Borussia Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke says Manchester City are the perfect example of the English game losing its soul. He makes some valid points.
The main difference between ownership in the Bundesliga and ownership in England is that German clubs have to allow members to control at least 51 per cent of the club. In England, any individual can come in with a vast quantity of wealth and buy any club they please.
Manchester City are owned by the Abu Dhabi Investment Group which is funded by Sheikh Mansour and the sole reason for City’s elevated status in the English game. Watzke has suggested this, and similar ownerships in England, are destroying the very essence of what English football is meant to be about.
“I am a little bit romantic, and that is not romantic. In England people seem not to be interested in this - at Liverpool they are fine for the club to belong to an American. But the German is romantic: when there is a club, he wants to have the feeling it is my club, not the club of Qatar or Abu Dhabi,” Watzke told the Guardian newspaper.
He makes a very good point in the respect that as football clubs in England are bought for business purposes, fans almost become commodities, customers to their football club which results in a loss of identity compared to football through the 50s, 60s, 70s when quite often local members of communities would be turning out to represent their side.
He also blames the business like approach for causing the elevation in ticket prices for English games. For example, Arsenal fans are paying stupidly high prices for match day tickets and season tickets, more than they have ever paid to turn out and support their club.
“Here, it is our way to have cheap tickets, so young people can come. We would make 5 million euros more a season if we had seats, but there was no question to do it, because it is our culture. In England it is a lot more expensive. Football is more than a business,” Watzke added.
Ticket prices are so high because the parties using clubs as businesses will take advantage of the loyalty and passion of fans for financial gain. Ticket prices could double what they already are in England and fans love the game so much, they would still pay to go and watch their team play.
Watzke’s comments need to be read and listened to. Borussia Dortmund almost went bust in 2005 and Watzke has come in and done a great job turning the club into one of the strongest models of how to run a side across Europe. The Bundesliga is the most watched league in Europe with an average attendance of over 45,000 and a large part of that could be to do with the identity which has been retained in German football.
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image: © Marco Verch