This Tuesday the Transfer window closed in England, home to Europe’s richest league – the English Premier League (EPL). Fuelled by a new television deal EPL, clubs went on a spending spree this summer, and according to the German homepage transfermarkt.de, English clubs have spent €1.178.360.000 for new players.
About a fifth of the €1.17 billion spent flowed towards Bundesliga clubs, which according to the German football magazine Kicker, earned €217 million from selling 16 players to England—in comparison the Bundesliga only earned €15 million from player sales to the Premier League in 2014. The biggest earners were VfL Wolfsburg, which sold the Belgian star Kevin de Bruyne to Manchester City for €75 million, TSG Hoffenheim, which sold the Brazilian playmaker Roberto Firmino to Liverpool for €41 million, and Bayer Leverkusen, which sold the Korean winger Heung-Min Son to Tottenham Hotspur for €30 million. Smaller clubs also benefited: two examples are FC Augsburg, which sold Abdul Rahman Baba to Chelsea for €20 million; and 1. FSV Mainz which were able to transfer the Japanese striker Shinji Okazaki to Leicester City for €10 million.
The major reason for the discrepancy in financial wealth between the two leagues is television money. Currently, the Bundesliga’s €579 million a year in television revenue is peanuts compared to the €2.2 billion that the Premier League receives. The difference in television revenue can be explained by the fact that Germany does not have the same kind of television culture as England. In the United Kingdom the Pay-TV stations BT Sport, and SKY UK together have 15 million customers, whereas Germany’s only Pay-TV station SKY Deutschland has only 4.5 million customers.
This means that Premier League clubs on average can spend far more than Bundesliga teams on the transfer market. Last season, for example, Queens Park Rangers, which finished last in the Premier League, received more television money (€90.8 million) than Germany’s biggest club Bayern Munich (€50.6 million)—and with the new EPL television deal kicking in next season, English teams will have even more spending power. Many fans and observers of the Bundesliga have, therefore, been critical of the Premier League’s spending power, with some fearing that the Bundesliga could be bought empty by English clubs.
Yet, some Bundesliga managers do not feel that the newfound riches of the EPL can threaten German football. Bayern’s manager Matthias Sammer told Kicker Magazine “we have to think about the new situation, and we will have to find constructive solutions, but one thing is for certain, we will remain competitive, and we won’t capitulate”. Furthermore, Mainz manager Christian Heidel pointed out that money from England could actually be a huge benefit for German football. When speaking to an academic sports forum, he said “it is now up to us to bring English money to the Bundesliga. The solution is simple, when an English club wants a player from us, we right away set our demands way above the actual market value. We should simply say thank you, take the money, and reinvest it into our scouting network, and youth development infrastructure. It will pay off.”
In truth, the financial discrepancy between German and English football has been in existence for more than a decade, and recent results suggest that despite having smaller budgets, Bundesliga clubs are actually more successful in European club competitions (Germany ranks second behind Spain in the UEFA 5-Year coefficient ranking). Furthermore, Bundesliga clubs have been very successful in producing young exciting talented players—a major reason for the country’s success at last year’s World Cup in Brazil. With more money coming in from England, German clubs will be able to put even greater focus on developing young players, and this will benefit German football in the long run, or as Borussia Dortmund’s CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke put it “even with all their money England won’t win a World Cup in the next 50 years…”
About the author – Manuel Veth