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Post by Scottish » Wed Feb 11, 2015 1:14 am

The two Spanish giants beaten (one, Barcelona, thrashed) as the Champions League heralded an all-German final in 2013. That unbelievable demolition of Brazil in the 2014 World Cup semi-final followed by victory in the final. The best supported league in the world by a considerable margin with average crowds over 40,000 for six consecutive seasons (seven as it looks highly likely 2014-15 will continue the trend). If not for Bayern Munich’s astonishing defeat by Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals weeks before the World Cup started it would be difficult to find any fault with German football at all.

Madrid aside, things are going wonderfully well right now. Last season’s average Bundesliga crowd of 43,501 was the second best ever, beaten only by the 45,116 recorded in 2011-12. The total number of spectators was less than the English Premier League but only because there are two fewer teams in the Bundesliga – eighteen – and as a whole 306 games are played compared to 380 in England.

Some might say Germany’s commanding position in attendances is a natural consequence of its population and economic strength. Here is a country, about level on population with Turkey, behind only Russia in Europe and with far greater living standards than either. Its nearest Western rivals England, Italy, Spain and France – the rest of the “Big Five” - all have substantially smaller populations so obviously Germany must come out on top when it comes to crowd figures.

Except it’s not quite so simple as that. There have been many occasions when German crowds have been poor. It’s also important to remember that there was no German national league post-World War Two until the creation of the Bundesliga in 1963-64 – and some might say there was no truly national league until after German reunification in 1991.

At any rate, a German football championship was re-established in 1947-1948, based on the country’s occupied zones. Soviet zone champions SG Planitz were refused permission to travel and that was the only time a club side from what was to become the DDR were entered into an all-German competition alongside those from the West until after reunification.

Obviously UEFA tournaments and international matches were a different matter and East Germany actually beat their larger neighbours in Hamburg in the 1974 World Cup finals. Cynics might note that a consequence of that defeat was that West Germany avoided meeting the Netherlands, Argentina and Brazil in the next stage.

Even without the East the post-war competition was a success and was repeated each season with qualification based on performance in the regional Oberligas in what was now the FRG. Attendances were huge – 95,051 for the 1950 final for example. The championship took on even greater importance in 1955 when the winners qualified for the newly established European Cup.

But the prime motivation for a national league rather than an end of season knockout competition came not from the clubs but from the national team manager Sepp Herberger who, despite international success in winning the 1954 World Cup and finishing fourth in Sweden in 1958, feared the part-time status of German footballers was preventing the national team from competing at the highest level.

The final German championship drew an average of over 38,000 but it has to be remembered these were the top eight teams in the country, playing in two mini-leagues plus a final. There were only thirteen games in all. The five Oberligas consisted of seventy-four teams in total, including amateur teams, and attendances were much, much lower.

When the new Bundesliga kicked off on August 24th 1963 it was a streamlined league of sixteen and with no Bayern Munich as city rivals TSV 1860 won the Oberliga Sud to claim their place in the new league. The first day drew an estimated 292,000 spectators to the eight games, an average of 36,500 and proof positive that supporters welcomed the new league with open arms.

By way of contrast, the English season started the same day with 373,620 watching eleven games, an average of 33,965. If the new German league could match such a well-established and supported league then the future was bright.

Just out of interest the Scottish League season kicked off two weeks later with a total attendance of 141,162 for the nine games, a very healthy looking average of 15,685. However, every match was a derby or as near as possible, including meetings between the Old Firm and Hearts and Hibs.

Less than a month into the new league and an astonishing 85,411 turned out to see Hertha Berlin play Cologne. After that,interest began to tail off as the season progressed but the first Bundesliga ended the season with an average of 24,624 with VfB Stuttgart topping the 40,000 mark. The average was just 2,300 behind England and an impressive 3,000 ahead of Serie A. Only one word could sum up the Bundesliga’s inaugural season – success. France didn’t count in those days with a mere 9,569 – less than Scotland’s 9,680.

