In the five years since separating from the German football federation, the biggest achievement of the Bundesliga perhaps is becoming a family entertainment option from being a male thing.
“It used to be a working class enjoyment area,” Joerg Daubitzer, commercial director, DFL Deutsche Fussball Liga GmbH, said. “Now, everybody wants to and can be a part of it. From 40 euros to 400, season tickets of all denominations can be found. Bundesliga is now available to all,” he said.
The league has also been able to attract women, still an unheard of phenomenon back home. The average attendance of 36,900 last season was more than England, Italy and Spain. Findings of a survey done by the DFL show that 98 per cent of Germans know about the Bundesliga and it has a greater following than the Champions League.
Football, as is evident here during the World Cup, is often a day-long source of enjoyment here. The infrastructure around stadiums have been upgraded, Bundesliga communications officer Christian Pfennig said, with the 36 professional clubs spending close to 1.8 billion euros.
“There are children’s gardens where your little ones are looked after while you enjoy football. Every stadium has restaurants and bars. You can also see highlights of other games on the giant screen instead of having to drive at 200kmph from the stadium to catch it at home. Small points like these make up the right mixture,” Daubitzer said.
While it is largely true that the World Cup and its requirement that all match venues had to be ready one year ahead helped Germany get the maximum number of most modern stadiums in Europe, some, like Bayern Munich wanted to do it anyway.
“The Olympic Stadium in Munich is a great venue but a multi-event stadium. Bayern thought they needed a football stadium. In such cases, the government gives land at a cheaper price and provides allied infrastructure like extending the tube and train services. Money for the building has to be generated by the clubs though soft loans are available,” Daubitzer said.
Indian clubs used to depending on the government and then behaving as if they own stadia, would find such a prospect not worthy of consideration. And that is why we have to live with archaic arenas like the Cooperage and the Yuba Bharati Krirangan. All venues here have special arrangements for the physically challenged and it is a common sight during the World Cup to see men and women in wheelchairs enjoying a game of football. Try doing that at the Krirangan which hosts the Asian Youth Championship this year!
It is inevitable that everything about football in Germany would be so different from what it is in India but that doesn’t make the differences any less stark when pointed out. The facilities at Bergish Gladbach, a team in Division III of German football, look seven-star when compared to those at any top Indian club.
The lack of will to implement policies too seem glaring. All Bundesliga clubs must run a special junior programme where children aged 11 and above are enrolled. The clubs fund this programme and also take care of the kids’ education “so they don’t stop at just football. Bastian Schweinsteiger, Phillip Lahm and Owen Hargreaves are products of this system at Bayern Munich.
The All India Football Federation made junior teams a necessary pre-requisite for participation in the National League, now 10 editions old. The condition is either ignored or when the AIFF does hold a junior league, clubs simply hire players and disband teams soon after.
Erik Lorenz, who looks after new business at the League, said having set their house in order over the past five years, the Bundesliga is now targeting foreign markets. “India, North America and Africa are key areas and we have already spoken those who market the sport in India,” he said.
None of that is likely to change the mindsets of those who run clubs and the federation in India though.