'Football is more than a business' - Dortmund chief Watzke takes aim at oligarch-owned EPL teams

The BVB director believes English football is losing its soul due to the influx of overseas benefactors, while praising the Germans' insistence on cheap tickets and standing areas
Hans-Joachim Watzke has accused foreign-owned Premier League clubs of valuing business over football, as Borussia Dortmund prepare to face Manchester City in the Champions League on Tuesday.

German football rules stipulate that at least 50% of a Bundesliga club must be owned by its members, whilst having the backing of one vote of a holding company, therefore ruling out the possibility of overseas takeovers.

Bayer Leverkusen, Wolfsburg and Hoffenheim are exceptions to the '50 plus one' model due to their long-standing affiliations with their present owners, but the legislation was recently challenged by Hannover president Martin Kind.

"I was the biggest opponent of changing the rule," Watzke told The Guardian.

"Germans want to have that sense of belonging. When you give [the supporters] the feeling that they are your customers, you have lost.

"In Germany, we want everybody to feel it is their club, and that is really important."

Bar the three clubs who abstain from the rule and Kind's vote, the other 32 clubs in the German Football League agreed to keep the '50 plus one' model, which has been in existence since the turn of the millennium.

Twenty-five thousand Dortmund fans pay just €190 [£154] for a season ticket in the affectionately-named Yellow Wall standing area in the south stand of the Signal Iduna Park, and Watzke believes putting the fans first is vital to the successful running of the club.

"In former times in England I think the relationship between the club and supporters was very strong," Watzke added.

"Our people come to the stadium like they are going to their family. Here, the supporters say: it's ours, it's my club.

"Here, it is our way to have cheap tickets, so young people can come. We would make €5m [£4m] 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. Everybody told me you cannot play in the Champions League against clubs like Manchester, they have more money.

"We are trying to do it ourselves, in our way. There are a lot of ways to Rome. Chelsea have won the Champions League, but what happens after [Roman] Abramovich?"

Dortmund drew 1-1 with Bayern Munich on Saturday which keeps the Bavarians 11 points clear of the reigning champions - and Watzke admits his side's rivals are runaway leaders.

"Bayern are unstoppable this season," he told Bild. "You would have to hope that they go through a soft patch, but this is not very likely."