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German Football – A blueprint for our future?

By Derek Turnbull :  06/05/2010 :  Comments (28) :
I would like to submit this article I read on the SUSD (standupsitdown) website.

So we now know that this year's European Cup Final will be played between Inter and Bayern. As always, it will be the biggest club game of the season, but this year it has extra significance.

For the past few seasons the Bundesliga teams have been steadily improving on the European scene, so much so that they now stand above Italy in third place of Uefa's coefficiency rankings, albeit by a mere 0.155 points. With two points allocated to each country for a victory by one of its representative clubs, this means that whoever wins the final will take third place in the rankings for their country. The ripple effect of this is that third place this season means four Champions League spots in the 2011-12 season; fourth place means only three.

The positions in the coefficient standings are configured by adding together the points gained by each country over the past five seasons. Bundesliga teams have outscored Italian teams over the last three years, meaning that even if they're unable to overhaul the Seria A teams this season, it is a distinct possibility in the forthcoming years. This becomes more likely when you consider that next season the points from the 2005-06 season are no longer taken into consideration, a year when the Italians scored a 5 point advantage over Germany.

With their sustainable fan owned clubs, their restrictions on televised matches, their modern stadia equipped with safe standing areas, their cheap, affordable tickets and their many other fan friendly measures, including free transport for supporters within the club's home region on matchdays, it has often been argued that German football and its clubs are well run, but ultimately unsuccessful on the European stage. However, now maybe the tide is starting to turn.

Maybe the philosophy of keeping your club in order, working together with supporters to ensure clubs remain an integral part of the community, and then gradually building and improving is bearing fruit. And maybe, hopefully, this will mean that other clubs and national associations around Europe will follow suit and realise that success and sustainability, together with listening to and acting upon the needs and wants of the supporters, can all go together. Now wouldn't that be a revolutionary idea?

Reader Comments

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Ciarán McGlone
1   Posted 06/05/2010 at 14:50:53

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Or maybe the Italians have been on a slippery slope for several years, especially since their match fixing revelations.

Lets face it, the German Bundesliga is nowhere near the Premier League.

If you want to dumb down the Premier League and send all the decent talent to Spain, Italy or ironically Germany... then the German model is probably the way to go.

However, in Germany, the usual suspects still usually win the league. And Hoffenheim, who are often held up as the success story of the Bundesliga, spent an absolute fortune on young talent to get there...

Unfortunately, money will always talk in the game.
Nick Entwistle
2   Posted 06/05/2010 at 15:11:03

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Is the Premier League all that? Look at all the teams 9th downwards. The biggest names are Blackburn and West Ham, jeez. Not great in quality when you get to the end of MotD. They perhaps know more than we give them credit for.

And there are plenty of friendly measures in the Premier League, so long as you're a fan in Asia.
Ciarán McGlone
3   Posted 06/05/2010 at 15:18:00

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As usual, it's a matter of opinon, Nick. Personally, I think the Premier League is extremely entertaining. I've watched a lot of games this season from those bottom teams you mention  games, that on paper, should've put me to sleep... Far from it, they were some of the most entertaining.
Chris Wilson
4   Posted 06/05/2010 at 16:27:36

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I shouldn't be so lazy and look it up, but didn't the Bundesliga and the Serie A go through massive financial problems which forced them to scale back? As we well know, if you don't have the money, you're not getting the crème de le crème of footie talent and there is a parallel between the financial health of a domestic league and how prominent that league's big clubs are in the transfer market

Sure Bayern Munich continued to be in the CL, but they were hardly the power like they were in the FC Hollywood days (at least not until this year), and Borussia Dortmund fell off the map, as did Bayern Leverkusen. And the Italian teams used to spend like the Spanish teams in the transfer market - back in the day when a player like Christiano Ronaldo was put on the market, you could almost guarantee AC Milan, Juventus, and Inter would be in line, but that's not the case right now; big time transfers are now between Spain and England and how long will that last?

Here's a Soccernet article I found today about Liverpool's situation:

Now I don't know if this is exactly true, but this smells of Leeds United all over again, and you wonder who could be next? It wouldn't surprise if we started to see a scaling back in England with a more conservative approach in transfers, etc.
Alan Kirwin
5   Posted 06/05/2010 at 16:36:04

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Derek, your observations are astute. It goes beyond mere results. The Bundesliga is a success story. It has the highest gates in Europe, almost every stadium has standing room, you can even watch Bayern for just £11, every club is 50% + 1 owned by the fans, almost every club is debt free.

