Berlin (AFP) – The Bundesliga has again posted record returns and it’s CEO Christian Seifert believes future growth will only be affected if Bayern Munich’s stranglehold on the German league trophy continues unchecked.
On Thursday, Germany’s 18 top flight clubs posted a revenue total for the 2015/16 season of 3.24 billion euros ($3.4b) for the first time in the Bundesliga’s 54-year history.
The league, founded in 1963, is in rude health on and off the pitch.
It beat Europe’s major leagues for goals scored with an average of 2.9 per game in 2015-16 and this is the 12th straight season it has posted record revenues.
“We’re still the number two league, turnover wise, behind the English Premier League,” Seifert said in a conference call, “and the number six in terms of turnover of all professional sports leagues in the world.”
But compared to England’s Premier League and Spain’s La Liga, the Bundesliga can be accused of being predictable with Bayern currently chasing a fifth straight title.
The Bavarians are by far Germany’s richest club.
In November, they posted a record turnover of 627 million euros for 2015/16, up by more than 100 million euros on the previous year, and well ahead of their rivals.
– Leipzig’s rise –
Seifert says the current form of RB Leipzig, who started their first Bundesliga season with a record 13-match unbeaten run, and Dortmund, the only Bundesliga team to beat Bayern this season, helps freshen interest.
Dortmund were the last club to stop Bayern being crowned German champions when they won back-to-back league titles in 2011 and 2012.
“If Bayern Munich wins the title 10 or 15 times in a row then it will become a problem, but we are not yet in this situation,” he said.
“I think that all other Bundesliga clubs know that they will be able to compete with Bayern Munich, but this is not something the league can influence directly.
“The gap behind Bayern is there, but we see a lot of opportunities for clubs like Dortmund in terms of international and marketing revenues, so I think the gap will close in the next few years.
“One way the clubs can do that is by doing a better job in terms of advertising revenue, playing consistently in the Champions League or to let in investors, which is restricted by the 50+1 rule.”
To keep growing, the Bundesliga wants to expand further into overseas markets, especially Asia.
In November, China and Germany signed a five-year deal to boost cooperation in football after talks between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping, both fans of the game.
Seifert says performances of Bundesliga stars like Gabon’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mexico’s Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez and Japan’s Shinji Kagawa boosts interest in their respective countries.
He also points to Red Bull-backed RB Leipzig, founded in 2009, as an example of how a club can quickly build a strong digital brand during a storming first season in the German league.
– ‘lesson learnt’ –
“What a lesson learnt,” said Seifert.
“There was a lot of discussion about Leipzig at the start, because Red Bull are behind them, they are very young and there were a lot of critics, because they were founded for marketing reasons.
“But people in East Germany are very proud and happy that someone has invested there and they are in the Bundesliga again.
“A lot of people just don’t care which year the club was founded.
“From the very beginning, Leipzig has done something I think is very similar to what we see in the UK, where business and sport are separated.
“It means you can focus on your brand building, although you may not be winning the Champions League.
“Look at the big clubs in the UK who have great brands, yet have won nothing for the last 10 or 20 years.
“They are still good brands, who do well in a digital world at international level.
“It shows you can set up and improve the branding of a football club in a relatively short period of time.”
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