Wild took the Stade Francon in June 2017. In May, Heidelberger RK won the Challenge Cup. They were the first German team until the European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) threw them back because Wild had two clubs, which was a conflict of interest. He had to give one, and he wanted to let go of Heidelberg. "Two weeks before retirement we were told that we should not play anymore," says Potgieter, "and all these guys lost their jobs."
At the same time, Wild fought with the German Alliance. "The association itself was really amateurish," Wild says, "and I'm not used to it." Last November, Wild's players made a strike to force the covenant into their own thinking. Without them, Germany put a scratch team that had hit each game they played. The organization gave it. It called a new president, but it was too late. Wild pulls out his finances, but has promised to give them 2 million euros a year for the next five years if they find three other sponsors that match his commitment.
Where is the repetition chain coming? Germany is pressed when Romania and Spain are penalized for eliminating ineligible players. Suddenly the Germans were at the top of the three-game world championships. Only they did not have the money to prepare. So Wild came in again. "I promised them that I was lazy," he says. "Otherwise, they could not even attend, so I gave them 300 000. I wanted them to be able to reach their dreams." They have spent some money to hire Mike Ford as a coach.
Come to December Potgieter thinks he is also at work as well as Wild's players and staff. "You just want to focus on the game, but it's always your mind," he says. "For many of us, the question is:" What do I do in December? "But we try to push it to the side."
If they can do it through the World Cup, these three sponsors will find it easier to find. "We still have one chance," Potgieter says. "We have a month left, three games so we can achieve something great for the German Rugby, our team and ourselves. Everything is in our hands."
– Guardian News and Media 2018