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What makes German football so different?

Tuesday 10th January 2017
In a world of inflated transfer fees, astronomical wages and some of the highest ticket prices in Europe it is not hard to understand why that, over the past few years, the notion that football in the UK is slowly drifting away from it's humble, working class background has been mentioned more and more.

The big business and lucrative deals the Premier League attracts mean that English football is still, in financial terms anyway, the biggest player in European football, however has this come at the expense of some core values? And are fans in England being unfairly exploited? A look at the continent could be the answer. The Bundesliga is widely renowned as one of the best leagues in European, if not world, football, but what exactly makes it so different from the Premier League?

One of the key criticisms of the Premier League and English clubs recently has been the lack of thought for fans of the game. Fans are becoming disillusioned by clubs  being run in the American fashion of business first, tradition second. In Germany, however, this is not the case. Thanks to the '50 + 1 rule'  every club in Germany is fan orientated and fans have a say in the day to day runnings of the club. While this rule has been called into question with the emergence of RB Leipzig, it is still a statute in the German Football League which must be adhered to before a club is granted a license to play professional football. Clubs generate income through a variety of sponsors opposed to lucrative takeover deals which has become the norm in England. This not only gives fans an important role but also helps to ensure financial stability meaning fewer cases of insolvency.

Ticket prices in Germany also reflect fan fairness. The average season ticket price in the Bundesliga this season is around the 180 Euro mark, meaning that fans pay on average just 11 euros per game to support their team. This is something fans in England can only dream of, with many tickets in League One and Two costing more. These cheap ticket prices mean that fans fill stadiums even when games are being televised live (all Bundesliga games in Germany are shown live, no matter what time they kick off), meaning a better atmosphere and a bigger home advantage. In addition to the cheap prices, referees in Germany also receive free football tickets. This perk contributes to the fact that Germany has more qualified referees than England, helping to allow the game to continue to flourish at grassroots level.

This high participation rate in grassroots football helps the country to develop high quality players. Germany always seem to have a strong side, and it is no fluke. The country has the highest number of qualified coaches in Europe, ensuring that grassroots players receive high level coaching from a young age. The coaching structure is also centralised in Germany, meaning that coaches are taught to coach players in exactly the same way as the national team trainer, Jogi Low. This means that all players can play in the same system without having to be re-taught, a criticism all too often heard of the English national team. Players are also given time to develop and are not hounded when they make mistakes in Germany, this eases the pressure on young players compared to the stresses put on them in England.

The prices of German players are also not over inflated when two clubs deal with each other. In England, young English talent is often very expensive – look at the prices being talked about for Dele Alli for example – whereas in Germany fair and sensible prices are paid. This again helps to ease the pressure on big players, leading to better performances. Players are raised through the age group teams (u20, 21, 23) and then introduced into first teams, meaning they are given time to properly develop before being thrust into the public eye, whereas in England players are all too often hyped up too early in their careers and then hung out to dry when they inevitably make mistakes.

While restructuring English football seems unlikely, the success of the German Football Association cannot be overlooked.  Through better fan engagement and strict rules governing the use and development of youth players, Germany turned themselves from Euro 2000 embarrassments into 2014 world champions, so there is still hope for England to forget what happened in the summer...
Stephen Parkinson
23 year old Football fan, player and referee. Specialising in the Bundesliga since having lived in Leipzig for 2 years.

Total articles: 14

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