The Bundesliga average leapt to 27,052 the following season but as the novelty of the new league wore off crowds dropped despite good performances by the national team and by clubs in Europe. Hertha still held the record high crowd but fellow Berliners Tasmania established the all-time low when just 827 watched their game against Borussia Munchengladbach on January 15th 1966. Oddly enough Tasmania also drew the best crowd of that season when 81,000 saw their opening match against Karlsruher. Hertha broke their own record high in September 1969 when 90,000 watched their match against Cologne.

But by 1972-73, just after West Germany had won the European Championships the average slumped to just 16,387. That was just over half the figure in both England and Italy. Only Bayern Munich topped 30,000 and Rot Weiß Oberhausen drew less than 7,000. Crowds falling after a great international success seems strange at first sight, but it was a consequence of a bribery scandal in 1971 which shook German football – hitherto regarded as a model of probity – to the core. The details are too long to go into here but suffice to say a scandal which involved half a dozen games and clubs, over fifty players plus some coaches and officials took its toll. Over 4,000 spectators per game were lost between 1971-73.

Fortunately for the Bundesliga, salvation was at hand at both club and international level and while there would be dark days for crowd numbers some years later, never again would they plunge to the depths they did in the aftermath of the scandal.

Averages jumped by over 4,000 the following season. The reason wasn’t hard to find as West Germany prepared for the World Cup and stadia were built or remodelled to meet the demands of the competition. Several grounds had seen capacity temporarily reduced as building work for the World Cup proceeded. As the tournament approached, so did memories of the scandal begin to fade. Even to the extent that one of the worst affected clubs – Schalke 04 – more than doubled their average. Schalke had seen several of their players banned for match-fixing but this season they moved from their 35,000 capacity old home to the Parkstadion, capable of holding 62,000. Their figures alone added 1,700 to the national average.

West Germany’s victory in 1974 coupled with the start of Bayern Munich’s three successive European Cup wins meant that the Germans now possessed the Champion club team of Europe and the Champion international team of both Europe and the world, something which wouldn’t be repeated until 2011 with Spain and Barcelona and again, briefly, with Real Madrid in 2014.

Like England in 1966 it took a couple of seasons for this to fully percolate through to attendances - though the all-time record was set in April 1975 by Hertha Berlin (yet again) in a table-topping match against Borussia Munchengladbach when 91,000 turned out at the Olympiastadion, a number which, given modern capacities, can't be topped. The Olimpiastadion itself is now only second largest, behind Dortmund's Westfalenstadion. But by 1978 the Bundesliga was touching 26,000, almost 5,500 up since the World Cup and over 50% more than the 1973 low. But they still lagged behind their greatest rivals. Other than the first two Bundesliga seasons they never headed Italy until 1999. They overtook England for the first time in 1983 when both countries had averages which were nose-diving. England’s simply headed South faster.

Neither of those years marked permanent German superiority but they did show that the Bundesliga was on the way up. Before then there were some rough times to endure. Following the dismal German performance in the 1978 World Cup, attendances declined for eight consecutive seasons. Not even reaching the World Cup Final in 1982 or Hamburg’s breaking of the English monopoly on the European Cup the following year could give the German game any impetus. By 1986 the Bundesliga average was just over 17,500, about 1,300 more than the all-time low. Indeed the Bundesliga figure was below 20,000 for seven consecutive seasons from 1983-1990 – difficult to imagine in this era of regular 40,000+ gates.

But if things looked bad at the turn of the decade, German attendances were about to go into overdrive. Another World Cup success, rapidly followed by the sudden and unexpected reunification of Germany saw a wave of optimism spread throughout the country and the next six years saw rise after rise. Though the absorption of the DDR Oberliga hit that organisation’s teams hard with only Dynamo Dresden and Hansa Rostock admitted into the Bundesliga. But here were fixtures not seen since 1945 which were welcomed by a football-hungry public. By 1995 crowds had overtaken the previous peak established thirty years earlier and despite one small dip they hit the 30,000 mark for the first time in 1998.

Numbers oscillated for the next few seasons but in 2001-02 they rose above 30,000 again and have never fallen below that mark since. They also began to outpace their nearest rivals. Italy have never averaged above Germany since 2001, England not since 2003. By now Germany was in the midst of another inexorable rise. Between 2001-2009 there was a rise each year culminating in a figure of 41,904 in 2008-09 as the 40,000 mark was scaled for the first time. This was a barrier never breached by either England or Italy at their peak – though it is fair to say that had England possessed the same number of teams as the Bundesliga – eighteen – that figure would have been reached on several occasions in the post-war period and would be just short of 2,000 below it now.

