Bundesliga: Worth the hype?

by James Rodgers

Borussia_Dortmund_fansFollowing a breakout season for German football last term and the appointment of the much vaunted tactician Pep Guardiola, all eyes were on Germany’s premier division to see if it could build on its success and stay at the forefront of European football, both domestically and abroad.

Football pundits everywhere waxed lyrical about the approach of the Deutscher Fussball Bund, the ambience and the players as it quickly went from being viewed as unattractive and dull to being the sexiest league in the world.

However, many have been quick to dampen the enthusiasm about the German league. Firstly, the inimitable Jürgen Klopp himself voiced his fear of having “a situation like Scotland with only one team.” Such has been Bayern’s monopoly over the rest of the league in the last 18 months that, that has become a genuine fear for the rest of the competitive sides as for most of the campaign they seemed to be playing in a separate division to the others. “die Roten” broke the record for earliest title win in consecutive years (28th and 27th match days respectively”) and this year have built up a 20 point gap over their nearest rivals.

The signings of Götze last season and Lewandowksi in the summer from recent challengers Borussia Dortmund has done nothing to dispel this image.  However, recently the Bavarian giant’s mortality has been revealed as they suffered a home loss and draw to Augsburg and Hoffenheim and a crushing defeat 3-0 in “der Klassiker” in recent weeks.

Also, if the past is anything to go by then a challenger should rise up soon as the Bundesliga has had one of the most varied top fours in history. Additionally, hooliganism has been highlighted as a major problem within the game as it reached a 12 year high in 2013. The passion which distinguishes the Bundesliga and drives the fans and players can sadly sometimes overspill, and therefore makes it both a great strength and a great weakness.

Unlike in England the fans are treated like part of the club rather than consumers, which is often the case due to the aforementioned 50+1 rule. This fan-centric way of running the club is extremely successful and creates a life-long connection. Examples of how they do this include; fans being allowed to watch every training session, club cemeteries and being involved in lots of community work. Furthermore, the atmosphere at the stadia is utterly fantastic as fans sing fervently throughout the game while the games are always sold out.

One of the factors which may contribute to this is the fact that there are many “safe standing” areas in German stadia, thereby, reducing the price for entry and getting more people into the ground. The ticket prices can vary from €10 upwards which makes it more affordable and accessible to everyone, while the season tickets prices match it – a stark reduction in price compared to the Premier League.

One of the greatest features of German football’s economic climate is that there is zero debt policy. This not only means that the new rules of Financial Fair Play won’t affect them but disastrous predicaments such as Portsmouth’s are entirely avoided. The 50+1 rule has also allowed the DFB to eschew one of the most loathed aspects of the English football, in the majority owners.

There is a much more level playing field in Germany, as there are no Abramovich/Sheikh Mansour-esque characters who can pump money into a club and transform them into a world-class side. Likewise, due to the fans having the majority of shares and a bigger say in their clubs, the ridiculous Cardiff kit and Hull City Tigers debacles would have never occurred.

However, this system is not without its critics, as people argue it restricts them too much financially and that they cannot compete in Europe as a direct result. While, to an extent this is true it also forces teams to focus both on youth and their academies much to the benefit of Joachim Löw. The fact that only 47% of Bundesliga players are foreigners (60.4% in the Premier League) has led to a surplus of quality young players vying for the limited places in “Der Mannschaft’s” World cup squad.

The game in Germany is also one of the most exciting as there as many high scoring matches, giant killings and frequent fluctuations in league form from season to season.

How the Top 10 in the 2002/3 season of the Bundesliga have fared in the last 10 years

How the Top 10 in the 2002/3 season of the Bundesliga have fared in the last 10 years

It is one of the most competitive leagues in the world as anyone can beat anyone and huge leaps can be made in single summers. For example, previous league high flyers Hamburg have dropped from seventh to a relegation scramble this season, while Augsburg and Mainz have been challenging for European football, both rising eight places in a season.

Finally, Hoffenheim jumped from the survival play-off (16th) to becoming the third highest scoring team in the league at ninth and Wolfsburg rose from mid table mediocrity to being level fourth with Leverkusen with only four games to spare.Moreover, they have some of the fiercest derby’s in football with the “Revierderby” pitting “die Königsblauen” (Schalke) against “die Schwarzgelben” (Dortmund), the “Nordderby” between the old giants Werder Bremen and Hamburg, Köln versus Düsseldorf and of course “der Klassiker”.

The League has the most passes per game (short – 754, long – 127), shots per game (21.3) and Goals per game (3.18) in Europe which all complements its recent reputation as one of the most entertaining,  exhilarating and dramatic leagues in world football.

In conclusion, despite Bayern’s continued dominance, “dusel” and superior monetary powers, the Bundesliga continues to be as remarkable as ever. Whoever turns out to be the next challenger to Bayern’s throne is a mystery at the moment; as Schalke’s youth system brims with talent, Dortmund plan a fight back while Wolfsburg, Gladbach, Hoffenheim and Mainz all seem on a perpetual upwards spiral.

However, in this league with its endless unpredictability only one thing is certain…whatever happens will be exciting.

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