Shut up and dribble? Though some people think that athletes should not get involved in social issues, we believe the opposite is true. When athletes are vocal about social issues and engage positively with the global community, they become incredible role models that empower others to create positive change in the world.
Sport has the power to transcend race, gender, disabilities, sexual orientation, and political ideologies. And its most extraordinary power is realized when it is shining a light on the struggles we face and giving a voice to those often unheard.
With Athletes Versus, we want to give athletes the tools to positively disrupt the status quo and campaign for a more welcoming, inclusive, and equitable society. We aim to help advance equality for women, the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities, Black and Indigenous communities, and all communities of colour.
We partner with various professional athletes and supply them with merchandise and social-media content to promote equality and raise awareness for Athletes Versus. This awareness contributes to constructive discussions, learning and fosters a culture of empathy. We are incredibly thankful that these athletes lend their voice to our cause, supporting us through their massive reach on social media platforms. If you would also like to support us, there are a number of ways you can do so:
We have produced some cool merchandise, which you can purchase via our online shop, with all proceeds going to support our work. We are not-for-profit, so all revenues are used to pay for costs or are re-invested in promoting our work.
We believe that brands can be hugely important participants in the fight for social justice and equality. If you share our vision to help people better understand diversity, inclusion and equity and would like to be associated with Athletes Versus, we would love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org
Athletes Versus would like to thank the following companies for supporting our mission through their pro-bono work:
Athletes Versus was created by Nicholas MacGowan von Holstein (Instagram/ LinkedIN), after he saw riders at the Tour de France 2020 without adequate means to show their support for racial equality. Nicholas believes that we can only make a positive impact in society, if we permanently raise awareness of discrimination and help people to learn and respect one another.
“If I am honest with myself, I have to admit that I have not done enough to combat discrimination. Having spent time living in South Africa and Senegal and traveling extensively, I always viewed myself as a “citizen of the world.” I have friends from all backgrounds but feel I should have become aware of the injustices around me much earlier. Yes, I have taught my kids about being kind to others, treating everyone equally, and being open-minded to different backgrounds or views, but I have not done enough.
I have not shouted loud enough against discrimination. I have not educated or read enough about what it is like for people who endure discrimination based on their sexual orientation, race, background or religion, or anything else that doesn’t align with whatever society deems as “normal.” I haven’t considered what it is like to be stopped by police solely based on the colour of your skin. I have not thought enough about what it is like to be transgender and the struggles they face. And I keep telling my daughter that she can be anything in the world she wants to be but have not done enough to provide those kinds of opportunities for other women.
For many years my company, Match IQ, has supported our client’s endeavours in promoting a more tolerant and inclusive world, most prominently with FC St. Pauli. However, with Athletes Versus, I want to make a personal difference and work every day on creating a better and more tolerant society.“
– Nicholas MacGowan von Holstein
We are proud to have the following people provide us with guidance, insights and knowledge as part of our steering committee. The steering committee is made up of people that can bring their knowledge, contacts, experience or backgrounds to help achieve the goals of Athletes Versus.
It is not easy to describe Arne. Everyone knows that Arne is a former German international, having played 82 times for the German national team and participated in UEFA Euro 2004, FIFA World Cup 2006, UEFA Euro 2008 and the FIFA World Cup 2010. At club level, Arne played for Hertha Belin over 200 times, before moving to VfL Wolfsburg and finishing his career at Chicago Fire. But Arne is so much more than just football. Arne is extremely interested in the world around him and believes it is up to everyone to make a positive change. That is one of the reasons why Arne started his foundation “Arne Friedrich Stiftung”, helping underprivileged children gain equal opportunities, especially in terms of education. Arne is also very interested in the human mind, especially those of elite athletes. Before becoming the Sporting Director of Hertha BSC, Arne was its Performance Manager, working with the players and staff on players welfare and performance optimisation. And if that all wasn’t enough, Arne also host the very successful podcast “From Done to Dare”.
Dennis was born to a German mother and a Nigerian father and represented the German national team on 12 occasions. During his club career, Dennis played more than 250 times in the German Bundesliga and 12 times in the UEFA Champions League.
