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Thread: The Bundesliga - the best "big" league in Europe?

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    The Bundesliga - the best "big" league in Europe?

    How the Bundesliga puts the Premier League to shame

    With cheap ticket prices and sound financial management, the Bundesliga is the antithesis of the Premier League


    In Germany the fan is king. The Bundesliga has the lowest ticket prices and the highest average attendance of Europe's five major leagues. At Borussia Dortmund their giant stand holds 26,000 and costs little more than £10 for admission. Clubs limit the number of season tickets to ensure everyone has a chance to see the games, and the away team has the right to 10% of the available capacity. Match tickets double as free rail passes with supporters travelling in a relaxed atmosphere in which they can sing, drink beer to wash down their sausages, and are generally treated as desirables: a philosophy English fans can only dream of.

    The Bundesliga may be Europe's only fit and proper football league – the sole major domestic competition whose clubs collectively make a profit – yet no German team has won the Champions League for nine years. This success rate, though, could be about to change following Bayern Munich's advance to the semi-finals, following their thrilling disposal of Manchester United last week at Old Trafford.

    "The Bundesliga as a brand, a competition, is in good shape. We have a very, very interesting competition, a stable and sustainable business model that relies on three revenue sources," the Bundesliga chief executive, Christian Seifert, tells Observer Sport. A holy trinity comprising match-day revenue (€424m), sponsorship receipts (€573m) and broadcast income (€594m) is the main contributor to the Bundesliga's €1.7bn turnover.

    A glance at the continent's other major leagues confirms the state the sport is in. On these shores Portsmouth dice with extinction, while Manchester United and Liverpool build mammoth debt mountains. In Spain, where debts are just as high, La Liga players may strike because of unpaid wages in the lower divisions. The stadiums of Italy are half-filled, and in France their clubs spend more of their income (71%) on players' wages than those of any country.

    Seifert says the success of the Bundesliga is because of the "core value" of the supporter coming first at its clubs. This is why tickets are kept so cheap. "Because the clubs don't ask for more money," he explains. "It is not in the clubs' culture so much [to raise prices]. They are very fan orientated. The Bundesliga has €350m less per season than the Premier League in matchday revenues. But you could not from one day to another triple prices.

    "Borussia Dortmund has the biggest stand in the world. The Yellow Wall holds 26,000, and the average ticket price is €15 (£13) because they know how valuable such a fan culture and supporter base is.

    "We have a very interesting situation. First, tickets are cheap. Second, many clubs limit the percentage of season tickets. For instance, Borussia Dortmund, Schalke 04, Hamburg, Bayern Munich. They want to give more fans the chance to watch games live. If you have 80%, 100% then it is all the same people in the stadium. Also in Germany the guest club has the right to 10% of the tickets for its fans."

    Last season La Liga attracted an average of 28,478 fans, Ligue 1 21,034, Serie A 25,304 and the Premier League 35,592. These figures are dwarfed by the Bundesliga's average of 41,904. Its soaring attendances are matched by a balanced approach to salaries. "The crucial thing in last year's €1.7bn turnover and €30m profit was that Bundesliga clubs paid less than 50% of revenue in players wages," Seifert says. This is the continent's lowest. In 2007‑08 [the most recent available year] the Premier League paid out 62%.

    All this prudent financial management is achieved despite the Bundesliga's television income being a modest €594m compared with the Premier League's lucrative return of €1.94bn. Seifert explains the disparity. "The TV market in Germany is very special. When pay-TV was introduced in 1991 the average household already received 34 channels for free. Therefore we had the most competitive free TV market in the world, so this influenced the growth of pay-TV very much. We were forced to show all of the 612 games of the Bundesliga and second Bundesliga live on pay-TV. So we have to carry the production costs of this."

    No Bundesliga team has won the Champions League since Bayern Munich beat Valencia in 2001 and its last finalist was Bayer Leverkusen, eight years ago. But Seifert disputes whether the small return from television rights has been a defining factor in this record. "Money-wise, Bayern Munich is ranked in the first four clubs of Europe. And bear in mind even Chelsea, which spent a hell of a lot of money in the last years, didn't win it. Sometimes you could have the feeling that the ability to win the Champions League goes in line with your willingness to burn a hell of a lot of money. For that reason I think Uefa is on very good track with their financial fair play idea."

    Deloitte's accountancy figures for the 2007-08 season show all but one Premier League club (Aston Villa) to be in debt. Compare this with the Bundesliga report for last season, which offers a markedly disappointed tone when recording that "only 11 of the 18 clubs are now in the black".

