“We won’t be another AG Kobenhavn”
June 29, 2018
Photo: Dan Eugen Nielsen /Kobenhavn Haandbold
INTERVIEW – Winning the 2017/18 Danish women´s championship was a first highlight for 5-year-old Kobenhavn Haandbold.
The first five years have been an expensive journey, but club owner, Kim Mikkelsen, guarantees that the club will not shut down like so many other handball organizations that relied on a single source of financial support for too long.
“In this project, I really do not have a financial pain threshold,” he states in this exclusive interview with stregspiller.com.
By Peter Bruun
AG Kobenhavn. Slagelse Dream Team, HSV Hamburg. HC Leipzig, the women’s team of Vardar Skopje, HC Midtjylland – the list of casualties is long and loaded with prominent names of clubs that ceased to exist because unrealistic ambitions exceeded financial capacity. One element that many had in common – they were owned or were financially supported by one individual who ran out of money or wasn’t willing to invest more funds in the project, or simply lost interest.
Today, one man owns freshly minted, Danish women´s champion -Kobenhavn Haandbold.
Kim Mikkelsen who has earned his money through a series of mostly international investments, has been the key figure behind the success of Copenhagen’s handball powerhouse from the start back in 2013. According to him there is no risk whatsoever that Kobenhavn Haandbold will follow in the footsteps of the aforementioned teams.
“We are executing three-year agreements all the time, so right now, we are signing contracts valid until 2021.
“I guarantee these contracts, which means that I guarantee the next three years, at least.
“Of course, I hope I will not lose my money, but I really have no pain threshold, when it comes to this project,” Kim Mikkelsen tells stregspiller.com.
It certainly was not in the cards that the now 50-year-old businessman was going to own a handball club.
“I have invested in sport before, but mainly in football as my own background has been more closely aligned with football than handball.
“I used to play football at league level in Fredericia where I was born and grew up, while I only played handball from 15 until I turned 18.
“However, as a kid I used to sit in Hall 1 in Fredericia and cheered for the stars of the 70ties and 80ties – players like Mogens Jeppesen and Anders Dahl Nielsen. These were the days when Fredericia was a top club in Denmark and in Europe.
“That was probably where I found my passion,” explains Kim Mikkelsen.
Eventually, he got the opportunity to turn his passion into reality, shortly before Christmas 2012.
“I was approached by Martin Albertsen, now head coach in Bietigheim (Germany) and Switzerland´s women´s national team.
“He thought that it would be possible to build a top team in Copenhagen and he wanted to involve me in the project.
“I spend Christmas and New-Year to think about it and in early January I said okay.
“On January 24th, 2013, we established Kobenhavn Haandbold with me as the 100% owner and later in September, we played our first league match backed by the license of Copenhagen’s traditional club – FIF. Now, we are close to celebrating our five and half year anniversary,” says Mikkelsen.
Not so simple
It soon became clear that starting a top club in the Danish capital was not as easy as it appeared on paper.
“Some of Martin´s expectations did not hold, especially when it came to the number of sponsorships.
“It also turned out that Martin’s budget plans, running a top club with EURO 850.000, were not realistic.
“I had no chance to assess such estimates when I started as club owner, but I soon realized that it was not possible.
“Obviously it meant that I had to take more money out of my pocket than I expected in the first place,” says Kim Mikkelsen who may have invested around EURO 3.5 million in the club, so far.
“Although our sales people run really fast and even though we manage to increase our income considerably every year, there is no doubt that the club still depends a lot on me,” Mikkelsen admits.
Such dependence is certainly highlighted by the fact that Kobenhavn Haandbold recorded a EURO 660.000 deficit in the most recent fiscal year but it is not the hope of financial gain that motivates Kim Mikkelsen to go on as club owner.
“No, it is the joy of building something and adding new layers all the time.
“It is not my style to buy a bunch of expensive world stars all of a sudden, as such a plan rarely works. I have seen that in many football clubs.
“Instead we want to build a team that works and we may only need to add one or two international stars at a time, as we have done so before the upcoming season, for instance, when we signed Norwegian international, Thea Mørk (left wing) and Swedish international Linn Blohm (line player).
“We do not sign a player just because she has a name. We want her to fit in with the concept around our team.
“For example, our head coach, Claus Mogensen, wants to practice a fast attacking play.
“It would make no sense to sign three hard-shooting backcourt players from Eastern Europe who might be fantastic shooters, but who would be to slow for our way of playing (handball ed.)
“We also look for players who fit from a social aspect.
“We may still have a gap in the goalkeeper position, where we have the keeper of the Danish U 20 national team (Amalie Milling, ed.) as backup to Johanna Bundsen, but there are several candidates for this position, finds Kim Mikkelsen.
The history of top sports is filled with examples of club owners interfering with coaches of how to run their teams, what players to pick etc. And it may seem natural that you want to decide the music, when you pay for the orchestra, but the results have not always translated into success, to say the least. According to the current owner of Kobenhavn Haandbold, this is not a risk in his club.
“My involvement, when it comes to building the team and the way we play is between zero to one per cent.
“A year ago, I withdrew from the position of managing director and even though I do some sparring with my board of directors and some regular phone conversations with our head coach, Claus Mogensen, I do not interfere with the decisions regarding the team and how we play handball.
“When I talk to Claus on the phone, it usually is a general briefing on how things are going – or when I hear through my network that a certain player´s contract is about to expire in 12 months time – I may suggest to Claus that this might be a player who could be interesting for us, but that’s all,” says Mikkelsen who currently resides in Switzerland.
But living far south has not reduced his motivation to run a club in Denmark.
“I am not the type of owner who needs to be in the club every day and neither am I the type who needs to be on the sideline, yelling and screaming at every match.
“Leaving the job as (managing ed.) director last year, I took a step back and that suits me fine,” he says.
FINAL4 in 2021
His goals and ambitions for the club are certainly undiminished. It is no secret that reaching the FINAL4 in the Women´s EHF Champions League by 2021, at the latest, is the objective.
“Of course, this will cost money but more importantly, it will demand a lot from our team – physically as well.
“Women´s handball at the international top level is very physical these days and we will need to add another layer every year. The physical aspects (of the game ed.) have a very high priority in our club.
“We have a fulltime physical coach, a fulltime physiotherapist and a masseur, and an excellent medical clinic nearby.
“Given all of this we will continue to build our team to reach our goal, but it will still be step by step, as we will make our debut in the Champions League this coming season. Our objective will be more about learning rather than winning it.”
The team´s home ground, Frederiksberghallen, with a capacity of 1.200 spectators does not exactly fit the description of a state-of-the-art venue for a team harboring FINAL4 dreams.
Although, the arena has turned into a fortress, where Kobenhavn rarely loses, for Champions League handball the hall will not fit the bill.
“There is no doubt that Frederiksberghallen will not be accepted for Champions League matches, so we will have to find another venue for our home matches.
“It might be Brøndbyhallen or Farum Arena, but KB-Hallen is also almost rebuilt after burning down a few years ago – so we have several options.
“But, I do expect us to continue playing our league matches in Frederiksberghallen.
“The 1.200 spectator capacity is not really an issue. The VIP facilities are a much bigger problem, as we simply cannot host all our sponsors the way it is.
“I hope we can persuade local politicians to launch a project of modernizing Frederiksberghallen, as we do not want to move.
“Most of our players live within walking distance from Frederiksberghallen, and we do not want to relocate them to some other part of the city.
“Frederiksberg is our base,” states Kim Mikkelsen.