However, Dennis always had a keen interest in developing his skills outside of football, and even before the end of his 16-year career as a professional football player, Dennis spend time learning and building up his network. Dennis has become an active angel investor in the German start-up scene, but also started a management trainee program, to hone his own business and management skills. It seems that Dennis learned quickly, as he quickly rose up the ranks and was Managing Director at the ambitious Austrian club, FC Wacker Innsbruck. We are sure it was the first role in a very successful management career.
If that wasn’t enough, Dennis is a popular media pundit and is regularly featured in numerous podcasts to speak about management and investing.
Fredi is an experienced sports executive, successfully working in the German Bundesliga as Managing Director Sport. Having represented Germany 37 times, scoring 10 goals and winning the UEFA European Championship with Germany, some people might not know that Fredi was actually born in Maribor, Slovenia, to a Slovenian father and a Croatian mother. Fredi didn’t waste much time after moving to Germany as a child and started a highly successful football career, winning the German and Croatian Cup with VfB Stuttgart and HNK Rijeka respectively and the Bundesliga title with Borussia Dortmund.
Hugo did something, that unfortunately still too many professional sports stars are uncomfortable doing; he came out as LGBTQ whilst working as Head of Player Care at the Premier League club West Ham Utd. For that, we have the upmost respect for Hugo. He started his professional career in football as Team Operations Manager at Indy Eleven, a second division start-up team in the USA’s NASL league. He then joined Southampton FC as their first Player/Team Liaison Officer, setting up their Player Care department. His fantastic work caught the attention of Premier League club West Ham Utd. where he became Head of Player Care from 2018 to the end of 2020. He was brought in by the Hammers to create the Player Care department from scratch, Since leaving West Ham Utd., Hugo started The Player Care Group. Focusing on Player Care, Team Operations and Player Wellbeing within sporting environments across the world.
Jose is CEO and founder at the prestigious sports marketing agency SportiveWays, and works with some of the most valuable sports properties and brands around the World.
He started his career on the brand side in marketing at Cadbury. After few years he initiated his journey into sports working 7 years at FC Barcelona as the Global Partnership and exhibition matches director, allocating multiple sponsorship agreements and summer tours for the Club.
During these days at FC Barcelona he also reached different social commitment collaborations with several social commitment organizations as Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Malaria No More, Fundacion Pies Descalzos, Global Citizen, Diviértete Leyendo… for the Club to promote different social initiatives, campaigns and projects.
Jose is also Board member at Learning Bits and Agora, and investor on several companies related with sports and digital education.
Mary Wittenberg is an American sports executive, having worked for Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Sport, been President and Chief Executive Officer of New York Road Runners and currently being President of the EF Education–Nippo cycling team.Under the leadership of Mary, EF Education–Nippo have started a campaign called “Cycling is for everyone” with the aim of helping increase diversity in cycling, starting with racial diversity in the USA. Furthermore, Mary is also very active in the fight against childhood obesity and was part of Michelle Obama’s President’s Task Force on Childhood Obesity.
Robert is Managing Partner at Europe‘s most awarded sports agency – the creative collective of Jung von Matt SPORTS based in Hamburg.
At the age of 36, Robert is an internationally experienced sports marketeer having worked with sponsors, publishers, rights holders and start-ups. Before his move to Jung von Matt SPORTS, he started his career at Sportfive, UEFA Team Marketing and with a failed start-up in the gaming industry.
Robert is an expert in brand strategy, sponsorship, digital, international communications and CSR and currently holds responsibility for JvM clients such as FIFA, FC Bayern Munich, Hyundai, Coca-Cola, McDonald‘s, Los Angeles Football Club and Common Goal. Since 2011, Robert is also honorary board member of Sheffield FC – The World’s First Football Club.
Zeljko was born in Hamburg to Croatian immigrants, and grew up in Hamburg and partially in the former Republic of Yugoslavia. After studies at the University of Hamburg, Zeljko moved into media, quickly progressing through the ranks, holding various Managing Director and CEO roles at some of the largest Media Companies in Europe. After executive roles at companies such as Constantin Sport Medien GmbH, Plazamedia, Sport1 and 7Sports GmbH, Zeljko founded the Sports & Entertainment Holding together with his brother Tomislav Karajica in 2020. SEH Sports & Entertainment Holding manages a host of exciting sports properties, including the football clubs SK Austria Klagenfurt, FC Viktoria 1889 Berlin, the Esports Team Unicorns of Love, as well as the newly formed American Football League European League of Football.