13 April 2010


I have often admired the Bundesliga.  I think it has its fair share of stylish football, and there’s always someone new to challenge Bayern’s hegemony.  Mostly though, I’ve admired the large and passionate crowds every time I flip over to a Bundesliga match.  The Dortmund games, regardless of their position in the table, always have a hugely impressive atmosphere. 

Today there was a great article in the Guardian about the Bundesliga’s success.  It’s here:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2010/apr/11/bundesliga-premier-league.  It got me thinking about (again) the future of American soccer. 

For those of us clamoring for superstars and big club payrolls, I’ve always had a warning:  be careful what you wish for.  Ask yourself, is a $20 million payroll conducive to $25 ticket prices, the average price for an MLS ticket?  I think you can safely assume the answer is “hell no!” 

While there are things I don’t like about MLS, I have always thought that their business model was about right.  In fact, what MLS has is something that seems quaint in this age of credit default swaps, internet bubbles, and football clubs sitting on Himalayan debt repayments, MLS is actually designed to, you know, make what Adam Smith called a “profit”.  And for the fans, we get to see Division 1 professional Soccer at a reasonable price. 

I have always resisted seeing the Premiership as the holy grail for US Soccer.  Let’s face it, the Premiership is huge corporate business.  It’s not fan friendly for the average punter (by and large).  I would be embarrassed to tell you what I paid the last time I saw Arsenal play, to sit high up in the North Stand (ok, it was the North London derby, but still).  It was obscene. 

Here are some facts from the article.  Fact 1:  The Bundesliga has the highest average attendance in Europe.  Fact 2:  the Bundesliga has the lowest average ticket prices of the big 5 in Europe.  Fact 3: Borussia Dortmund, a massive club, still sells game day tickets for about 14 bucks.  Fact 4:  Only one Premiership team is not in debt, while 11 Bundesliga teams last year were in the black. 

I for one like the German model.  The trend in England is higher ticket prices, higher fees to watch on television, clubs increasingly laden with debt, and more corporatized and less passionate game day experiences.  If you don’t have Gol TV, go to a friend’s house and watch a German league game.  The difference is palpable, even through your television set. 

But most importantly for the future of the sport we love in our country, the German model is sustainable.  We don’t have the tradition of baseball here.  We have to offer investors something more than the non-prestige of owning a pro soccer team in North America, we have to offer a shot at making a buck. 

Would love to hear your thoughts.    

Written by:
Leo Glickman

2 comments until now.

Anonymous + April 14, 2010 8:58 AM (#) :

Allez Sankt Pauli and the Bundesliga!m

Anonymous + May 4, 2010 1:29 PM (#) :

i think mls structure now is serving them well (though i hate it) but sooner or later mls has to ask themselves do they still want appeal to soccer moms with fake premiership style club crests going where they can squeeze more dollars in the suburbs and not worry about the product, players or fans. or take that leap of faith and pursue to really be a great league.

i think the only way for that is for MlS to switch structure from single entity to the Fifa standard of pro/reg. (first off im not a euro snob and im not saying this because i love seeing the struggle) i mean australia's a-league is leaving their single entity structure in about 3-5 years in order to appeal to fifa for a world cup bid and improve their ranking in their league, Japan left their single entity in 1994 so when the aussies leave we'll be the only league in the world that thrives on mediorcity. doesnt garber care that everyone sees us as mediocre and that fifa barely cares about us unless we chagne? i think the fifa system will force owners to put a better competitive product (as the cap will allow). of course though we have to wait a couple of years (when USL/NASL clubs stop expanding and maybe pro USSA and PDL clubs get on board). also this will put us a better angle for the WC bid because blatter only favors a country that features this model.