From media facilities to the mascots and everything in between, the Bundesliga is a slick operation centred around meticulous attention to detail. FourFourTwo was given a unique opportunity to experience it all…
Tor. It’s a German word for goal, among other translations, and represents a term used more frequently at Bundesliga matches than any other European league.
We just run our race against ourselves. We don’t race against the Premier League.
In all but four seasons since it was launched back in 1963, including the past 25 straight, the Bundesliga has produced more goals on average than anywhere else on the continent.
Considering goals are the principal reason fans watch football it’s an impressive statistic, and the league certainly lived up to its billing in the live games FourFourTwo witnessed, but more of that later.
The English Premier League dominates the football landscape the world over, with its ever-increasing billions from television deals and its ability to use that money to snap up the majority of the world’s best talents ensuring it will likely retain that position for some time.
But the German competition is on the rise and has its own, clearly-defined ways of appealing to its target audience.
Keeping prices in check
The average ticket price to attend a Bundesliga game is just €14 (S$21.50), considerably cheaper than the major leagues in Italy (€19), Spain (€34) and England (€39).
Food and beverage prices are also kept low. Borussia Dortmund, for example, have resisted repeated calls to raise their beer and merchandise prices in recent years.
They have also turned down much larger international brewing companies to maintain a relationship with Dortmund brewer Brinkhoff, a deal which currently runs through to 2020.
Fans are the core ingredient and no attempts are being made to compete with or close the gap on the EPL behemoth.
“This isn’t part of our road map,” Borussia Dortmund’s marketing and sales director Carsten Cramer explains.
“We just run our race against ourselves. We don’t race against the Premier League.
“We are very convinced that you won’t find any other place where you will experience football in such an intense and emotional way."
That was the key objective of FourFourTwo’s journey to Germany – to get a full appreciation of the Bundesliga at all levels.
At the end a trip that featured three live matches, two stadium tours and a host of activities in between, it was impossible not to be impressed by the league’s approach.
A focus on youth
It began with a presentation at Bundesliga headquarters in Frankfurt, where the league’s road map and many accomplishments are laid out, before a trip to Eintracht Frankfurt’s youth academy.
The German academy system is the key element that led to the country’s stunning triumph at the 2014 World Cup.
A fiercely proud sporting nation, German football was in a rut at the turn of the millennium, slipping from World Champions in 1990 to a disappointing seventh place eight years later.
It would get much worse at Euro 2000, with Die Mannschaft finishing 14th out of the 16 teams that took part, with just one draw and two defeats in its three group games. It was clear something needed to change and the German federation was quick to act.
The principle focus became youth development, with every Bundesliga side required to have its own youth academy or its licence would be revoked.
So began a revolution that would culminate in a sublimely talented team crushing Brazilian hearts in that 7-1 World Cup semi-final demolition, before 22-year-old Mario Gotze scored the winning goal in extra-time against Argentina in the final.
Among the core of that side, Thomas Muller, Philipp Lahm and Toni Kroos were graduates of Bayern Munich’s youth academy, while Mesut Ozil (Schalke), Gotze (Borussia Dortmund) and Manuel Neuer (Schalke) were also products of the new regime.
Liverpool’s Emre Can is just one in a long line of talented youngsters to have progressed through Frankfurt’s academy and into the professional ranks.