What the Premier League Should Learn from the Rise of German Football

Bayern MunichGermany really made their mark on Europe last season, and some football fans have stood up and took notice that the German Bundesliga seems to do things the right way. Germany dominated in the UEFA Champions League last season with their top two clubs gaining access to the final at Wembley at the end of May. Borussia Dortmund are now known for their fast fluid game but a nut that can be cracked, whereas Bayern Munich crippled teams including the mighty FC Barcelona in their UEFA Champions League run.

It appears that the dominance of German football is on its way back into Europe, with German sides having struggled in the past; the last German winners of the Champions League were Bayern Munich, who beat Valencia of Spain on penalties back in 2001. Recently however, Germany has been the main subject of conversation in a number of discussions, and the ultimate conclusion is that they come top in every category.

There has been call for change to the English Premier League for their extravagance and granting players high wages. There has also been discussion of ticket prices, with Arsenal charging their own supporters £94 in a Champions League match against Bayern Munich last season. Football attendances in the Premier League cannot be compared to those of Germany, and above all, Deutschland creates a unique atmosphere that cannot be matched. This account it going to explore those areas in which supporters think are the main ingredients to make their game special, and what changes could be made to improve certain leagues around Europe.

Let’s begin with ticket prices – as this has been a conversation that has never been concluded – which somewhat upset supporters of clubs in the United Kingdom because it appears that the famous English game has lost its identity. A season ticket standing on the famous ‘Yellow Wall’ of Borussia Dortmund costs a supporter around £154 for seventeen league games with an extra £33 on top for three Champions League group games. This is alien to many supporters around Europe, especially in the English Premier League, as the cheapest seat at Old Trafford for one Champions League game costs an adult £40.

When focusing on the league games, it costs an average Mainz 05 supporter €13 to stand to watch their team each game, and this seems relatively cheap. To add insult to injury, when a supporter pays for a ticket for Bundesliga game, they are entitled to free public transport to the stadium within a certain distance, something again that wouldn’t happen in other countries. It will cost a Chelsea supporter £59 for a Premier League game, and this is just simply entry to Stamford Bridge. This is one area that the German Bundesliga cannot be beaten on; they look after their supporters because their supporters are the club.

Borussia DortmundThis flows nicely onto attendances at matches, and the Bundesliga has the highest average attendance, which was just over 45,000 last season, making it the best-attended league in world football. Let alone Borussia Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park holding 80,000 supporters and Bayern Munich along with FC Schalke 04 holding 60,000. In the Premier League, the average attendance was just over 34,000 last season, which is quite low when you hear many English football supporters claiming that it is the greatest league in the world. However, it appears that this has become a bit of a myth due to poor home and away attendances by English supporters in many Premier League grounds.

It has often been noticed on many occasions that there seems to be more empty seats than actual away supporters. Borussia Mönchengladbach reportedly took 10,000 supporters to their away leg in Lazio last season, which is astonishing seeing at this was a midweek game. Borussia Dortmund are well known as well for transporting many supporters when they play away, and it again was reported that they brought double their allocation to Madrid for their UEFA Champions League second leg last season. Some German support cannot be rivaled around the world as the noise and positive atmosphere they accumulate is dumbfounding.

As attendances at matches have been discussed, it now only feels right to move onto the stadiums in Germany. Many stadiums in Germany are very impressive, with sites such as the Veltins Arena, Allianz Arena, Signal Iduna Park, and the Commerzbank Arena among those that are worthy of mention. Germany has seen ten new stadiums built since the millennium, all with safe standing areas that mainly create the unique atmosphere many football fans witness. However, it could be argued that this is only because Germany hosted the World Cup in 2006, and the majority of supporters would probably be correct. But many stadiums in Germany have also seen renovations, and most famously, SC Freiburg’s ground becoming completely solar-powered.

Many English clubs have been knocked back when trying to get stadium approval or not able to get the appropriate funding to support them. Everton have been knocked back twice when trying to build a new stadium, once for their design at the site at Kings Dock and also their attempts in Kirkby. Liverpool have also not succeeded when trying to get a new stadium, and it seem that they have accepted defeat, claiming they will try and renovate Anfield. Chelsea is another club that is struggling to get land to build their new stadium, as they were recently rejected for site in London.

Bayern MunichWhen looking to finances, many clubs around the world such as those in the English Premier League have gone into administration due to the overspending on certain players and their wages. Portsmouth is the club that is always on the end of fans lips when overspending is mentioned, and there have been very few success stories when a ‘consortium’ has taken over a football club.

Blackburn Rovers, who were relegated from the Premier League two seasons ago, have now nearly been relegated again from the Championship, with poor organisation and spending extravagantly costing them dearly. Liverpool is a famous club worldwide but nearly fell into the black hole of administration a few years ago due to their attraction of trying to get to the next level and compete with the likes of Manchester United and Manchester City. QPR could be the next club that could turn out like Portsmouth, with the majority of their average players being on high wages.

When moving the attention slightly and focusing on Germany, there are certain rules and regulations that football clubs in the Bundesliga need to follow. In Germany, the ’50+1′ rule means that its members must own a minimum of fifty-one per cent of a German football club, meaning their own supporters own the club. This means that followers associations have a straight say in the organisation of their club, while private business are still able to invest.

When the German Bundesliga became a league in 1963, they put in place a ‘licensing system’ that was intended to remain clubs financially solvent. The German Football League look at every Bundesliga club’s finances before each league season, and failure to ‘stay fit’ could result in the club not having their license renewed and potential relegation. A recent Bundesliga report released earlier this year demonstrated that fourteen out of the eighteen Bundesliga teams reported profits. The league reported a turnover of €26 billion for the first time in its fifty-year history. Factors such as these that make the Bundesliga thrive leave the Premier League something to learn from German football.

Written by James Williams