Would the Bundesliga really be better off without Bayern and Dortmund?
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Buradasınız >> Ana Sayfa Haberler & Makaleler Genel Diğer Yazarlar Would the Bundesliga really be better off without Bayern and Dortmund?

Would the Bundesliga really be better off without Bayern and Dortmund?
Bayern Munich
6 December 2013- There are pundits in Germany who have suggested Bayern Munich's league dominance is harming the domestic game. Serious observers have suggested Germany's top two clubs leave the league, but that would do more harm than good. Two club teams that can hold their own against the best in Europe, full stadiums, a renaissance for the Bundesliga brand abroad and a Nationalmannschaft that will go into next year's World Cup as one of the favourites: 2013 has been the best year for German football since Sky invented the game in the early 90s. But all this positivity isn't to the taste of everybody. It was only a matter of time before the Bedenkenträger crew – a group of professional doubters who excel at reading the writing on the wall – started worrying again. They serve up good old Angst, albeit with a twist: after a decade of bemoaning the Bundesliga's poor showings in Europe, the complaint is now that a couple of clubs have become too good.

Felix Magath fired the opening salvo in an interview with Hamburger Morgenpost 10 days ago in which he suggested Germany's top two clubs should play in a European super league. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund were so dominant that "they would have to be excluded from the national competition," he said. "A Europa-Liga would be more honest." First spot in the Bundesliga was "pre-awarded to Bayern", added the 60-year-old, and he worried that "clubs that continuously play in the Champions League have huge advantages". The former Bayern Munich keeper Oliver Kahn took up that baton and ran a bit further. While he acknowledged that there was no objective indication that the hegemony of Bayern and Dortmund was hurting the Bundesliga, he felt that Sepp Herberger's old mantra ("people go to the stadium because they don't know how the match will end") might not ring as true when Pep Guardiola's team go through 39 games without defeat. "In view of that and in recognition of the increasing convergence of Europe, it would be a logical consequence to introduce a Europa-Liga with 34 match days, on which the best 18 teams in Europe would meet," Kahn wrote in Bild.

Banning teams for being too good would be a novel idea. A Bundesliga without the big two would certainly be incredibly competitive and open up the title race to the likes of Gladbach, Hertha BSC, Schalke, while Leverkusen would probably finish second. But at what cost? "The Bundesliga would be the second division, they can't want that," said Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. As the head of the European Club Association, he was firmly against the idea, despite some pressure from foreign colleagues, he added. The Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke told ZDF Sportstudio on Saturday night that he "despaired about the nonsense that is being suggested". Even if Bayern and Dortmund were allowed to play both domestically and in a new super league, matches in the former would be automatically diminished. "The reserves would play there," he said. "We don't want to destroy our football culture".

Thankfully, Magath's and Kahn's harebrained ideas seem to have little backing. Most people understand that a lack of money cannot be helped by killing off your two golden geese or sending them into European exile. But there's an alternative, less radical proposal. The Eintracht Frankfurt boss Heribert Bruchhagen wants a more equitable distribution of the Champions League money. "The spread has become too big. In Europe, the championships are exclusively contested by those who regularly play in the Champions League," he said in an interview with Sportstudio. By way of explanation, he mentioned that Bayern's wage bill was about 50% higher than Hamburg's in 1992 but was now "400% higher" than that of the (sleeping) northern giants.

Bruchhagen has a point. The millions from Uefa do create an imbalance. The Bundesliga distributes domestic TV income by roughly employing a "factor 2" formula. The top team earn €33m (£27.3m), approximately double that of the last one, who earn €16m (£13.3m). Those relatively modest sums are put into the shade by the €65m and €54m Bayern and Dortmund respectively earned from doing well in Europe last season.

Watzke, however, thinks Bruchhagen's analysis is too simplistic. "If he was right, it would have been impossible for us to win the championship in 2011 after not competing in the Champions League for nine years," he said. "Frankfurt were relegated two years ago, now they're in the Europa League. That shows that there is permeability [at the top of the league]."

Watzke added that he wasn't averse to the debate but argued that the "weak don't get strong by making the strong weaker". He argued that making Bayern and Dortmund less competitive by reducing their revenues would make them less competitive internationally and do more harm than good. Everyone benefitted from strong showings in Europe, he explained, due to the increase of the value of foreign TV rights. A perceived lack of domestic competitiveness has certainly not harmed the "product": the German Football League are on course to double international income from €70m to €150m-per-year after 2015. These numbers provide an interesting lesson. Globally, there's more interest in seeing two very strong teams than a more balanced league without sides that can realistically challenge in Europe. In other words, the appeal of a league is largely determined by the excellence of its elite.

This is a particularly strong argument in light of the restricted opportunities for growth domestically. The value of live rights continues to be depressed by the competition commission's ruling that highlights should be freely available and by there being no credible pay TV alternative to Sky Germany. (This season, the 36 teams in the top two divisions will make €560m, that figure will rise to €673m by 2016/17.)