German clubs are also gaining ground both financially and competitively. 8 of the richest 20 clubs are German (and that's just based on turnover, if it was based on profit the story would be even more profound). In the round, it is inescapable that Germany is on the up. And, personally, because of my admiration for how they do it, I'm delighted.

Each to his own, as in everything. But football in England will, at some point, have to rejoin the real world. The Bundesliga shows just what's possible in the real world with good management at every level.

There are lots of things wrong with the Premier League. It's greedy, myopic, elitist, and utterly shit at managing its bountiful resources. There's very little wrong with the Bundesliga and it adheres to principles that are on a different planet to the greed driven EPL. I fully expect to see the likes of Werder Bremen, Schalke & Leverkusen joining Bayern in the advanced stages of European competition.

The EPL is eating its own arse. Nothing lasts forever.
Steve Edwards
6   Posted 06/05/2010 at 17:00:36

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Interesting that you can watch Bayern for £11. I have been saying for some time now that only for the Premier League we would be paying about £10 to watch Everton. I am old enough to remember life without the Premier League (unlike some) and I don't find the Premier League any more exciting than the old First Division. For me the only thing that has changed is the hype and the price of admission.

Yes, we do attract players from all over the world but I still say the game was just as exciting before. The down side for me is English teams with little or no English players in it.

Frankly, I think we've all been conned (did New Labour have anything to do with the Premier League). You can bet your life it won't last though, the cracks are starting to appear for all to see.

Ray Robinson
7   Posted 06/05/2010 at 19:45:01

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From what I've read, the German model is admirable with Cologne attracting 45,000 plus in their relegation year a few seasons ago. However, it does have to be mentioned that the Germans have benefited tremendously from two World Cups in the space of 32 years. This has helped enormously with their infrastructure / stadium rebuilding programme. Bayern Munich have had TWO new stadia in the last 32 years — meanwhile, we're stuck with a historic but decaying ground that will cost a fortune to upgrade.
Nick Entwistle
8   Posted 06/05/2010 at 19:57:39

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They can charge so little bcause of the space freed up with the standing areas. Imagine the attendance and price of standing admission if we could have the lower Gwladys and lower Park as standing???

Oh and at the risk of another squabble Ciarán, surely entertainment is different to quality. We saw a 6-6 in the SPL last night, yet I remember when the Italian footy was shown on CH4 in the 90s and it sent me to sleep more often than the F1!
Trevor Lynes
9   Posted 06/05/2010 at 19:56:33

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I agree with Steve on most points and the First Division was indeed just as good as today's Premier League without the title being a forgone conclusion....

However, his snipe at new labour was without merit and I sincerely hope we DO NOT go back to Thatcherite government which devastated the Northeast, Northwest and North Wales with unemployment, negative equity and poll tax!!

If he remembers the old First Division, he must remember the Thatcher reign!!

Alan Clarke
10   Posted 06/05/2010 at 20:12:30

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I would love us to take on the German model. The only way it will happen though is if one of Man U or Liverpool fall towards oblivion, which is starting to look more likely. For the fans to be able to step in though, the clubs have to pretty much become bankrupt or worthless which is what happened in Germany. That will never happen here with all the TV money floating around. Even with all their debt, Liverpool are still being valued at £800 million so it's very very unlikely the German model could be implemented here.
David Hallwood
11   Posted 06/05/2010 at 21:17:57

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Just to add to Trevor Lynes reply to Steve Edwards, The Premier started in 1992, after 13 years of Tory government, and it could be argued that the main beneficiary was their staunchest supporter Rupert Murdoch.
Matthew Lovekin
12   Posted 06/05/2010 at 21:43:25

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The German model sounds good to me. Well run clubs with the fans having a large say in club matters.

Ciaran, Bayern may be the big team in Germany but in all countries the big times have always remained the same. However in Germany, smaller clubs find it easier to rise and challenge, such as Wolfsburg and Hoffenheim. The latter team may have spent a lot but they are still considered a small club, similar to Fulham rising through the leagues. These success stories are more common in German football.
Karl Masters
13   Posted 06/05/2010 at 22:00:24

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From Everton's point of view it would be far better to be part of the German League. It's a League where somebody like Wolfsburg can come from nowhere and win the League, a bit like Nottm Forest in 1977/78.