    Pressed further on the lack of success in Europe's premier club competition Seifert argues for sport's cyclical nature. "At the end of the 1990s the Bundesliga was the strongest in Europe. In 1997 we had won the Champions League [Borussia Dortmund] and the Uefa Cup [Schalke]," he says.

    "Then in 1999, 2001 and 2002 we were in the final at least. In those days the Premier League had more money, too. It depends not only on money but the quality you have – if it only depended on money then Porto wouldn't have played Monaco in the 2004 final."

    Seifert also points to German football's success in producing its own players. This is borne out by Germany being European champions at under-17, under-19, and under-21 level. "The Bundesliga and German FA made a right decision 10 years ago when they decided that to obtain a licence to play you must run an education camp [academy]. The Bundesliga and second Bundesliga spend €75m a year on these camps.

    "Five thousand players aged 12-18 are educated there, which has now made the number of under-23-year-olds in the Bundesliga 15%. Ten years ago it was 6%. This allows more money to be spent on the players that are bought, and there is a bigger chance to buy better, rather than average, players," Seifert says of a league in which the stellar performers currently include Bayern's Frank Ribéry and Arjen Robben.

    "When Bayern played against Manchester United Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Holger Badstuber and Thomas Müller were all homegrown," Seifert says. "So yes, it's a cyclical environment and you have to deal with that. Therefore I'd deny that you could really say whether a league is strong or weak just because one club wins or does not win the Champions League."

    Seifert's view is supported by Arsenal having followed United out of the competition last week, when Arsène Wenger's team were dismantled by Barcelona, to leave no Premier League presence in the semi-finals for the first time since 2003. And for the 2012-13 season Germany should have four places in the Champions League as by then they should have overtaken Serie A in Uefa's five-year coefficients.

    Seifert also has Spain in his sights. "If we consider our financial capabilities and the stability of our business model, then the aim of the Bundesliga in the long run has got to be second place behind the Premier League," he says.

    Of all the Bundesliga's regulations, the recent history of English football suggests it might have benefited most from the 50+1 rule. This states that members of a club must retain at least 51% ownership, so preventing any single entity taking control. Portsmouth are the most glaring example of how an outsider might potentially ruin a club – their administrator is currently searching for their fifth owner of this season – and the Bundesliga recently reiterated the commitment to the rule following a challenge from Hannover 96.

    Martin Kind, Hannover's president, wished to change the regulation. He told Observer Sport: "The rule means the loss of many Bundesliga clubs' ability to compete nationally and internationally. And in some ways it prevents further development of German football, especially those clubs who play in the lower half of the Bundesliga as they do not have enough financial resources. The ownership rule should be abandoned or modified."

    While Kind adds that his lawyers believe he has a "good chance" of winning the case when it is heard at the court of arbitration for sport this year, Seifert is proud that when the 36 clubs that comprise the Bundesliga's two divisions voted on the issue "35 were against".

    There are exceptions to the 50+1 rule. Yet even these appear couched in common sense. Seifert again: "Bayer Leverkusen and Wolfsburg [whom Fulham knocked out of the Europa Cup on Thursday] are two. If a company is supporting football in a club for more than 20 years then it can acquire the majority. The idea is that a company has by then proved to fans and the league that they take their engagement in the Bundesliga seriously, that it's not just a fancy toy or part-time cash injection that [could] change from one day to another."

    What the Bundesliga does allow to be transformed from one season to the next is the prospect of any and all its clubs mounting a realistic tilt at the title as Wolfsburg's triumph, the first in their 64-year history, proved last season.

    "In the last three years of the Bundesliga we have three different cup winners and three different champions," Seifert says. "Sepp Herberger, the coach of the West German team that won the 1954 World Cup, said: 'You know why people go to the stadium? Because they don't know how it ends.'"

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/b...premier-league

  2. #2
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    In terms of having both football quality and parity I believe it's by far the best.

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    I love how many longballs there are. I dont get gol tv on my cable package so I never see Bundesliga/La Liga games. I'm stuck with the prem (which is the league I adopted) and Serie A...which has such a boring tempo.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bay Ridge Jet View Post
    I love how many longballs there are. I dont get gol tv on my cable package so I never see Bundesliga/La Liga games. I'm stuck with the prem (which is the league I adopted) and Serie A...which has such a boring tempo.
    Have to keep your eyes peeled for ESPN/2 etc...they have an agreement to air some GolTV games. Wonder if the ABC/ESPN will ever buy out goltv?

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Turk View Post
    In terms of having both football quality and parity I believe it's by far the best.
    Yes, much better value for money and they really seem to take the fan's interests and expectations into consideration

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