German Football – 7 Reasons To Love The Bundesliga
August is upon us and the Bundesliga season kicks off again next weekend. To coincide with the return of the beautiful game after the summer break, we take a look at 7 reasons to love the Bundesliga.
Ticket Prices Are Sensible
I remember reading an article a couple of years ago in a British newspaper. I can’t remember which one. Anyway, the gist of the article was that the Premier League was too expensive, and it followed a group of mates in South London who had decided to follow their local club called Dulwich Hamlet instead because they wanted a more affordable, authentic football experience. The team were playing in something like the 7th tier of English football.
One thing which stuck in my mind was that one of the comments was that the season ticket price was much more affordable at £180. “Are you SERIOUS?!” was my first thought. You can buy a season ticket for the top flight of the Bundesliga, the highest tier of German football, for less than that! Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for supporting grass roots football, but given the choice of paying the same for a season ticket to watch a bunch of part-timers in a tiny stadium, versus watching my team play against Bayern or Dortmund seems like a no-brainer to me.
As an example, the current season ticket price for my team, FSV Mainz 05, is €181 for a standing season ticket. Seating tickets start at €422, which, fair enough, is not such a bargain but still reasonable.
Arsenal are the most expensive season tickets in the Premier League, starting at a whopping €981. They’re one of the top teams though, so let’s make a fair comparison. Season tickets at West Ham can be had for €318, with Leicester City coming in at €418. The cheapest season tickets at Bayern Munich start at a mere €140 for a standing ticket and €340 for seats!
It’s the individual match ticket prices where the difference comes in. The cheapest ticket at West Ham is €27.50. It costs me €13.50 for a standing ticket at Mainz. Even at the top teams, if you’re lucky enough to get a ticket you can go and watch Bayern for €15 or Dortmund for €17 (for a standing ticket).
It’s Easy To Get To And From The Stadium
Local public transport in Germany is wonderful. It’s clean, efficient and frequent. When you buy a ticket to a German football match, usually the travel to and from the game, within the zone of the city in which it is taking place, is included in the ticket price. There is no need at all to drive to the stadium. There are even bike stands at many stadia where you can park your bike while you watch the game. Which means of course you can enjoy a few beers!
German Football Stadia Still Have Standing Areas
“Safe standing” has been pioneered by German football and I believe all Bundesliga teams have standing areas in their stadia. As a teenager watching football in the early 90s in England, when the stadia still had standing areas. I just feel it has more of an atmosphere when you can stand and watch the game, packed together with fellow fans.
All-seater stadia have in my opinion killed atmosphere during the game to some extent. By having controlled standing areas, it also enables stadium capacity to increase and keep the prices of the tickets lower. Part of the unique atmosphere of watching a German game is the blocks where the “ultras” go, usually behind the home goal, and wave their flags, beat the drums and sing through the whole game.
Clubs Are Still Run By The Fans, For The Fans
One of the cool traditions of German football is that the clubs are majority owned by the fans. This means there is a strong fan representation on the boards of these clubs, whose influence trickles down into sensible ticket pricing policy and long-term investment into the club in the form of youth team development and football in the community.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen and RB Leipzig are the exceptions to the rule. Bayer, one of the world’s largest chemical and pharmaceutical companies, have been associated with the club since its inception.
RB Leipzig are a controversial outfit in German football. On the one hand, you can argue that as the only former East German team in the Bundesliga, it is righting an unfair advantage that the West German clubs had after reunification, when the East German teams were allowed into the Bundesliga but quickly were relegated when they were unable to compete financially with the established teams. However, traditionalists argue that Red Bull's sponsorship is just the start of the corporatisation of the Bundesliga which could see it going the same way as the Preimer League (or the NFL, if you want to compare a completely different sport).
When It’s Really Cold They Have A Winter Break
The Bundesliga season is split into two parts. The opening half of the season begins usually on the second weekend in August, and runs up until the last weekend before Christmas. Fun fact – the leading team at the end of this first section of the season is called the Herbstmeister, or “Autumn Champions”.
Football then takes a break over Christmas and New Year, and resumes in the penultimate week of January, with the second half of the season running until the middle of May. The Bundesliga’s winter break is 4 weeks in total.
On the one hand, it kind of feels like something is missing when there is no football on during the festive season and into the new year (the Premier League, Italian Serie A and Spanish La Liga do not break for winter). However, it also seems sensible that when the mercury drops and it’s below zero outside, the last thing even the keenest football fan wants to do is be stood on a freezing cold terrace in icy conditions.
You Can Drink A Beer Whilst Watching The Game
Bundesliga clubs are legally allowed to sell beer inside the stadium both before, during and after the game. A few of them choose not to and opt for the alcohol-free variety instead. The first time I came across this was at Hoffenheim. But otherwise, for the most part, Bundesliga fans can drink beer during the game, as opposed to the Premier League, in which it is banned within sight of the pitch.
The only minor annoyance is that many stadia now have cashless vending, meaning that you have to fork out for a chip card and top it up with cash. Why can’t they just accept debit and credit cards instead? Maybe one day when contactless payment finally is adopted in the mainstream in Germany this will change.
Of course, you can’t get the cult meat pie in Germany at half time, like you would do in England. Instead, the typical football snack is the Bratwurst, washed down with a Pils.
Friendly Banter With Opposing Fans
With the exception of one or two German clubs who are notorious for having a lively hooligan scene, it is quite normal to go for a beer after the game and see home and away fans stood in a bar having drinks together and discussing the game. The same can be said for the scene on the tram, bus or the train on the way to the stadium. The quota of idiots just appears to be less. Fans have a sing and a chant but the behaviour is overwhelmingly a party mood rather than aggressive posturing.
There are many other resources out there giving other viewpoints or angles of the Bundesliga. Nic at 40 Percent German chronicles a typical matchday experience (with FC Nürnberg), whereas this one in an English regional newspaper argues that it's cheaper to fly from the UK to watch a Bundesliga game (this time at FC Köln) than it is to get tickets for the Premier League. For more general information on the latest team developments of your local or adopted Bundesliga team, check out the English-language site Bundesliga Fanatic.