Over the weekend, David Conn did us all a favour by using the end of the Champs League group stages, to remind his readers that there is something going on in Germany which deserves our attention and admiration – and even some real envy.
It’s a drum which has been banged before (not least in this column). The fact is that, for quite a few years now, the best attended top league in Europe is the Bundesliga. Its clubs are also the most financially stable group in UEFA, and they are, almost entirely, majority controlled by their own fans.
The stadiums are packed most of the time, with huge crowds which include terraced mountains of those we like to call ‘ordinary fans’ these days. They are largely local people from industrial heartland cities who can afford the nine quid a ticket price, and enjoy the freedom to stand behind the goal and sing their heads off, watching their local club.
Most of their teams’ players are ‘local’ too – almost two thirds of the Bundesliga players are German – many produced by the clubs’ own academies and therefore playing for their local team. What’s not to like?
Well, people would say, that’s all fine, but they’ve only got one ‘’big’ club, and they don’t do too well in the Champs League, do they? When it comes to the toppermost of football’s poppermost, it’s the Premier League that delivers the goods; even if its clubs are either owned by passing billionaires who turn on the gushing money taps, or soaked in debt up to their eyeballs.
It may be true that one season the PL clubs dominated the latter stages, but it doesn’t look so pretty this time around, does it? Both English billionaire clubs are ignominiously excluded from the knockout stages, but all three German clubs are through.
The British instinct for low regulation and laissez faire led directly to a most painful collapse of our banking system (pain which our Chancellor of the Exchequer told us this week will continue for many years to come). The highly regulated German banks did not lend like gamblers and then go bust requiring massive bail-outs to avoid civil collapse.
As with the economy; so it might be with the football. The English failure to restrain whimsically ‘mad’ investment in a few clubs, and the growing indebtedness of most of the others, could prove disastrous. And is the gentrified (and sedentary) passivity of so many football fans’ matchdays these days what most of us really want?
It was salutary to hear from German fans visiting PL clubs’ for the away group matches how shocked they were by the silence in the English stadiums amongst the massed ranks of the bourgeoisie who could afford our ticket prices.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that our football baby got thrown out with the post-Hillsborough bathwater. One can understand how. But that should not prevent us from seeking to reclaim the key relationships to the game which sustained so many ‘ordinary’ people for so many generations.
It doesn’t have to be like this.
THIS WEEK’S ARTICLES:
KEIR RADNEDGE: A EURO FOR EUROPE
MOHAMMED HANZAB (ICSS): EDUCATING TO SAFEGUARD THE INTEGRITY OF SPORT
DELROY ALEXANDER: GREATER MORAL NOT TECHNICAL GUIDANCE NEEDED
ROGAN TAYLOR: MORE THAN A GREAT FOOTBALLER
Dr Rogan Taylor is the Director of the Football Industry Group at the University of Liverpool. He is also a writer and broadcaster, with five football books and numerous radio and TV contributions. He has acted as a special adviser to The FA, The Premier League and Premier League Clubs.
The views of our regular columnists are independent, and as such do not represent those of Leaders in Football.