Johannes Regier: “The idea of focusing on people and instilling values is the most important thing Johan Cruyff Institute has taught me”

With over ten years of experience in the sports industry, Johannes Regier, an international agent for Johan Cruyff Institute in Canada, emphasizes the importance of focusing on people and instilling values

Throughout his career, Johannes Regier has held multiple positions related to the sports industry. He has represented and advised professional football players, served as a club owner and sports executive in Canada, and founded charitable programs promoting the positive influence of sport. Currently, he coaches and advises both professional athletes and sports executives, developing leaders in the sports community.

In this interview, Regier reflects on the Canadian sports industry and the significance of the agreement between Johan Cruyff Institute and League1 Canada in preparing future leaders in sport management. He also highlights the growth of football in Canada, which has led to the national team’s excellent performance at the Copa America.

With the recent growth of football in Canada, what opportunities and challenges do you see for the development of the sport?

Johannes Regier, international agent for Johan Cruyff Institute in Canada.

Over the past 25 years, especially since the rebirth of Major League football (MLS) in the United States, football in Canada has experienced significant growth. The founding of the Canadian Premier League in 2017 was a crucial step forward, as prior to that, there were only some semi-professional leagues. For Canadian football to progress to the next level, a competitive league was essential.

Looking ahead, a professional women’s football league, called Project 8, is slated to launch by 2025. Additionally, the establishment of League1 Canada in Ontario in 2022 represents a move toward bridging the gap between youth and professional football. These developments illustrate the substantial growth of football in Canada. Moreover, the upcoming 2026 FIFA World Cup, which will be hosted by Canada, the United States, and Mexico, is expected to further elevate the level of Canadian football.

How do you think the agreement between Johan Cruyff Institute and League1 Canada will benefit Canadian football?

One of the keys to the growth of Canadian football was the good foundation that was developed over the last 20, 25 years. You can think of it like a pyramid: you always have to have a solid base to build on. Football in Canada has grown substantially because you have been encouraging children’s and youth football for years. That’s the structure on which the Canadian football Association works.

In exploring with Johan Cruyff Institute the strategic place to have the greatest impact, we identified that League1 Canada was ideal. Because there you can provide support for youth players to be part of a university program and become professional players. Even though there is a good academic offering in Canada, there are not too many opportunities to get into the sports industry, unless it’s online, or globally.

“Now, with this partnership between League1 Canada and Johan Cruyff Institute, there is a new opportunity for anyone who wants to become a sports executive, a sports agent or simply wants to use sport and have an impact on the lives of children, youth or their own community”

Therefore, we believe that offering this opportunity to League1 Canada, an ecosystem of 165 teams, will have a positive impact on football and the Canadian sports industry. These opportunities are offered so that anyone, whether a youth or professional player, can have access to the courses and academic programs offered by Johan Cruyff Institute.

As an experienced sports executive, how do you approach athlete and team management to ensure both professional success and personal fulfillment?

I have been working in the sports industry for over 10 years, during which time I have had the opportunity and satisfaction of working with many professional and youth talents. Over the past few years, I have been particularly struck by how many professional athletes at the highest level, whether NBA players or football players, have begun to talk about mental health issues.

Throughout my career, I have observed a paradox: we have become very good at elevating performance and maximizing it from a performance perspective. However, we have not yet been able to help players find personal fulfillment and a way to meet and satisfy the expectations of fans and executives.

“My approach has been to leverage the athlete’s platform to help them feel fulfilled. When we give our time to other people, we start to feel useful because we know we’re contributing to making someone else’s life better”

To this end, I helped found an organization called Team Up, where we use sports to help and serve others. When athletes engage in community projects, they impact the lives of others, and this also helps them find their identity and a sense of belonging.

Could you share some insights on aspects of managing sports organizations in Canada compared to other regions you have worked in?

I grew up in Paraguay, in South America, so I know the South American sports industry very well. Then I moved to Germany, where I lived for a few years, and I also worked as a football agent for a company based in the UK. Because of that, I also have extensive knowledge about the European sports industry.

I see many similarities between the two industries, but also many differences. For example, South America has a lot of natural talent, while Europe has the best, most competitive leagues in the world. Despite producing a lot of talent, South America does not have the same level of infrastructure and preparation for sports executives. In Europe, you find more technical, disciplined players who bring something different to the game. This creates a synergy: European leagues need South American talent, and South America needs the organization and structure of the European industry.

Regarding North America, I was very surprised by the role that sports play in the community. I think the franchises and leagues have found a great way to make it more than just sports, creating a place where people share in the community. This is something Europe is trying to replicate. Another difference I find between North and South America is the level of organization. While in South America most people play football, in North America there are five or six major sports, giving kids and young people access to many different sports to choose from. This variety and ease of access make for excellent athletes.

How has Johan Cruyff Institute contributed to your understanding of sports management?

Johan Cruyff Institute has a very rich history and an impressive track record in developing sports leaders globally. What I admire most is how Johan Cruyff recognized the need for qualified leaders in sport. That’s why the motto of Johan Cruyff Institute is to educate leaders in sport. To me, this is key: focusing on people. Ninety-nine percent of those who start in youth sport will not make it to the professional level. However, what they learn by playing sports is valuable because the community gains leaders from those athletes. They learn values like discipline, teamwork, and resilience, which are hard to replicate in other situations.

“The emphasis on focusing on people and instilling values is the most important lesson Johan Cruyff Institute has taught me”

With Canada preparing to host the FIFA World Cup in 2026, how do you anticipate this event will impact the football industry in the country, both in terms of infrastructure development and the overall growth and exposure of the sport?

The announcement that Canada will host the next FIFA World Cup represents a huge boost for football in the country. It will also be the first time that 48 countries will be participating, resulting in many more matches. A total of 13 matches will be played in Toronto and Vancouver.

This announcement came at a great time. In recent years, we have seen an increase in the participation of children and young people in football, with the creation of new leagues, including women’s football. However, to elevate Canadian football to the next level, we need more revenue to generate a solid base, reducing the risk of investing in franchises in the Canadian Premier League. We also need more football-specific infrastructure, such as stadiums and football fields. To be ready for the World Cup, we will certainly see upgrades to existing facilities. But most importantly, the 2026 FIFA World Cup will bring football to a lot of people in Canada. More and more people will be inspired by the players, want to be part of it, and get involved. I believe that will be the biggest benefit of all.

The academic legacy of Johan Cruyff

Cruyff Education

Cruyff Education offers programs to educate athletes, sport and business professionals to be leaders in sport management and consists of Johan Cruyff Institute (executive education), Johan Cruyff Academy (graduate degree) and Johan Cruyff College (vocational training). More than 10,000 students have been trained in our classrooms all over the world, on-campus, blended and online.

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