11 May 2020 – The Bundesliga is coming back but all is not well in German football.
In a recent survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of dpa, 46 per cent spoke out against games behind closed doors. Only 34 per cent were in favour.
But games without fans are just one part of the problem and German Football League (DFL) boss Christian Seifert has acknowledged that the Bundesliga needs an overhaul. Here is a list of major issues.
FINANCES: In the 2018/19 season, the Bundesliga made a record 4.02 billion euros (4.41 billion dollars). And yet, due to the coronavirus crisis, several clubs such as Schalke found themselves in a situation of existential crisis. Media reports said 13 of the 36 clubs in the top two divisions in Germany were threatened with bankruptcy.
The dependency on television money, which accounts for more than a third of revenues, is striking. Several clubs pledge TV bonuses not yet received to banks in advance in order to remain liquid.
One possible remedy would be to pay more attention in the licensing process to how clubs are positioned economically in the long term and not just with a view to the next season.
The future of the 50+1 rule, whereby no investor can control a majority of shares, could be brought back into focus as clubs try to compete with rich benefactors in the English Premier League. But any abolition of the rule would be hugely unpopular with many fans.
SALARIES: The earnings of many players are one reason why clubs get into economic difficulties even without the coronavirus pandemic. According to a DFL report, the 18 Bundesliga clubs pay more than 1.4 billion euros in salaries for coaches and players per season. This is by far the largest item of expenditure.
A salary cap could come under serious consideration but it will not be legally enforceable in Germany and Europe. It is also hard to imagine the DFL going it alone, as this would make the Bundesliga unattractive for top stars compared to the Premier League or Spain.
TRANSFER SUMS: The DFL believes fees of over 100 million euros for a player are unsustainable but tackling the issue is as difficult as salaries. Transfer sums though are expected to fall in any case with clubs throughout Europe reassessing their spending after the crisis. But sides such as Qatari-owned Paris St Germain may see little impact.
PLAYERS: Gold-plated steaks, young professionals in luxury cars, holiday photos on social media with model girlfriends – many players have contributed to a fan backlash against the modern-day footballer.
In a coronavirus world, players could be better taught by clubs to not flaunt their wealth so much. A new closeness to the fans may be necessary for clubs to keep all their supporters while they are not allowed to attend games – players can have a major role in this.
COMPETITIONS: The worldwide football calendar is becoming increasingly full. New tournaments such as the revamped Club World Cup are so far unpopular with supporters, who believe national leagues, the Champions League, Europa League, World Cup and European Championship are enough. Bundesliga teams are unlikely to push for anything new for a while.
TELEVISION: The television landscape has become increasingly confusing for football fans in Germany. Live games on free TV are rare. Despite understandable efforts to get the most money out of the rights allocation, German football now looks less likely to let the entire product disappear behind paywalls.
Winning back fans is the key to the Bundesliga’s chances of prospering again.