That rise in the first decade of this century came at the same time as, in England, TV coverage increased. Germany also had the boost of the 2006 World Cup – even if the hosts didn’t do as well as was expected – which meant another major revamp of stadia to go along with those of earlier international tournaments. The Germans also kept open flexible standing areas, an obvious attraction to supporters who preferred to be on their feet singing as opposed to sitting down and giving polite applause.

But one overwhelming factor helped the rise in German football and that was pricing. Admission costs were kept much lower than in England, Italy and Spain and whilst in England at any rate, high admission had proven no barrier to large attendances, Germany refused to take a similar path. By 2012 average crowds had reached an all-time high of 45,116 and despite a slight slippage, last season’s figure of 43,501 is the second highest ever.

Germany is now in the position crowds-wise where England was immediately post-war and where Italy found itself for a quarter of a century from the early 1970s onwards - ruling the roost. For the past dozen years, - including this season - German crowds have been the best in Europe and – while admittedly it is difficult to be certain of data elsewhere – probably the world too. For the past seven seasons, including the current one, they have topped the 40,000 mark – a number, remember, reached by no other country at any time in their history (at least in Europe).

Lack of competition has failed to dent attendances. Last season, Bayern Munich won the title by nineteen points. Given German success in the 2014 World Cup and Bayern Munich’s renaissance on the European club stage, culminating in victory in the Champions League in 2013, it is reasonable to assume there will be no weakening of Germany’s position at the top of the attendance table in the foreseeable future. Spain, in third place, lag behind by almost 17,000 per match. Nearest rivals England trail by nearly 7,000 and, as discussed on their thread, currently lack the ground capacity to challenge Germany. In fairness it should be pointed out that the Bundesliga plays far fewer matches over the course of the season – 306 – than any of their major rivals. England, France, Italy and Spain all play 380 and the fewer the number of games the more likely it is a country has a higher average.

Even so, on a like-for-like basis, Germany would have been over 2,000 per match higher than England last season. One season at 40,000+ would have been an unprecedented achievement in European football. Seven in succession and no sign of dropping back is of a magnitude of a different order entirely.

Excluding “sports” which involve craning the neck to catch a glimpse of superfast vehicles whizzing around the same circuit for hours on end, the Bundesliga is the third most popular sport in the world as far as average attendances are concerned, behind only the NFL and the IPL.

The average last season was 43,501 with a high of 80,645 and a low of 21,319. That low was at Hoffenheim and represented just under 71% of capacity.

Borussia Dortmund can proudly claim the title of best-supported team in the world with Bayern Munich next, in fourth. There are six German teams in the top ten and ten in the top twenty.

The German format is a fairly simple one. The bottom two go down and third last faces a two-leg play-off against third top in the 2.Bundesliga.

80361 Borussia Dortmund
71131 Bayern Munich
61551 Schalke 04
52334 Borussia Munchengladbach
51889 Hertha Berlin
51620 Hamburg
50448 VfB Stuttgart
47053 Eintracht Frankfurt
45606 Hanover 96
40657 Werder Bremen
40412 1.FC Nuremberg
30984 1.FSV Mainz 05
29325 Augsburg
28423 Bayer Leverkusen
28022 VfL Wolfsburg
26907 1899 Hoffenheim
23394 Freiburg
23005 Eintracht Braunschweig

The 2. Bundesliga wasn’t established until 1974 and then only in two geographical regions. It was as late as 1981 before it became a national set-up. Even then crowds were small, the 10,000+ barrier wasn’t broken until 1999-2000. But since 2004 it has risen in tandem with the higher league and attendances in 2014 stood at more than double what they were a decade ago. Rapid growth saw the average hit an all-time high of 17,995 by 2008. That same season crowds overtook the English Championship for the first time though it wasn’t until 2013-14 that it happened again.

The same caveats apply here as to the top flight. The 2. Bundesliga plays far fewer matches than the Championship – 306 compared to 552 – and its membership comprises of clubs ranked 19-36 in the hierarchy as opposed to the Championship’s 21-44. On a like-for-like basis, the Championship would still be well ahead.