I watch it regularly on ESPN and I like it. Anybody who went to Nuremburg will remember a great atmosphere, civilised fans, efficient transport, clever policing and a thoroughly good time all round.

Whilst German clubs have not won much in Europe recently their National team has always been there or thereabouts indicating the old German virtues of planning and preparation are still strong. Compare that to the money driven antics in England. Would the Germans be waiting until after the season had begun to bring in new players as Everton have done in the last 2 summers leading to poor starts? Of course not. Nobody would plan that, but Everton are beholden to the all powerful force of money and having to wait for the Sky money every August before getting players in.

I hope Platini gets his way, Abramovich does one, those Manc Arabs get bored, that Liverpool go into administration and that Manure have to re-form as Newton Heath and play in Norwich City colours. Money is making the game rotten to the core.
Tommy Gibbons
14   Posted 06/05/2010 at 23:58:55

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£11 a game... I could handle that.. and sauerkraut, German beer... mmmmm (cancels £540 season tkt amd thinks about move to Germany)!
Craig Tomasinski
15   Posted 07/05/2010 at 01:29:17

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I watch a bit of German football here in Australia and have been a to a couple of games when I have been over there. I have a keen interest in it due to my German background and German girlfriend.

I really do like the way they go about their football and the way the league is run. I also believe a lot of the clubs buy from the lower leagues and try to do their business as quickly as possible.

Already Schalke have purchased 3 players as they were challenging for this year's title. They got Metzelder from Real Madrid for free and got Tim Hoogland from Mainz for free and a youngster from Kaiserlautern in the Bundesliga 2.

Stuttgart in the past have also bought from the lower leagues with the likes of Christian Trasch and Timo Gebhardt with Trasch being named in the provisional Germany World Cup squad and Gebardt being tipped to be there in a few years. Only Bayern Munich still buy big when they require like the Sky 4 in England which has not always worked for them as this is the first year they have won the league for a few years and it was not the big money buys that got them there this year.

The good thing at the moment about watching the German league is that it is not just Bayern can win the league although they have a lot in the past but teams like Wolfsburg and Schalke have a chance as well as Bremen, Dortmund, Leverkusen and maybe Hamburg.

Eric Myles
16   Posted 07/05/2010 at 02:53:24

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Chris Wilson (#4);
"I shouldn't be so lazy and look it up, but didn't the Bundesliga and the Serie A go through massive financial problems which forced them to scale back? As we well know, if you don't have the money, you're not getting the crème de le crème of footie talent and there is a parallel between the financial health of a domestic league and how prominent that league's big clubs are in the transfer market"

And isn't the EPL going through massive financial problems too?
Ciarán McGlone
17   Posted 07/05/2010 at 10:21:47

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"Oh and at the risk of another squabble Ciarán, surely entertainment is different to quality."

They are not the same thing... but they are not necessarily mutually exclusive either.

The point I was trying to make, is that it would be wrong to assume that the lower teams in the prem are devoid of quality — it would also be wrong to say that they do not provide entertainment too.
Nick Entwistle
18   Posted 07/05/2010 at 16:45:00

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Fair point Ciarán, but half our league is made up of yo-yo teams and until recent promotion, perennial lower league cubs. Take out the top 3 and there will be a few leagues of equal ability around Europe.
Chris Butler
19   Posted 07/05/2010 at 16:45:14

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First of all I think theere are too many EPL lovers happy with the way English football's going. The reality is, Ciaran, it's totally true: all the clubs below Birmingham seem destined to stay there for the next 10 years unless they get relegated.

The Bundesliga is a fair league where clubs are unable to just buy the title. The reason why the German philosophy has never been implemented in Britain is to keep the same teams in the top 4 and prevent teams from growing. Last season Wolfsburg won the league for the first time in their history, the equilvalent of Sunderland winning the league.

The German league has the highest amount of supporters that wacth the games live from the stadium in the world so therefore it must be pretty interesting. They haven't sold their soul to Sky TV and they care about their supporters so it would seem that German supporters get a better deal than us.

Trevor Lynes
20   Posted 07/05/2010 at 17:36:54

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To reiterate my own comments from many months ago... the old First Division saw Portsmouth, Ipswich and many other sides no longer in the Premier League win the title and have their moment of glory.... the playing fields were equal and when Liverpool dominated it was because of great managers like Shankly and Paisley. We also had great eras as in the 60s and were usually challenging Liverpool when they were at the top.

