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

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Schalke 04: The Rise of the Royal Blues of Germany

Schalke 04It cannot be argued that Schalke 04 is not a major club, as this famous squad stands by its values of displaying a hard work ethic week in week out. Schalke is the second largest sports club in Germany with 100,000 members that attracts just fewer than 79,000 supporters to their famous Veltins Arena.

Schalke 04 always comes in the top 20 of the ‘Deloitte Football Money League’ in terms of annual revenue, generating a whopping €174.5 million in 2012. Some football fans must wonder how Die Königsblauen has not won the German Bundesliga, however the club itself has won a few major honors.

This account is going to explore some of Schalke’s most highlighted events over their illustrious history and examine their season so far, which may have a major impact on their next Bundesliga season.

In 1934, Schalke’s first German title arrived after beating favorites Nuremberg with the score of 2-1. This was the kick-start Schalke 04 needed as the following year they successfully defended their title against VfB Stuttgart in an entertaining 6-4 win.

Die Knappen showed their dominance in this era by acquiring this trophy again in 1937, 1939, 1940, and 1942. Three of the national finals that Schalke 04 were involved in were unbelievably against Austrian teams: Admira Vienna, Rapid Vienna, and First Vienna, which played in Germany’s Gauliga Ostmark after Austria’s incorporation into the Reich through the 1938 Anschluss.

Between the years of 1933 and 1945, Schalke won 162 out of 189 in their Gauliga Ostmark matches, losing only 6 and drawing 21 times. In this period, Schalke showed their scoring governance as they accumulated 924 goals and conceded only 145.

In the years of 1935 to 1939, Schalke did not lose a single league match to any opponent they faced. These achievements caught the eye of many, and this led them to be held up for propaganda reasons by the Nazi regime, as an example of ‘Neue Deutschland’ (New Germany). This was surprising due to many Schalke players descending from Polish immigrants, including their most influential players, Fritz Szepan and Ernst Kuzorra.

Schalke 04When Schalke entered the German Bundesliga in 1963, they have somewhat been inconsistent with their finishes in the league. During the first few years of the German Bundesliga, Schalke found it very hard to adjust to the new league.

For example, in 1965, they just missed out on relegation, only through the league increasing to eighteen teams. A number of finishes at the lower end of the league table followed after, before development started in 1972 as they acquired a second place finish to Bayern München. In the same season, Schalke won the German Cup for the second time in its history.

When looking at Schalke more recently however, they have managed to finally get some consistency in regards to winning trophies and staying towards to upper ends of the league. In 1997, they won their most coveted trophy, the UEFA Cup, beating Inter Milan on penalties.

Since this trophy, Schalke 04 has won the DFB Pokal three times, the Premiere League Cup in 2005, and the German Super Cup in 2011. However, they still have not managed to win the German Bundesliga.

When assessing Schalke’s season so far, they have had a somewhat rocky campaign as they decided to relieve Huub Stevens of his duties and appoint Jens Keller as their new head coach. Schalke has given their fans something to brag about in the Ruhr though, as they managed to gain the double over their great rivals Borussia Dortmund, beating them 2-1 on both games.

Also defeating Arsenal 2-0 away in the UEFA Champions League, that could be argued to be Schalke’s best performance of the season, as they simply played ‘The Gunners’ off the park. There have been some signs of Schalke’s potential to kick on this season, but beating Galatasaray SK was a step too far as their squad was looking bare.

Bayern Munich 4-0 Schalke 04They have also struggled with injuries this year, and this has been evident in some of their performances, most notably away at Bayern München when they were defeated 4-0. Since that defeat however, they have managed to gain some form and rise up the league by beating Fortuna Düsseldorf, VfL Wolfsburg, Borussia Dortmund, 1899 Hoffenheim, and most recently SV Werder Bremen.

This form has led them to overlap Eintracht Frankfurt in fourth place for that UEFA Champions League spot. They sit nicely with 45 points and are now looking to be favorites to claim this spot. They could even overhaul Bayer Leverkusen, as they are only four points behind, but this will be tough due to Bayer Leverkusen’s plus fifteen goal difference.

The run in for Schalke is hard, and they invite Bayer Leverkusen to the Veltins Arena next and this is simply a must win game for ‘The Royal Blues.’ Then it’s off to the founding father’s Eintracht Frankfurt, who will be looking to get back into the chase for that fourth spot, so Schalke need to be focused for the next two games as their UEFA Champions League spot could slip out of their hands.

But with five games left, they have a great opportunity to confirm UEFA Champions League football next season, and if they gain this, it may get Jens Keller a contract to take over permanently.

But this is Schalke, and anything can happen. Will Schalke 04 ever go back to playing their famous ‘Schalker Kriesel’ way of the 1920s? Who knows?! What will be, will be.

Written by James Williams