In Germany, they’ve been doing things right in their professional football setup for many years now. And it’s a quite simple approach they have – the match-going fan is looked after.
Yes, there have been some concerns raised this season regarding fixtures being moved for TV scheduling reasons – more on that later – but, in general, there’s not much the Bundesliga has done wrong as an organisation in many, many years.
Since 2004, German football’s top-flight has had the highest average attendances out of all of the European leagues. This statistic gives some weight to the oft-mentioned case that the Bundesliga is the most fan-friendly league in the world.
So, what is involved in making the matchday experience “fan friendly”?
It seems to be a mixture of much of the following – hugely impressive stadia nationwide, top-level football to rival that of Europe’s other top leagues (England, Spain, Italy, France), affordable ticket prices, and an atmosphere to match anywhere else on the continent.
Regarding the venues, Germany invested hugely in the country’s stadia ahead of its hosting of the 2006 World Cup finals. Some space-aged, sleek stadiums were built in preparation for the tournament and they’ve been put to good use ever since.
The construction of such venues also means that the Bundesliga boasts the highest average stadium capacity in Europe now as well at 47,000.
Ticket prices are always at a reasonable level too. The league remains committed to not pricing the average fan out of attending the game. In some cases, as reported on Bundesliga.com, German football fans can attend all of their side’s home fixtures “for as little as €183 per season on average.”
That works out to be approximately €80 less than what fans would have to pay in Spain or Italy, “and a third of what supporters are expected to pay in England.”
In September 2018, it was revealed in a study on Sponsors.de that the average Bundesliga ticket prices had fallen for the first time in five years.
As a result, the 2018/19 ticket prices in the top tier of German football were less than what they cost during the 2015/16 season.
According to the study, the cheapest Bundesliga ticket is €15.20 – down from €15.80 in 2017/18. The most expensive tickets in the division have also dropped in price, from €72.90 to €70.60.
The Premier League’s average ticket price this season was £31 which equates to almost €36.
Fortuna Dusseldorf charged just €8 for their cheapest match tickets this season. In fact, a season ticket would only cost you €112 at the newly-promoted club who are comfortably sitting in tenth-place as the campaign draws to a close.
Interestingly, Sponsors.de found that “15 of the current 18 Bundesliga clubs either lowered or froze their rates, with the most expensive day out being at Hertha Berlin, who charge as much as €99 for a matchday experience. However, they were also one of five clubs to lower their cheapest season ticket price, which now stands at €199 – down 18 per cent on last year.”
Fan engagement is a huge part of what the Bundesliga is doing right. German clubs don’t just look after their supporters when it comes to ticket prices.
As highlighted on Bundesliga.com, “Every team holds weekly public training sessions, and they are renowned for embracing local events, such as Oktoberfest for Bayern and Karneval for Cologne. The Bavarian giants have a policy of sending players out to meet with fan clubs once a year, while in general ticket prices include the cost of travel to and from the ground. This is, after all, the country of the “50+1” rule, which ensures that supporters have some say in how their club is run.”
Open training sessions are a common occurrence for all clubs’ fans, as well as meet-and-greet events and fan evenings for local supporters to get a glimpse of their team’s heroes.
It hasn’t all been plain sailing, though.
The Bundesliga sold TV rights in the 2017/18 season, entitling a broadcaster to show five live Monday night games per season.
German supporters complained that the new arrangement caused too much disruption to their working week because of the need to travel at unsociable hours to attend their team’s away games on a Monday night. Tennis balls were thrown onto the pitch by Eintracht Frankfurt fans at RB Leipzig, Dortmund fans boycotted their Monday night game at Augsburg, while many banners were also made and displayed, highlighting fans’ disgust at the matter.
They won, as well.
The German Football Association (DFB) announced in November that they would not continue with Monday night football in the Bundesliga once the current TV broadcast rights deal had been honoured. That means that from the 2021/22 season onwards, there will not be any more Monday night games in Germany’s top division.
Ultimately, this points to a line of communication between the fans and the DFB which has not been broken, despite the ill-feeling developed by the Monday night football deal. The fans spoke and the DFB were made to listen. And they heard what the supporters had to say. A change was agreed upon and that should keep most people in German football happy, showing that when you buy your ticket, you don’t have to be just a statistic.
German football is winning in many ways. If it keeps listening to its fans it will never really lose.