Between our two sides, we have won more titles than any other English city and that was when United had Charlton, Best and Law and City had Summerby, Bell and Lee. London clubs got very short shrift on Merseyside and United were only challengers.

MONEY has caused the present situation and I do not think that the present day top two managers are as good as the previous managers who created great sides without bringing in foreign ready made stars. The English league title is now devalued and our present setup is a lot like the Scottish league with only two clubs who have realistic chances of winning the title.

MONEY is the only way Manchester City can gatecrash the top two. Arsenal is the only top side who have not spent anything like as much to get where they are and Wenger is to be admired for bringing in fine young players at fairly low cost.

I do enjoy watching Premier League football, but the fun at being able to have a punt on EFC winning the title has gone.... I have had some good wins (and losses) in the past. I won a lot when we won the title and Leeds were runners up and also on the 1966 cup final. But, I got caned when we lost to WBA. We actually beat WBA 6-2 and 4-0 in the league matches that season....!!!

Michael Brien
21   Posted 07/05/2010 at 21:16:44

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The Premier League has benefitted only the richest clubs and has seen the decline of some of the smaller clubs. It might not mean a great deal to the fans of Chelsea and Man Utd when a club like Chester goes under but they would do well to remember the old adage, "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link". The fact is Manchestr United, Chelsea and Liverpool are allowed to carry on yet they have worse debts than the likes of Chester. One rule for the rich eh?

The German Bundesliga is the best supported League in Football in terms of average attendances. The pricing policy puts the Premier League Clubs to shame. Yes, Bayern are their equivalent of Man United/Chelsea but there is still greater competition e.g. Wolfsburg winning the title last year.

And when you consider that Borussia Dortmund have an average attendance greater then Man United, but they have had nowhere near the same success, it suggests that the Germans must be doing something right — probably giving a greater priority to treating the fans with respect.

Gerry Morrison
22   Posted 07/05/2010 at 23:37:13

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My first home game was in 1963. It cost three bob to get in. Adjusted for inflation, that is about two pound fifty in today's money.
Chris James
23   Posted 08/05/2010 at 12:17:15

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I'm right behind you Derek — it's overdue time for a change. The Premier League for me is a lot like the British economy — unfair, unsustainable and broken.

In fact, I'd go further to say that Scudamore and Co aren't really any better than the rightly vilified bankers and brokers — scheming, short-term, opportunists who are only interested in making themselves richer and fuck everyone else who loses out along the way.

Yes, we now have some of the world's best players in our top flight now and we've had a few good years in Europe, but that's only because we've spent ludicrous amounts of cash to get them there. Fundamentally it's not much different to Italy in the 80s or even the USA's attempts to kick off soccer in the 70s. If it's only about the cash then what's to stop the Chinese or Arabs kicking off their own league in Hong Kong/Dubai and shipping players in on ludicrous tax-free salaries?

In actual fact, the only thing that is stopping that (and which ultimately saw footie fail in the US) is the lack of respect and history to rival British football, a lack of passionate support that cares about the game and a lack of deep grass roots.

If you think about the bigger picture, the real strength of English football isn't the overpaid mercenaries at the top who can't get out of bed for less than £50k + image rights, it's the guys that turn out at Grimsby on a wet Wednesday and the massive pyramid of semi-professional and amateur leagues below that. It's the strength of the foundations, not the penthouse that really matters, because when you start to chip away at the foundations, that penthouse has a problem. Sadly at the moment the pricks in the penthouse show no respect or care for the layers below them and are only focused on making their nest bigger, heavier and more opulent, hoovering up the resources (bricks if you like to continue the metaphor) from the foundations to do so.

If the Premier League ultimately topples tomorrow or the Sky 4 piss off to set up the much threatened European super league somewhere else then it really wouldn't be the end of English football anymore than a clutch of bankers scuttling off under their rocks in Switzerland.

Yes, there'll be some short-term pain but, once the dust settled, quite frankly it could be the best thing to happen because it would get people back caring about the fundamentals and remembering what footie was all about in the first place, going along to the local clubs on a Saturday, caring passionately about the FA Cup or the local derby above finishing top 4/7 in the league, and it would inevitably also end the fucking ridiculous escalation of player wages.

And it could actually happen sooner than we think. Premier League-led football, like the housing market and the rest of the UK economy, is a game that's eating itself. We often hear that football is a business nowadays, but if that's the case it's a fucking terrible business. When clubs are getting guaranteed revenues of £30 million from TV, plus the same again and more in match day and commercial incomes and they're still losing money then there's a pretty obvious problem there.

