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How does the Bundesliga attract the most soccer fans in Europe?

Bayer 04 Leverkusen's Admir Mehmedi and Hakan Calhanoglu (10) celebrate with fans a 1-0 Bundesliga league game victory over SV Darmstadt 98 in May 2016. (Photo: Joerg Schueler

Bayer 04 Leverkusen’s Admir Mehmedi and Hakan Calhanoglu (10) celebrate with fans a 1-0 Bundesliga league game victory over SV Darmstadt 98 in May 2016. (Photo: Joerg Schueler)

It may come as a surprise to many soccer fans, but the best-attended soccer league in the world isn’t the English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, or the Italian league. It’s the German Bundesliga.

In 2015-2016 the Bundesliga averaged over 43,300 fans per game. It outdrew the Premier League by almost 7,000 fans per game. The only other professional sports league in the world that topped the Bundesliga was the American NFL football league which averaged 68,400 fans last season.

How does the Bundesliga hold such a distinction? It’s a combination of factors which include the league’s style of play and a conscious decision by the team owners to treat its passionate fans, and the sport, with respect.

German Soccer Respects All Fans

As Bundesliga CEO Christian Seifert explains: “Soccer is a sport for all parts of the society [in Germany]. No matter if you are top manager businessman who can afford seats for thousands of dollars a year, but also for ten or twelve-year-old who are just standing there in the terraces.”

The best way that the Bundesliga teams have respected their fans is through affordable ticket prices. Most teams offer tickets for as little as 12 euros a game. German fans are known for their vigorous and loyal support for their teams, and they reward their squads by bringing an intense, emotional and loud fan experience to most games.

German stadiums also have standing terraces, which have been banned in other countries, for their hardcore supporters and encourage their fans to enjoy beers at the game as well.

There is no league-wide policy about ticket prices, but most Bundesliga clubs have adopted a fan-first philosophy.

“All people should be able to afford to go to the game,” explains Bundesliga CEO Seifert.

“[At Bayer Leverkusen] you pay 180 euros for the season,” said Bayer04 Leverkusen Managing Director Michael Schade. “In England, you pay 150 euros for one game.”

“Just to give you an example,” Schade continued, “If I had to change the prices for a season ticket by ten Euros then I’ll have a lot of criticism. In England, they would laugh.”

But the Leverkusen Managing Director explains that although Bundesliga teams make less money at the gate compared to other European leagues, in the end, it is worth it.

”The largest stadium in the Bundesliga is Borussia Dortmund, and its passionate fans deliver an amazing spectacle week in and week out,” exclaimed Schade. “The best all over is Dortmund. Nothing is comparable with Dortmund. 85,000 people getting crazy. It’s unbelievable. If you go into that stadium as the other team, you get afraid.”

Although Dortmund sells out its stadium, the team ends up grossing up to 75 million euros less each season than Manchester United (which has a comparably sized stadium) because of the ticket prices.

“That’s the German way of thinking. I think that’s fine,” explains Schade. “The German fans have a long tradition of living for their clubs. I personally admire our young fans. They are spending a lot of money and a lot of time following our team.”

Bundesliga’s Style of Play

Many in Germany also believe that the league offers the best example of how soccer should be played.

The Bundesliga has developed an attractive style of the game which incorporates the tactics and skills of the Italian and Spanish leagues with the physicality of the English league. Last year the Bundesliga led all European leagues averaging just over 2.8 goals scored per match.

It’s no secret that despite its domestic success the Bundesliga still attracts much less attention internationally compared to other European leagues. But with players like Mexican star Chicharito and the continued success of Bayern Munich year after year the outlook for the international growth of the Bundesliga is strong.

As Bundesliga CEO Christian Seifert sums up: “It’s part of the DNA of the Bundesliga. We want to deliver soccer as it’s meant to be.”

Fri 18 Nov, 2016
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