Experts argue whether the Bundesliga is going to lose its competitiveness due to the Premier League’s astronomical television deal and the resulting transfer frenzy.
The recent transfer period has been an especially disquieting time for Bundesliga coaches as the Premier League bought players from the German league for €206.5mio – a sum greater than the spending within the last 7 years combined. Amongst the top transfers were Son (€30mio, Tottenham Hotspurs), Roberto Firmino (€41mio, Liverpool) and Kevin De Bruyne (€80mio, Manchester City).
Even though €206.5mio seems already like a big deal, some consider the recent spending as only the foretaste of what can happen next season when the Premier League has full access to the 6.9 billion Euros out of its three-year TV deal.
Football – a pure managerial game?
Always crazier transfer fees always higher salaries – in the eyes of experts and fans alike, football has become a gigantic business and this development is reinforced by the mentioned astronomical sums from the new TV deal that the English football clubs will receive as of 2016.
Robin Dutt, sporting director of VfB Stuttgart, commented critically: “The greed is slowly eroding our football as it is no longer a game based on training and tactical exercises, but rather a pure managerial game” (translated from German). According to him, there is an urge for caps on both transfer fees and salaries. Otherwise “the bubble will burst”.
Not afraid of England
On the other hand, FSV Mainz manager Christian Heidel doesn’t agree with Dutt’s point of view: “It is not as if 50% of all Bundesliga players will transfer to the Premier League. I am not afraid of England. It has to be the goal to bring a lot of money from England to Germany, thereby ensuring the competitiveness”.
In the same way, the German Football League (DFL) doesn’t yet recognize a general threat to the majority of clubs. The Chairman of the Board, Christian Seifert, said that it is too early for panicking. He admits that it might become more challenging to keep the good players in the teams. However, he highlighted as well the fact that the Premier League, as the Bundesliga, only has 3 fixed starters in the Champions League and that talented players will want to compete in the tournament. Further, not every player will be able to play in the Premier League as team sizes are restricted. Today, out of the 548 professionals of the Premier League, nearly 70% come from foreign countries.
Premier League last gets more than FC Bayern
Nevertheless, Bayern Munich’s board member Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has indeed first initiated the debate, as he warned that the English teams are rapidly surpassing the Bundesliga in terms of TV money, marketing and transfer activities. He urges the DFL to closely look at this in order not to fall behind.
Last season every Bundesliga team received on average €32.2mio; each club from the Premier League got €108.4mio. Even the team finishing last in the Premier League, Queens Park Rangers, was with €86.8mio better off than the FC Bayern Munich (€50.6mio). And this gap is still growing. The Bundesliga would be glad if it could pass with its next TV contract – valid from 2017/2018 – the magical revenue-barrier of 1 billion Euros. This sounds like peanuts compared with the 6.9 billion Euros of the Premier League.
“There will be shifts,” predicted sporting director Jörg Schmadtke who made as well clear that now more than ever the clubs as well as the players need to pay attention to not only respond to the call from money.
For Frankfurt’s chairman Heribert Bruchhagen, the British money will have been distributed within the next two or three years. He predicts that afterwards prices for players as well as salaries will continue to rise as these funds will have flown back into the market and new desires will awake.
The question that remains is what the German clubs will do with the money from the Premier League. One of the options is to try to adequately replace their stars with other high-profile players. A club that adopted this practice is Wolfsburg which seems to have done a decent job signing a great replacement (Julian Draxler) for Kevin De Bruyne, while keeping around €40mio in its bank. Yet this is rather unlikely scenario for other clubs. Hoffenheim will need a lot of luck to scout another Firmino from Brazil as well as Augsburg to find another great talent like Baba.
It’s creativity that counts now.