Archive for the ‘How the bundesliga is better’ Category

Portsmouth. Darlington. Any club ever taken over by Peter Ridsdale.

The above are just three of numerous examples of how poor management at the highest level, and investors looking to make cash, have ruined clubs across English football.

To prevent cases like that of Portsmouth or Darlington happening, to ensure football clubs are not simply a means for making money, and a failure to do so means flirting with extinction, English football would do well to look at the German 50+1 model.

The 50+1 rule in German football means that at least 51% of a club must be owned by its supporters. This ensures investors looking to earn quick money without any concern for the consequences cannot gain overall control of the club, but money can still be pumped in if necessary.

Gerry Wittmann, of Bundesliga Fanatic, said: “Bayern Munich are of course the dominant team, but probably the 50+1 rule affects the parity in the league, as no one individual can ‘buy’ a championship per se with an influx of big spending”

The shareholders, who are supporters of the club, choose who they want on the board. This means fans have a high level of involvement in the club they support. Each club also have a ‘Fans Projekt’, which is explained by Andy Hudson, of the website Gannin’ Away

“German clubs each have a ‘Fans Projekt’, or similar equivalents, who are employed partly by the club and partly by the local government. They regularly meet with the club and work on behalf of the fans. This combined with the 50 + 1 ruling in Germany means that fans are considered a lot more than in England.

“Those employed with the Fans Projekt are trained social workers, and football fans are treat as part of society and not just as a customer, which is how we’ve become in England. While there are initiatives in England that are similar to certain aspects of Germany, we have a long way to go before we get anywhere near standards in Germany.”

There are exceptions to the 50+1 rule, for example Bayer Leverkusen and Wolfsburg – but only when a company has been investing in a club for more than 20 years, proving it is committed to helping the club, rather than themselves, can they acquire the majority.

Martin Kind, president of Hannover 96, wished to change the rule, believing it prevented the development of German football, in particular German football clubs in the bottom half of the league. Of the 36 clubs in Germany’s top two divisions, only his voted in favour of such a move.

The 50+1 rule is far from perfect – German clubs can get in debt, they can overspend on wages and so on – but, as far as English football is concerned, it could do a lot worse. Especially if it means never again seeing repeats of what has happened at Portsmouth, Darlington et al.

You can follow Gerry on Twitter: @bundesliga4u, and Andy: @HuddoHudson.

For more on Fans Projekts, read our interview with Augsburg fans projekt here.

Mesut Ozil – practically a veteran at 23

Germany have perhaps the greatest pool of young talent currently available to any football playing nation.

However, it wasn’t always this way, and much like the other articles in this series, the way Germany turned things around following their Euro 2000 disappointment is very much something England could and should be looking at.

Just over a decade ago, having looked at poor performances from the national side, clubs in financial meltdowns and an ever-increasing number of foreign players, it was commissioned for 121 national talent centres, for players aged 10-17, to be built throughout Germany; while every club in the top two divisions had to have a youth academy.

Clark Whitney, German football editor of goal.com, said: “There is nothing serendipitous about the quality and quantity of young talent coming from the German first and second divisions. In 2000, after an aging Germany side utterly failed at the European Championship, the DFL made strict requirements for all 1. and 2. Bundesliga clubs to have youth academies, with very specific guidelines regulating their quality.

“There are also periodic sessions in which crops of youngsters are brought together to be trained in the style of the senior national team. The result is a large number of talented players who are well-nurtured, and take very little time to integrate into the senior national team.”

The benefits are clear for all to see. In recent years Germany have won the U17, U19 and U21 European Championships, and are one of the favourites for the senior tournament this summer.

The likes of Mesut Ozil, Mario Gotze and Thomas Muller and regarded as superstars, yet not one of them is older than 23. Similarly, the likes of Mats Hummels and Marco Reus are ready to burst onto the world stage, and there are plenty more waiting-in-line.

By contrast, England still call upon the likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Scott Parker, John Terry and so on – all of whom are at least 30. There are some exceptions – Jack Wilshere, Phil Jones, Kyle Walker to name a few – but, ultimately, the English national side continues to be an ageing one, filled with players who have experience, and contributed to, past failures.

The fiasco that was no qualifying for Euro 2008, and the woeful performances in 2010’s World Cup were both supposed to lead to a youth revolution, but it is to the old stars Fabio Capello has turned, suggesting the younger players are not good enough.

Germany looks like having a side to challenge for at least the next decade. England may take that long before even attempting to catch-up.

You can follow Clark on Twitter: @Mr_Bundesliga.

In the last ten seasons, three different clubs have won the Premier League; five have won the Bundesliga.

Eight teams have finished inside the top four in the Premier League; ten in the Bundesliga.

It may not seem like much, but it does perhaps make all the difference. While the Premier League is not as much of a two-horse race as La Liga or the SPL, it isn’t exactly wide open either.

The Manchester United/Arsenal rivalry became Man Utd/Chelsea, and now it’s Man Utd/Man City. Tottenham have briefly challenged but fallen away. The challenges from Spurs and Man City represent a shift in power, but also highlight the decline of sides like Liverpool and Arsenal.

One of the reasons the Bundesliga is a more open competition is that clubs are made it live within their means. It receives far less in both matchday and TV revenue, with a licencing agreement meaning all clubs are on more of a level playing field. The Bundesliga receives just under €600m in television income; the Premier League: almost €2bn.

Around 50% of Bundesliga clubs’ revenue is spent on players wages, amongst the lowest in Europe (certainly the lowest of the big five leagues) and well below the 70% outlined by Uefa’s Financial Fair Play.

