Football always has historically been a working man’s sport. Not only was it accessible for fans from all walks of life, but players themselves were seen sharing a pint after matches and interacting with the supporters. Only in the last couple of decades, with the garish amount of money that has been pumped into the game, have footballers become superstars, and part of a different social class.
The Bundesliga, however, has stayed close to its roots. Of course, Robert Lewandowski, the highest paid player in the competition, does make €225,000 per week, but that is simply a by-product of the game overall today. The Bayern Munich striker could simply choose to go elsewhere if the club didn’t offer him competitive wages.
The main factor in how the Bundesliga is different, is with regards to ticket pricing and ownership structures. The system they have in place has led to a more sustainable, long-term and organically developed league, which is fast gaining a wide audience around the world.
In Germany, no external businessman or consortium is allowed to own more than 49% stake. The majority shareholders are the fans themselves. Hence, it is hardly surprising that the supporters’ comfort and accessibility is given prime importance. Also, all the revenues that are earned by the club from ticket sales, tshirt sales and sponsorships, go right back into the club itself. There isn’t too much external debt to worry about.
The atmosphere at matches in the Bundesliga is something that has been talked about all over the world. In the 2017/18 campaign, the average attendance in the competition was close to 45,000, compared to 38,000 for the Premier League. Also, with ticket prices selling at extremely low rates compared to England, most of the fans that attend games are fierce and loyal supporters who come not just to have a good experience, but also to build a great atmosphere.
The famous “Yellow Wall” of Borussia Dortmund at the Signal Iduna Park, the stadium with the highest capacity in Germany, creates a raucous environment in games. To put things into perspective, let’s take a look at the ticket prices from last season.
For the 2017/18 campaign, the cheapest season cheap football tickets online available to Dortmund fans was priced at €211.5. This was, quite incredibly, the second most expensive among the 18 clubs, after SV Hamburg. Six-time reigning champions Bayern Munich only charged their supporters €140 for the cheapest available season ticket.
In comparison, the cheapest season ticket at The Emirates Stadium to watch Arsenal play was priced at €1,017.25 last season. This was more than the costliest season ticket at any Bundesliga club. Not one German club charged more than €1,000 for their highest category of season tickets.
Also, the average price of a single match ticket for a Bundesliga game last season was €26, compared to €62 in the Premier League.
It is no wonder that there is a feeling of real closeness among the club and the supporters in Germany, where football has not yet fallen prey to commercial and corporate ruthlessness.
Better finances and sustainability
Sixteen out of the eighteen Bundesliga clubs recorded profits for the 2016/17 campaign. The spending habits of German clubs is also a far cry from teams in other leagues. Even if they do end up spending big, it doesn’t affect the bottom line too much because there isn’t much interest to pay on debt. As stated earlier, the revenues earned aren’t used to pay off an external party, due to the ownership structure. They are simply pumped back into the running of the football club. None of the clubs, as they say, “live beyond their means”.
This has also led to more sustainable and organic growth structure, with almost all the talented young players coming through the ranks being given senior roles at early points in their careers. Yes, Germany failed badly at this year’s World Cup, but their win in 2014 was largely down to the vast talent Joachim Loew had at his disposal, many of whom had spent their entire careers in the Bundesliga.
In conclusion, there is so much that the Premier League can learn from football in Germany. Cheap ticket prices is only the tip of the pyramid, because the entire outlook needs to change. In essence, football needs to taken away from corporate money men and handed back to where it belongs – the fans.