Last summer, the headlines were everywhere: the German Bundesliga was falling behind other European soccer leagues in terms of finances. The English Premier League had recently sold domestic television rights for £5.136 billion for a three-season deal. In July, Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge finally vocalized what many people in the German football world had to be feeling: unless the Bundesliga acts soon, the league will fall permanently behind the English top-flight and other European leagues.
A Look at the Premier League’s New Broadcasting Deal
Certainly, the numbers favored Rummenigge’s prediction. Starting with the 2016/17 season, all 20 teams in the English Premier League will get a cut of the £5+ billion TV deal. According to Goal.com, the new TV contract is a 71% boost over the last television deal the Premier League signed in 2012. Each football club in the Premier League will bag a reported £81 million from the deal, and foreign broadcast deals could push the revenue to $100 million per team—just from television.
In contrast, Goal.com says that the Bundesliga earns “an estimated £437 million” per season for domestic broadcasting. Granted, the German top flight consists of 18 soccer clubs instead of 20. However, even if the 18 clubs got to split 100% of the TV money, each would still only end up with about £24.27 million annually. To save you from having to do the math, each Premier League team is still making 3.33 times that from domestic broadcasting. Needless to say, in a sport where the best players tend to go to the highest bidders, Germany’s teams—even a super power like Bayern—risk falling behind due to simple economic disparity.
The Bundesliga vs. Premier League narrative is probably the most notable in this tale of financial disparity in the soccer world. And with Bayern manager Pep Guardiola, arguably the Bundesliga’s most notable asset, moving to Manchester City in time for the 2016/17 campaign, the battle between these two leagues will likely only intensify.
Guardiola says he’s leaving because he wants a new challenge, but what if the Premier League’s forthcoming windfall had to do with his decision to head to England now? After all, rumors are already circulating about Guardiola using Man City’s TV money to lure players like Lionel Messi or Neymar to Etihad Stadium.
However, England is not the only threat to the Bundesliga. The Spanish La Liga recently signed its own new three-season domestic broadcasting deal, to the tune of €2.65 billion. That figure is much smaller than the Premier League deal (it equates to about £2.07 billion) but is still markedly better than the Bundesliga’s TV deal. Considering the fact that La Liga clubs have already shown a willingness to pay overinflated prices to sign players (the five most expensive players ever are all signed to either Real Madrid or Barcelona), the extra TV money will only make the Spanish league harder to beat in the transfer market.
And the trouble isn’t even just coming from inside Europe. The Chinese Super League has come out of nowhere this winter with huge transfer deals for Alex Teixeira, Jackson Martinez, Ramires, Gervinho, and others. Suddenly, clubs like Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund aren’t just competing with the Premier League and the La Liga for the world’s best players; they’re competing with everyone.
Leveling the Playing Field
Unsurprisingly, the growing economic gap between the Bundesliga and other top-flight football leagues is forcing the German division to take drastic measures.
Recently, Bayern Munich entered into a commercial partnership with Qatar’s Hamad International Airport. The deal has received a controversial reception, largely because of Qatar’s poor human rights record. However, Karl Hopfner, Bayern’s current President, said that the deal was necessary to remain on the same financial playing field as Premier League clubs. The German champs, in other words, had to make a deal with the devil to avoid falling behind.
Barring a new Bundesliga broadcasting deal, it’s likely that more and more German football clubs will pursue measures like Bayern’s in order to stay competitive. Do you think the ends justify the means? At Soccer Box, we want to hear your thoughts on this subject, so find us on social media to share your opinion. We are active on multiple social platforms including Facebook, Pinterest, and Google +.