How a Bundesliga Overhaul Helped Germany Become World Champions
The German national football team made a quarter-final exit from the 1998 World Cup and then were knocked out of the 2000 Euros in the group stage, after failing to win a single match.
Two decades later, Die Mannschaft go into this summer’s FIFA World Cup as the defending champions.
The transformation wasn't overnight and it definitely wasn’t by chance.
The Quint travelled to Germany to trace the revolution, and country’s domestic football league, the Bundesliga, gave us most of the answers.
Fans Come First
First learning – it is the Bundesliga, not the English Premier League or the Spanish La Liga that holds the record for the most average attendance across the season. Imagine that! Teams like Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich in fact average almost 80,000 spectators a game… and I didn’t have to look too far to figure out just why.
The 50+1 rule.
In Germany, every football club’s majority stakeholder is the fan. No German club is allowed to sell more than 49 percent of its stake to an outsider, meaning the majority shares stay with the club and by extension, with it’s voting fans which only helps maintain the bond between the club and its followers.
Also, it helps keep ticket prices as low as 11 euros, which you will find nowhere else in Europe.
The majority of the club, 51 percent, has to belong to the members. Meaning that all the decision making is with the members, the fans. You can get a membership basically by paying an annual fee. So if someone like an Abramovich (Chelsea’s owner), they can come, they can invest in the club but they can never be the majority owner and therefore never have the full decision making in their control.Maurice Goerges, Manager Marketing & Sales Asia Pacific - Bundesliga
Focus on Youth
And while the fans remain loyal, the quality of football across the Bundesliga also ensures the numbers in the stands never dwindle. One major factor that contributors to this, are the goals. The 16 clubs in the Bundesliga put together have consistently scored more goals in the last 55 seasons than any other league in Europe.
What also works for these clubs is that they are comfortable in their identity. They don’t want to break the bank and buy one expensive player. Rather, most of the league comprises of German players who have been groomed in the youth academies of Bundesliga clubs.
Each of the 32 clubs in Germany’s top two divisions have world-class youth academies with top quality facilities, coaches and training grounds. In fact, a youth academy is a compulsory licensing criteria in Germany with clubs spending over 1.39 billion euros on the youth system since 2002.
The decision to do so was borne out of compulsion back in 2000 when the German national team made a first round exit from the Euros.
In 2000, German football was really at the bottom. The German national team went out of the Euros. We had more than 60 percent foreign players in our league. The average age of a national player was almost 30 so the German FA said we have to change something. That was the birth of the youth academies in 2001.Maurice Goerges, Manager Marketing & Sales Asia Pacific - Bundesliga
Two decades town the line, the average age of a contracted German player has dropped from 30 to 24 with stars like Mats Hummels, Mesut Ozil, Manuel Neuer, Marco Reus, Mario Gomez all owing their careers to the solid base German football has formed over the years.
These are also the very men who go into this June’s World Cup with the hopes of a nation that has a bond with football like no other.
(In India, you can watch the Bundesliga every weekend on Star Sports Select)
(The Quint is now on WhatsApp. To receive handpicked stories on topics you care about, subscribe to our WhatsApp services. Just go to TheQuint.com/WhatsApp and hit Send.)