Goal.com founder and president Gianluigi Longinotti-Buitoni caught up with Christian Seifert of the Germany Football League, and he had some fascinating things to say about the burgeoning Bundesliga.
Christian Seifert: Well, first of all I think it's part of the German mentality only to spend what you have and that helps of course. On the other hand it is well known that we have one of the best licencing systems in the world. We have a system where each club has to prove that they can afford to play a league season and those two things - the licencing system and also the German mentality - help to achieve this goal.
Goal.com: The Bundesliga has the highest match attendance in Europe. How did you achieve that?
Seifert: Most of all because the games are attractive. A former national coach of the German team in 1954 who won the World Cup said: "You know people come to the stadium? Because they don't know how the game ends!" And the Bundesliga is the most unpredictable league, where a lot of decisions are made at the end of the season and each team can beat the other. So this, of course, makes the games attractive.
On the other hand, we have since the 2006 World Cup the most modern stadium infrastructure, and we have, relative to other leagues, very low ticket prices, making it affordable. A lot of clubs stopped their season ticket sales so that lots of families, fans, kids can see the team during one season and if you add all t hose factors, that is maybe the explanation for our high match attendances.
Goal.com: It is very interesting to know that the majority of clubs are owned by the fans. Why is that, and what are the advantages of that ownership?
Seifert: In Germany it's forbidden to own more than 50 per cent of a club. We have a rule in the stautes of the league that 50 plus one vote have to be owned by the original organisation that founds that club. So you could say by the fans. This rule has been in Germany forever. A lot of people say right now that it is an advantage. A few months or years ago people said it was a disadvantage because we don't get money and we don't get investors and whatever. But right now people see it as an advantage. Maybe some day the times will change again and we will look at it like it is a disadvantage.
Today we can sya that 35 of the 36 clubs in the Bundesliga One and Two said that they want to go on with that rule. Therefore you make sure that the clubs stay loyal to their roots in the area or in the city where it comes from and maybe this is also part of the success of the Bundesliga.
Goal.com: During the World Cup we all admired the multi-culturalism of the national team. Do you think that this is the future for German and European football?
Seifert: Well the German national team today reflects the society of Germany. It's a multi-cultural society where people come to, where people live, where people love to be, and the national team as you see it is very different compared to former days. In 1998 all players who played for Germany had German parents. Right now we have a lot of players with migration backgrounds. Nevertheless they play for Germany and they play very well. This will not change any more in the future because German society will not change any more. So the German national team right now is proof of the success of the German national model.
Goal.com: The youth of the national team impressed the world during the World Cup. Can you speak about your youth programme and why it has been so successful?
Seifert: The national team today is, at less than 25 years, the youngest team that has ever played for Germany in a World Cup and, as far as I am informed, the youngest team in the whole World Cup in 2010. In 2002-03, for the first time, running a youth academy became an obligation for a club if they want to play Bundesliga One or Bundesliga Two. Since then more than half a billion euros were invested by the clubs of Bundesliga One and Two and right now you see players like Manuel Neuer and Sami Khedira and Mesut Oezil. They are 20, 21, 22 years old and if you look back a little bit then this is the first generation which started in those youth academies going through all the levels.
Khedira¦ Another German youth success story
In these youth academies you have to have a certain number of teams, you have to have a certain number of coaches who are educated, who have a coaching licence, and it starts with teams under 12. This is the first team you have to run if you run a youth academy and all these players went to all these under 12, under 13, under 14 teams and for that reason the Bundesliga and the managers who run these academies can be very proud, but also we are really looking forward because a lot of players could follow in the next years.
Goal.com: Unlike the EPL, La Liga and Serie A, the Bundesliga has only one internationally recognised team - Bayern Munich. Why is that, and how can you change this?
Seifert: First of all Bayern Munich have done a great job. They recognised much earlier than others that it is important to establish the brand outside of Germany. In each decade, no matter if we talk of the 70s, 80s, 90s or in the year 2000, we had other teams. Like in the 70s for instance Borussia Moenchengladbach, or in the 80s it was Koeln, and all of them had great players and great teams but no one treated it the way Bayern Munich have done.
It is a disadvantage for the Bundesliga that we do not have the big two or threee like the other leagues you mentioned, but on the other hand, especially in the last years, teams like Werder Bremen or Schalke have made it in a better way. But what you talk about is really a way to improve the global presence of the Bundesliga, to show the world that we have more than only one team. Besides that, Bayern Munich is of course the greatest club in Germany.
Goal.com: Despite your outstanding performances during the World Cup, the strength of your business model and the youth of your team, you still have to achieve the international recognition of the EPL, La Liga and Serie A. Why do you think there is this difference and what can you do to change it?
Seifert: As you may know, the Bundesliga is the league with the lowest amount of debt, and when you talk about the leagues in fact you mean 10 or 12 clubs out of these leagues who made an impression and who made an image worldwide. And if you look at the debt levels of these teams then you get the feeling that worldwide recognition and worldwide awareness correlate a little bit with the willingess to build a lot of debt. And as I said, that is not really in the German mentality and it is not really in the German culture to pay €100 million for one player.
A lot of these teams are investing a lot of money for single players. Some of them are financed by debt - just by that. And of course, as I said, this is not really in the German business model. Therefore the World Cup in my opinion is a very, very good platform to show that the Bundesliga hasn't to hide before the other leagues. We were the league with the second most players in the World Cup from the very beginning. As many as 78 players came out of the Bundesliga, 23 of them were German and 55 were others. In the semi-finals and the quarter-finals the Bundesliga was the league with the most players at the World Cup. So hopefully that platform helps a little bit for the fans all over the world to change their minds about the Bundesliga.
You can watch the full interview here.