Bish's Briefs - Why the Bundesliga is the best league in Europe
Published: 27 Oct 2009 - 07:35:33
Real Madrid's summer spending splurge saw Cristiano Ronaldo, Alvaro Arbeloa and Xabi Alonso leave the Premier League to ply their trade in La Liga, and opened up the great debate over which country has the best league in Europe.
If you judge it on success in Europe, with the concentration of English clubs in the final stages of the continents premiere competition, the Champions League, then you look no further than our very own Premier League.
If it's free-flowing football, with the world's most spell-binding stars (Messi, Ronaldo, Iniesta and Kaka) and a monsoon of goals then it's Spain's La Liga - home to Champions League holders Barcelona.
But if it's a genuine competition played in front of the highest domestic average attendance in European football then look no further than Germany's Bundesliga.
Since 2001-02, co-incidentally the last time a German side reached the final of the Champions League (for the fourth year in a row), five different sides have won the Bundesliga - Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Werder Bremen, Stuttgart and last season, catapulted to success by the league's record strike partnership of Grafite and Edin Dzeko (51 goals between them), Wolfsburg claimed the German title for the first time in their history.
Compare that to the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga or the Netherland's Eredivisie, who in the same time have all seen three winners of their national Championship.
France's La Championnat was as close to a monopoly as you could get until Lauernt Blanc's Bordeaux broke Lyon's seven-year stranglehold on the League title.
The Bundesliga may add to that tally at the end of this season.
Going into this weekend's fixtures, Bayer Leverkusen, marshalled by former Liverpool stalwart Sami Hyppia, are currently sat on top of the table with Hamburg (despite the loss of Nigel de Jong and Vincent Kompany to Manchester City's millions last season) closely on their tails in second, and FC Schalke lying third.
It says a lot for the League that Bayern Munich, with a team containing the most wanted player outside of England, Italy and Spain in Franck Ribery, and his colleagues Arjen Robben, Phillip Lahm, Mark van Bommel and Miroslav Klose, found themselves in fitth place.
If that doesn't do it for you, how about the fact that the Bundesliga carries an average attendance of over 42,000 per game, the highest of any league in Europe?
Buoyed by Germany's immaculate staging of the 2006 World Cup, the country's football fanatics are able to flock en-masse to follow their sides inside some the world's finest football stadiums, such as Munich's shared facility the Allianz Arena, Schalke's Veltins Arena and Berlin's Olympiastadion.
Those fortunate enough to follow Borussia Dortmund, the Champions League winners of 1997, who have had more financial problems than Gordon Brown's economy, watch their football surrounded by almost 80,000 others in an amphitheatre like no other.
Twenty-eight thousand fans pack behind one goal - the German version of Anfield's Kop.
Add to that the fact that you can stand on the world famous NordTribune, a steep bank of fervent terracing that pours noise down onto the pitch below, at a fraction of the price you would pay on these shores, says a lot for the philosophy behind those governing the Bundesliga.
Throughout Germany's top division you can find entrance to most stadiums at a cost of around £10 should you wish to stand.
Campaigners in this country trying to implement 'safe-standing' have often championed the strategy used in Germany, which not also brings more supporters through the gates, but also allows the Bundesliga to house some of the finest atmospheres in Europe.
Perhaps the most telling point in reasoning the more common equality in German football (Bayern Munich stand as the exception as Germany's most popular club by raising substantial income through marketing and sponsorship - think Manchester United's market domination in this country at the end of the last century) is that the television revenue is, in the main, split evenly between all 18 competitors preventing a definitive domination as seen elsewhere around Europe.
Whilst Real Madrid and Barcelona are able to negotiate their own television contracts in Spain, and the Premier League's established elite benefit from a long-standing top-heavy payout, clubs in the Bundseliga are left to battle it out, armed with a similar budget generated through television.
In 2007-08 Bayern Munich earned just three million euros more than the nearest club, Stuttgart.
In Spain and Italy, the top clubs can expect to generate more than ten times what the lower clubs earn through domestic television rights.
So a top domestic Championship which has a varied mix of Champions watched by the highest attendances on the continent, where fans are not made to pay through the nose, where they can stand and sing without being told to sit down by the latest member of the prawn sandwich brigade and where a level playing field is encouraged through near-even televison revenue distribution?
There's more to the Bundesliga than meets the eye.
- Andy Bishop
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