Michał Latoś: "We can always surprise and we always fight for the championship."
The Wrocław Panthers are one of the most succesful and prestigous football organisations in all of Europe. But how did the pre-season go down for them so far? President Michał Latoś offered some insights in this interview.
What stage of preparations for the European League of Football season are Wrocław Panthers currently in?
Michał Latoś: We are currently holding the first pre-season camps, almost the entire training staff is already in place in Wrocław. Players from abroad will come to us in the last week of April, and in May they will start training with the entire team - in accordance with the league regulations. In the meantime, we will hold an away camp in Wałbrzych. The first game - a home game against Hamburg Sea Devils - will be played on June 3rd at the Olympic Stadium.
Are you satisfied with the work of the coaching staff? What did Dave Christensen, the new head coach, bring to the team?
Dave Christensen is a great professional with incredible football experience gained during 30 years of training NCAA Division I players. He has been with us for a few months and has already brought a lot of positive changes to the club. From our perspective, he is definitely a person we can trust.
This is the first time we reached for a coach outside our network of contacts, the process of finding him was extremely complicated. Christensen went through four stages of recruitment - an interview with me, the sports director, the defensive coordinator and - crucially - the owner of our club, Jacek Tarczyński. We had to make sure our vision was consistent. The common denominator turned out to be the goal, i.e. the desire to win the European Championship.
Christensen is a top-class coach - what made him come to Wrocław?
That's directly his wife. It was she who helped him make the final decision, asking what he was thinking about - after all - as she put it herself - "for two years in retirement, he didn't know what to do with himself." Christensen also liked our attitude - his first question to us was whether we really want to win the championship, and the second was whether we are able to do everything to achieve it. He also liked the order of our organization - he knew that he would not have to recruit players himself, because Jakub Samel - our sports director is responsible for providing him with the best package of players. In addition, he was obviously impressed with our stadium, the entire training base in Wrocław, as well as the city itself. The key factor, however, was the determination of our owner, who declared that he would do everything to achieve a common goal.
When you founded the club in 2013, did you have any ideas about how the organization should function a decade later?
At that time, I would not even have predicted that I would still be active in American football. However, our goal has always been to compete with the best in Europe and win against the strongest rivals. The dream we had from the beginning and which led us to create Wrocław Panthers was simply the desire to become a dominant force in Europe - and this is what we always strive for.
Looking across the board, our development can be seen with the naked eye. In the first year of operation, our entire club was located in an Iveco bus. Today we have our own office, physiotherapy room, three warehouses, two gyms, locker rooms and even a Melex. And all this at the beautiful Olympic Stadium in a wonderful location on the Great Island in Wrocław.
If you were to compare yourself to other top European teams, is there anything you still lack?
Time - we just can't make up for it. I visited many European organizations, I saw how they function from the inside, then we followed their example. Such comparisons have always pushed us forward and today we are at the forefront of Europe. In terms of sport, we are unquestionably among the top ten of the entire continent, and perhaps even in the top five in terms of organization.
Do other clubs in the European League of Football operate in a similar way?
Absolutely not. In Germany, each team has a large number of shareholders - there is not one person who is in charge. The exception may be the Tirol Raiders from Austria, where the Swarovski family is involved. Our only 100% shareholder is Jacek Tarczyński – he is the boss. In turn, in other leagues, teams most often function thanks to the support of cities or the number of their co-owners is large and changes frequently.
What does the daily cooperation between the owner and the president look like?
We are in constant contact. Jacek Tarczyński is keenly interested in what is happening in our club. I personally report our activities to him, we also hold numerous meetings during which we dictate various things related to the development of the organization - we draw our plan and vision for the coming years. Mr. Tarczyński is a person with more experience in business than my age, which in turn translates very strongly into functioning in sport.
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Would you agree that competing in the European League of Football is a market game changer?
Definitely yes. Every week we play with clubs from the largest European metropolises, also our facility is one of the most beautiful in Europe. I'd be lying if I said that I'm not more excited about playing Frankfurt Galaxy in a full stadium than going to one of the Polish soccer games.
This certainly also distinguishes us, and on the other hand, for partners from Poland and abroad, it is an opportunity to appear on other markets, and vice versa. We are visible e.g. in Germany or Austria – generally, our games can be followed on 12 different televisions, including Polish. Our gameday exposure extends over three hours, during which we give companies many opportunities that they can't get in other sports to reach spectators.
Where can you watch Panthers Wrocław games? Who are your fans?
We are in advanced talks so that our meetings can be watched on TV again. In Poland, our game can generate an audience of 30,000 viewers, and in Germany the same game is watched by 300,000 fans. As Wrocław Panthers, we have a fan base not only in the country but also abroad, which is also beneficial for our sponsors.
We are somewhat recognizable in the US, we have a lot of fans in Germany, and even a large group of fans from Brazil visit our games. Behind our western border, we have seen fans in our T-shirts many times - for example during the NFL game in Munich. When we wanted to greet them, it turned out that they could not speak Polish. They explained that there is no European League of Football team in their city (it was before the Ravens were announced), and that they follow the NFL and support the Carolina Panthers, so they started supporting us as well. It's definitely not an exaggeration to say that we have fans all over Europe.
Why is it worth following you in the upcoming season?
Because we can always surprise and we always fight for the championship - no matter which team we are talking about. Each of our games is always a great spectacle in the best European edition. However, our activities are not limited to talking about sports results, we also take part in various interesting campaigns and support interesting local initiatives. Recently, for example, we started to cooperate with the PWR Racing Team - a motorsport team of Wrocław students who will race in the USA, or together with our sponsor - TIM Catering, we adopted a panther from the Wrocław ZOO. We constantly provide a lot of interesting lifestyle content on social media.