Absence of yellow wall takes its toll on Borussia Dortmund

ONE OF the most dynamic aspects of German domestic football is the sight of Borussia Dortmund’s so-called “yellow wall”, the vast bank of fans that makes the club’s ground a unique and somewhat intimidating place to visit. In 2020-21 season, with the majority of games played behind closed doors, the absence of Dortmund’s fans inside the Signal Iduna Park compromised their financial statements as well as their famed matchday atmosphere. 

After years of making profits, BVB generated a pre-tax loss for the second consecutive season. In 2020-21, this amounted to € 73.2 million, more than € 26 million higher than 2020’s deficit. 

The economic effect of no fans in the ground meant BVB’s matchday income fell by 98% to just over half a million. Overall, the club’s revenues were down by 9% to € 344.5 million, boosted by a 10% rise in broadcasting to € 186.7 million. Commercial earnings were also lower, falling to € 157.4 million from € 177.1 million.

BVB’s wage bill went up marginally to € 215.7 million but given the reduced circumstances, this represented 63% of income, compared to 57% a year earlier. BVB have a relatively low level of debt compared to many of their European peer group, their € 19.3 million slightly lower than 2019-20’s €21.1 million. BVB moved quickly to repair some of the damage caused by the pandemic, agreeing to raise more capital via an € 86.5 million share issue.

Dortmund have been one of Europe’s most proficient player traders over the years but in 2020-21, profits from player sales were just € 15.4 million versus € 40.2 million in the previous season. There were no massive sales in 2020-21, although Jadon Sancho departed for Manchester United in the close season of 2021 for € 85 million, a transfer fee that will benefit the 2021-22 accounts. 

Big deals that preceded Sancho’s return to England included Abdou Diallo to Paris Saint-Germain (€ 32 million), Christian Pulisic to Chelsea (€ 64 million), Ousmane Dembélé to Barcelona (€ 105 million) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Arsenal (€ 64 million). 

Dortmund invested in Birmingham City’s Jude Bellingham, paying € 25 million and he became an England international in his first season in Germany. Bellingham and the sought-after Norwegian, Erling Haaland will undoubtedly be added to the list of major transactions in the near future. Dortmund have one of the youngest squads in the Bundesliga and one of the most diverse, with more than a dozen nationalities and 55% non-Germans.

Although Dortmund are the second biggest club after Bayern Munich in Germany, they are still way behind the current Bundesliga champions. Bayern earned around a billion euros more than BVB’s revenues between 2018 and 2020, hence the importance of continued Champions League participation.

In 2019-20, they reached the last eight of the Champions League, losing to Manchester City, and won the DFB Pokal, crushing Leipzig by 4-1. They also finished third in the league. They have started the 2021-22 season well, winning all their home games and both of their UEFA Champions League fixtures. The crowds have returned but their first three Bundesliga games were limited to 25,000 before rising to more than 40,000 in October. It’s not quite the yellow wall, but it’s heading in the right direction. 


Photo: Marco Verch CC BY 2.0

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