Raphael Honigstein, German football correspondent for The Guardian, said: “The licensing system levels the playing field somewhat as it forces clubs to live within their means. This does not make everyone the same but increases the chances of bigger teams slipping up as they can’t simply throw money at it in January, for example.”

The counter argument, of course, is that the Bundesliga has less quality. Bayern Munich were the last German side to win the Champions League, and that was back in 2001. Manchester United and Liverpool have both won the competition since then, while Manchester United have reached the final a further two times, Liverpool made another appearance in the final, and Arsenal reached it in 2006.

Clark Whitney, goal.com’s German football editor, expanded on this, saying: “As much as I hate to admit it, quality does play a role. The Bundesliga was relatively poor in the mid-2000s, which made for a more unpredictable league, but one in which there just wasn’t a team with the class to contend. Bayern didn’t have hopes of winning the Champions League, and did just enough in the transfer market to succeed. Of course, they have repeatedly failed to defend their title, primarily due to their refusal to bring in adequate squad depth to take some weight off the stars’ shoulders after a big tournament like Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup.

“Things are changing now, of course, as teams like Dortmund are able to produce top class line-ups for pennies, thanks to good scouts and the quality of youth being produced all over Germany.

“There are some other differences, however: culturally, clubs see a match against Bayern as an opportunity, not a death sentence. They give an extra 10% in such games – you won’t see opponents fielding reserves in Germany when they face a top side, unlike what we’ve seen at times in England and Spain.”

 

Bayern’s impressive Allianz Arena – where you can see football for less than in the Conference

Safe standing, written about here, isn’t the only advantage the Bundesliga has over the Premier League when it comes to matchdays.

Ticket pricing is another issue where there is a stark contrast between Germany and England, and yet again it is Germany who comes up smelling of roses.

The average ticket price in the Bundesliga is around €12-15 – less than half of what a fan would normally pay to attend a game in the Premier League.

Included in the price, Bundesliga tickets also double as tickets for rail travel, meaning fans do not have to spend more money, on top of what they paid for their match ticket, to get to and from the game.

Gannin’ Away’s Andy Hudson said: “Darlington charged £18 for tickets to their match against Gateshead last season, in the Conference National! Bayern Munich charged €12 for a standing ticket for their Bundesliga games.

“Ticket prices in the UK exploit the fans; it simply isn’t affordable or sustainable. We’ve seen price freezes at many clubs because they cannot get fans to games and so, other than dropping prices, have nowhere left to go with their charging structure. What other industry has seen such a price hike, far exceeding yearly inflation, than the UK, and specifically English, football?

“I can travel abroad and see a game for less than travelling to Chelsea to see Newcastle’s away game, once food, drink, travel and what not is all factored in. We had the Sky invention of football in 1992 that coincided with clubs living above and beyond their means. This hasn’t happened in Germany where the fan involvement in the corridors of power has kept away, by-and-large, the grubby hands of those solely in it for the making of money.”

In November 2010, fans of St Pauli marched through the streets before their game against Wolfsburg, in a demonstration against ticket touts.

In August of that year, fans of Borussia Dortmund protested and boycotted their game away to Schalke – regarded as the biggest derby in Germany – as Schalke had increased ticket prices for the game to €22 – almost double the usual price.

To add context to that, when Sunderland travelled to QPR earlier this season, fans had to pay almost £50 for a ticket, and that did not include travel – which would probably amount to another £50.

So, with match tickets and travel included, fans in England pay around 4-5 times what fans in Germany do. There are no protests, no fans staying away or marching through the streets.

Germany sees the fans as exactly that. England sees the fans as consumers, just a number; people to spend money. Many fans over here in England ask how Germany got it so right. Fans in Germany are likely to ask, and we should perhaps do the same, how England got it so wrong.

You can follow Andy Hudson on Twitter: @HuddoHudson, and check out his website Gannin’ Away here.

Fans standing - safely - at Dortmund's Westfalenstadion

As calls for safe standing in England get louder, the people at whose feet the decision ultimately lies could do with taking a look at the Bundesliga.

In 1993, the German Football Federation decided against all-seater stadiums, and now the vast majority of Bundesliga clubs have safe standing areas in their stadiums.

Since the Taylor report into the Hillsbrough disaster, all clubs in the top two levels of English football have been required to have all-seater stadiums. This even means that any team who have standing areas, and are then promoted to the Championship, would have to convert their stadium to all-seating.

Bundesliga stadiums feature ‘rail-seating’, called ‘vario’ seats. These are locked in an upright position for Bundesliga matches, but are then brought down for matches in the Champions or Europa League etc – as FIFA and Uefa both recquire stadiums for their competitions to be all-seater.

Andy Hudson, editor of European football website Gannin’ Away, explained this further. He said: “There are metal barriers situated at regular intervals on the terracing. This removes huge gaps of open terracing that many people remember from UK football grounds. As a result of the barriers, there are never too many fans squeezed into a confined space. This eliminates any potential for surges and people tumbling down the terracing.

“Also, ticket numbers are regulated so the standing areas are never full to ‘capacity’. While you could get ‘x’ amount of fans in area, clubs sell less than that volume. This is a practice that’s replicated across many European countries.”

Fans are also allocated a row and a position, which eliminates the theory – and one of the reasons given as to why safe standing has not been implemented in the Premier League – that it’s harder, in standing areas, to identify those causing trouble.

However, despite it being something many fans want – The Football Supporters’ Federation have long campaigned for its introduction – and the obvious benefits (the Bundesliga has higher attendances and a generally better atmosphere at games) it seems unlikely safe standing will be implemented in the Premier League any time soon.

Hillsborough, and the safety of fans, are the excuses given for this. Money, one suspects, is the real reason.

 

You can follow Andy Hudson on Twitter: @HuddoHudson, and check out his Gannin’ Away website here.