Despite that, the rise of the second tier is another sign of the rude health of the German game. A decade ago it had little more than half the numbers of the Championship, trailed behind Italy and wasn’t that far ahead of Spain and France. Now, the English Championship is its only rival.

The Anglo-German duel at this level looks likely to continue for some time. While England has the greater number of teams in the middle bracket, Germany has some real big hitters in its second level. Last season’s figures include promoted Cologne and relegated Dynamo Dresden but they have been replaced by well-supported teams in Nuremberg and RB Leipzig respectively, and with Kaiserslautern, Fortuna Dusseldorf and St Pauli all still there, there will be little difference between the two leagues come the end of this season. It’s the presence of fallen ‘big’ teams which has been the engine of spectator growth at this level. Since 2004 the best supported team has always had an average of 34,000 or higher and for six of the past ten seasons it has been 40,000+.

The average last season was 17,859 with a high of 52,500 and a low of 3,000. Only ten leagues worldwide (excluding the Bundesliga) average more than this division and, again, the Bundesliga excepted, just five in Europe.

Cologne were the best supported team in the world not playing in a top division and were 19th in the world as a whole. Germany aside, there were clubs from only five countries with average supports bigger than Cologne’s. Fortuna Dusseldorf were the second best worldwide at this level, though below third level Rangers in Scotland.

The top two go up, third enters a two-leg play-off against third last in the Bundesliga. Relegation is identical to the league above.

46283 Cologne
33984 Fortuna Dusseldorf
29073 Kaiserslautern
28369 St Pauli
26943 Dynamo Dresden
19889 Union Berlin
19312 TSV 1860 Munich
16922 Arminia Bielfeld
16219 Karlsruher
16168 VfL Bochum
11926 Greuther Furth
10996 Paderborn
9686 Energie Cottbus
9447 Erzgebirge Aue
7387 VfR Aalen
6785 Ingolstadt
6288 FSV Frankfurt
5570 Sandhausen

The third level 3.Liga was established only in 2008 and, being under the auspices of the FA, not the league, struggled financially from the start, lacking in the kind of revenues the presence of a strong league like the Championship can provide for the Football League as a whole. Averages for the first three seasons were more or less static but took a dangerous dip of over 1,000 in 2011-12 and only narrowly stayed above the 4,500 mark. Some fortuitous relegations (for the division, obviously not for the clubs) saw the figure jump by over a third within a season. That level was more or less maintained last season and thanks to the presence of Dynamo Dresden is well on course for a best ever this time round.

There are differing types of teams at this level. A few are sides used to playing at a higher level and still capable of drawing decent crowds. Some are former East German teams and they too can draw fair-sized crowds. Then there are the smaller teams and finally reserve sides which can vary in number as second elevens can be promoted to, and relegated from, this tier. Though they can advance no higher than this.

The top two go up, third into a two-leg play-off and the bottom three down to the appropriate regional league.

Last season’s average was 6,071, compared to England’s 7506. At this level, Germany are the second best supported country. The figures are better for England than the headlines suggest. For a league with teams ranked 45-68 to outstrip one with teams ranked 37-56 and which plays 172 matches fewer is no mean feat. But the 3. Liga has started to shake off its financial worries and has quickly grown into the second highest supported in the world at this level.

Crowds varied tremendously in this tier, ranging from a low of 323 up to a high of 42,720. RB Leipzig were fifth highest in the world at this level.

16735 RB Leipzig
12598 MSV Duisburg
9842 Hansa Rostock
9032 1.FC Heidenheim
8778 VfL Osnabruck
8000 Hallescher
7958 Preußen Munster
7064 Darmstadt 98
5903 Rot Weiß Erfurt
5340 Holstein Kiel
5142 Chemnitzer
4675 Saarbrucken
3969 Stuttgarter Kickers
3481 Jahn Regensburg
3291 Wehen Wiesbaden
2406 Borussia Dortmund II
2229 SpVgg Unterhaching
2145 Wacker Burghausen
1564 SV 07 Elversberg
1003 VfB Stuttgart II

The fourth and fifth levels are discussed on the appropriate threads.

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