The biggest argument in favour of the status quo is Dortmund's comeback though. They seemed to have blown their chance by squandering €150m from their IPO on players and teetered on the brink of bankruptcy eight years ago. In their absence, other teams won titles – Stuttgart, Wolfsburg – but other heavyweights like Schalke and Werder Bremen regressed while gross underachievement continued at clubs like Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hertha and Köln who should all benefit from a competitive advantage (size and wealth of city) in relation to the Black and Yellows but don't. Instead of dreaming up new ways to cut the top two down in size, Bruchhagen and his ilk would be better served analysing what Dortmund and Bayern have done right in recent years. Hiring the right managers would be a start.

Talking points

• Eight converted penalties marked a new record number for a single match day. Lovers of German stereotypes ("nerves of steel, great technique") will be disappointed to hear that only two of these Elfer were scored by a native and the reputation of Bundesliga keepers, much battered by the increasing proliferation of highlights on international screens, will not have been enhanced by this 100% success rate either. For those who just love knee-jerk over-reactions to essentially meaningless statistical quirks, this column might further offer another simplistic explanation: the flood of penalties could be a direct consequence of the increased level of technical proficiency. The fact that two of the pens were won by players in the process of executing a "Zidane-Pirouette" in the opposition box (Julian Draxler, Kevin Volland) will have to suffice as proof of this shaky thesis.

• "We are not the underdog, we are the lap dog", the Braunschweig coach Torsten Lieberknecht said before the 2-0 defeat at Bayern. Unlike their manager, the 5,000 supporters who came down south on a special train underestimated their own abilities: seven 30 litre barrels of beer on board didn't last every long. "Shock! The beer was finished on the inbound journey," wrote Abendzeitung. Luckily, Bayern asked their sponsors Paulaner to deliver additional provisions, just in time to make the trip to Lower Saxony more bearable.

• The game itself was effectively over after Arjen Robben's first goal inside 111 seconds. The Dutchman scored again before the break and afterwards the league leaders were happy to do next to nothing on their way to yet another win. "We are only humans, not machines," said the keeper Manuel Neuer. Robben, the man in tights, was the star of the show, naturally, despite a less than perfect goal celebration that left him with two holes in his red Strumpfhosen. "Knock on wood, he still hasn't been injured this season," said Pep Guardiola, somewhat incredulously about the 29-year-old's excellent form. The Bayern president Uli Hoeness duly promised that "a solution" would be found in due course in relation to Robben's contract, which expires in 2015. The left-back David Alaba, the club announced on Monday, will stick around until 2018.

• While Dortmund managed a tricky 3-1 win at Mainz and lost Sven Bender, Marco Reus and Nuri Sahin ("We are so nice that we injure ourselves down to Saarbrücken's level," Jürgen Klopp said before the DFB Cup game at the third division side on Tuesday), second-place Leverkusen successfully proved that "Nürnberg is not Manchester," as Gonzalo Castro put it: their 3-0 win over FCN was seen as tiny bit of redemption for the 5-0 defeat by United. "People will still talk about in a few months, if not years," feared the CEO Michael Schade.

• The most entertaining match of the weekend happened at Sinsheim, where Hoffenheim and Werder played out a silly but thrilling 4-4 draw. Hoffenheim have now conceded 34 goals – five more than second-worst Nürnberg – and scored 32; as many as Bayern and only three less than Dortmund, who are the most prolific side. It's the kind of game that will have gone a long way to satisfy their billionaire benefactor Dietmar Hopp's taste for footballing extravagance. But the players and officials would prefer different outcomes. "We are all fed up with such spectacle", said the keeper Koen Casteels. "This kind of game hurts my balls," said the Hoffenheim coach Markus Gisdol. "If we were to score seven, we would concede seven, too". Werder should be even more worried, however, since Robin Dutt seems to be pulling off an impossible trick: he's made a team that was formerly coached by Thomas Schaaf even less dependable at the back.

Results: Wolfsburg 1-1 Hamburg, Bayern Munich 2-0 Braunschweig, Hoffenheim 4-4 Werder, Mainz 1-3 Dortmund, Bayer 3-0 Nürnberg, Hertha 0-0 Augsburg, Schalke 3-0 Stuttgart, Hannover 2-0 Eintracht, Mönchengladbach 1-0 Freiburg.


 Bundesliga  Total  
Bayern München 14 12 2 0 32 7 25 38
Bayer 04 Leverkusen 14 11 1 2 31 14 17 34
Borussia Dortmund 14 10 1 3 35 15 20 31
Borussia Mönchengladbach 14 9 1 4 31 16 15 28
FC Schalke 04 14 7 3 4 29 26 3 24
VfL Wolfsburg 14 7 2 5 20 16 4 23
Hertha BSC 14 5 4 5 20 17 3 19
FSV Mainz 05 14 6 1 7 21 28 -7 19
Hannover 96 14 5 2 7 17 22 -5 17
10  FC Augsburg 14 5 2 7 15 23 -8 17
11  Hamburger SV 14 4 4 6 30 31 -1 16
12  VfB Stuttgart 14 4 4 6 24 26 -2 16
13  SV Werder Bremen 14 4 4 6 19 27 -8 16
14  1899 Hoffenheim 14 3 5 6 32 34 -2 14
15  Eintracht Frankfurt 14 2 5 7 17 26 -9 11
16  SC Freiburg 14 2 5 7 14 25 -11 11
17  FC Nürnberg 14 0 8 6 13 29 -16 8
18  Eintracht Braunschweig 14 2 2 10 8 26 -18 8
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