Many of us have been aware of the quality of the Bundesliga for a number of years. The German football model is a good one. Clubs aren’t over-reliant of wealthy owners, but have a good enough product on the pitch to make it an easy sell to TV and most importantly the fans. But following Bayern & Dortmund’s demolition of Barcelona & Real Madrid respectively, it seems TV pundits were blissfully unaware of the quality of their league.
You watch German league games, and invariably you’ll see nearly full stadia alongside electric atmospheres. Last night’s action was at the fantastic Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund. Although Bayern’s Allianz Arena, and the Veltins Arena in Gelsenkirchen are state of the art stadia, Dortmund’s stadium must rank as Germany’s best venue for football. Its 80,700 capacity makes in a cathedral to the beautiful game. But that’s not all for fans. In Germany, fans are treated as fans, not SPL “customers” to be exploited. £23 for an SPL game? Dortmund’s prices start at £5.50 ( http://www.bvb.de/?%98Y%1B%E4%F4%9D) for children and £13 for adults in the amazing standing Sud Terrace. 24,000 fans can stand behind the goals. For £13 to see a top league? I’ll take that. Not only that, season tickets start at £160 for the standing terrace, which includes all 17 Bundesliga games, and the 3 Champions League group games. Given that the big games (Bayern, Schalke, Bremen, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Monchengladbach) attract a 20% surcharge (still great value) that’s over £100 of free football!
Its the ownership model that’s a winner though. All clubs (excepting “Works” teams like Wolfsburg & Bayer Leverkusen) must be 51% member owned, preventing shady owners that seem to dominate British football. That generally means that the fans come first. Inexpensive ticketing, transport to games (public transport to Signal Iduna Park on game days is free) results in fans feeling valued, and ready to back their clubs. The atmosphere at German grounds is fantastic as a result. Results on the pitch suggest its a positive model. Although a Bundesliga side hasn’t won Europe’s top prize in years, that wait looks to be over with a Bayern/Dortmund final being on the horizon. Given the competitive nature of the Bundesliga, although Bayern look dominant, Dortmund are a good side, and it promises to be a cracking game.
The league also is helping their national side. 49% of players are non-german. This compares to a staggering 66% at EPL clubs. It’s little wonder that the German national side regularly makes the latter stages of major tournaments. The emphasis is on developing german player to play at german clubs. Foreign players must be better to make it in Germany. It doesn’t seem to be harming the product on the pitch either. That’s not to say fans will not want foreign players at their clubs but their policy seems a success.
TV pundits shouldn’t be surprised at the quality of german football though. Its a model that’s been in place for years generating top players and a top league. It could be argued that the Bundesliga, thanks to its quality and competitiveness has been Europe’s top league for a while. But after this week, there is little doubt the balance of power is slowly shifting from Spain to Germany. Here come the Germans!