There’s lots to admire about Germany, from a social, economic and cultural standpoint. Some years ago, people pointed to Germany’s insistence on maintaining industries that revolved around “bashing metal” and cited Britain as a developing “knowledge economy” that didn’t need to fire up the furnaces.
When the world almost melted down in a financial morass, Germany pulled through quicker than most, their economy being more balanced than countries like Britain.
As for football, critics pointed to clubs that were supposedly held back by supporter-owned bodies, undoubtedly run on the German model of consensus.
Now, with English football taking free market economics to the extreme, we look to the Bundesliga as the epitome of what a modern football industry should be all about. While English football dances on a volcano of rising debt and player power, Germany’s fans pay less than virtually any other major nation for their match tickets. They must be doing something right given the Bundesliga draws the biggest crowds in world football.
Price tells the story of how German football reinvented itself in the aftermath of failure in the European Championship in 2000. What is really striking, however, is Germany’s insistence that the supporter experience should be preserved. Uli Hoeness: “We do not think fans are like cows who you milk, football has got to be for everybody. That’s the biggest difference between us and England.”
While Bayern Munich are clearly Germany’s flagship club on the pitch, Borussia Dortmund lead the way in supporter engagement. The cheapest match ticket at Dortmund in 2014-15 was just £12, the most expensive, £50. Compare that to Arsenal where the tickets range from £27 to £97. Dortmund has an average gate of 80,000.
Dortmund also have an attitude that is at odds with many aspects of contemporary football. When defining what people in their region wanted from their team, honest effort came to the fore. “We defined the brand as: real and intense. The football should be intense, while we should be real.”
The Bundesliga Blueprint highlights the many merits of German football and also makes you fear for the future of the English game. As Lee Price concludes: “If England are to prosper on an international stage again any time soon, they should be looking at the Bundesliga from behind – by following their footsteps.” He’s right.
Footnote: I was reading this book on a train heading north from London. A large man with a Stevenage FC tie on pointed to the cover and said: “You ought to send a copy to the Football Association – they could do with some help.” He was probably right.