Obviously the argument goes, all this cash is spent in the name of competition and at the end of the day like it or not, 'that's the going rate for xyz player'. But surely that's madness — when the only way any club can compete in a league is to mortgage the club's heritage into massive debt (either to the banks or some billionaire owner), then surely we need to say the Premier League is broken and needs to be changed.

For my money the two main issues that need addressing immediately as I see it are:
i) player wages
ii) agents and consultants

The former have got to a ludicrous level that is not only out of touch with the rest of society and moral values (when even the bankers use footballers to try and defined their exorbitant salaries you know there's a problem), it's also completely out of sync with the benefit they are actually involved in generating — i.e. if the clubs aren't making any profits how can the workers demand a payrise?

The latter are hideous parasites that have simultaneously exacerbated the player wage issue and taken undeserved millions out of the clubs themselves.

The good thing is that the way forward is incredibly simple:

i) We fix a limit on player wages a club can pay out, either a percentage of their income or an agreed amount across the league (NFL style) — this doesn't mean entering into any complex individual pay limiting antics and the inevitable European regulations we'd contravene, it just means that clubs will need to make smarter decisions and overall the salaries would have to be set lower.

ii) In the event that we can't actually just shoot all the bastards, we ensure that ALL agents are paid from player income/salaries only and NEVER from the clubs — they are after all working on behalf of the players so why the fuck are the clubs paying their wages? It would be like the home buyer having to pay an estate agent (see agents = cunts) after they'd already argued the price up against them, madness!

So, err, that was a bit of a longer rant than I'd hoped, but ultimately my point is yes, Derek, it's a very good point and the German model may well be the way ahead. [And relax...]

Martin Mason
24   Posted 08/05/2010 at 14:42:46

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Chris, good post and emotionally I fully agree with every word. I believe though that the solution has to be Fifa-led and worldwide. I agree with the salary cap as a proportion of turnover (like rugby league) but doubt that there is the resolve and support to make it work.

The agents are parasites but no different to unions in industry. They have got just regards for their clients who used to be oppressed (20 pounds per week, anybody). They are legal and whilst some control may be necessary they must stay.

I also believe that nothing will change and perhaps it shouldn't apart from making Clubs run themselves as any other business. For me, the market should always determine what happens to Limited Companies. EPL is unsustainable and is now undergoing a long overdue correction.

Will Everton have a lot of money to buy players this summer? Not a chance because they can't buck reality regardless of the unrealistic expectations of some fans and the millstone of its club motto.
Martin Berry
25   Posted 08/05/2010 at 15:02:41

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For me, the PL was the worst thing to happen to football in this country. The First Division was hijacked by Sky to promote their favourite clubs ie Redshite, Manure, Chelski, dirty Leeds, the Arse and Barcodes. Thankfully two of them fucked up so we were left with just the four. Now Newcastle are back, they will immediately be promoted to CL contenders and the hype will continue. Our only hope is major investment or one or more of the top four imploding.
Eugene Ruane
26   Posted 08/05/2010 at 18:40:41

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Alan Kirwan, you said..

"The EPL is eating its own arse. Nothing lasts forever"

Spot fucking on!

The EPL is the most near-sighted, putrid, avaricious organization on the planet.

For them, as long as things are fine THIS second, the future will be fine.... probably... possibly.

Incredibly stupid and staggeringly greedy and like all organisations with ONLY these 'attributes', they WILL end up eating their own arses.

I hope their guts are off when they do!
Graham Brandwood
27   Posted 09/05/2010 at 08:34:08

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A few weeks back a few of us went over to stay with friends in Nuremburg, as a result of friendships that have developed from our game over there. They are averaging 41,000 despite years of yo-yoing between leagues.

Apart from the price of the tickets, what is most noticable is the closeness of the supporters to the club. They open the doors to the supporters to watch training on Fridays, the players are more accessible to the fans, and everybody seems to be part of one of the hundreds of small fan clubs who seem to have greater involvement with and influence on the club than we have over here.

Michael Brien
28   Posted 10/05/2010 at 11:48:30

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It would seem that in Germany football still remains "The People's Game". We would do well to emulate some of their ideas before the game we all love gets swallowed up by the world of Corporate Investment and big business. When clubs are referred to as global brands, you know that something is drastically wrong with the game.

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