With Eleven Sports claiming ownership rights to broadcast La Liga and Serie A matches this season, it is notable how the Bundesliga continues to resist being taken over at the risk of disrupting the experience of German fans.
One only has to look back to February where the first Monday night match of the season between Eintracht Frankfurt and RB Leipzig was delayed due to protests. The bizarre sight of hundreds of tennis balls being thrown onto the pitch by home fans illustrated their indifference to being in the stadium outside of the weekend.
Toilet roll was also unfurled onto the pitch by fans. This was no bog-standard protest though.
This was defiance against commercialism and marketing for the sake of the authenticity of the league, and enabling fans to have the best possible experience, regardless of how much money could be made by switching games to midweek.
Traditional Saturday afternoon fixtures are what the fans demand rather than a lucrative league. They do not care for those in charge of the league saying the Bundesliga is falling behind the Premier League and La Liga where television deals are bringing in shedloads.
Besides Frankfurt, Borussia Dortmund had their lowest attendance for more than 20 years in February during a 1-1 draw with Augsburg. The reason, of course, was the game being staged on a Monday night for the cameras.
Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park has become notorious for its lively atmosphere, generated by the Great Yellow Wall of the South Stand. Stretching 131ft high, this stand produces one of the best sounds in world football.
Yet, that atmosphere was deterred against Augsburg as only 54,300 fans turned up to the game. More than 25,000 had decided against watching their beloved team because of the Monday night move.
The club’s stadium announcer sided with those who had not shown up. Before kick-off, he said: “We respect the opinion of those who have chosen to stay at home. We are also against a further stretching out of the weekend and will be raising this when the next TV deal is discussed.”
Age of Sky
During the last La Liga season covered by Sky, there were 28 matches which took place on a Monday night during the course of the campaign. Such a high number would just not be tolerated in Germany, and shows why the league is not being announced as part of the Eleven Sports deal for example.
German journalist, Ulrich Hesse, told the Guardian:
“There weren’t many Monday night games but people felt this was another step towards commercialisation and not caring about the fans. It’s difficult to be a fan-friendly league as well as an internationally competitive league at the same time.
Everybody is walking a tightrope, so it’s a major concern. But fans realise they are a major selling point. The Bundesliga still appeals because the grounds are full, the atmosphere is great and ticket prices are reasonable.”
In a world of agents, billionaire owners and monumental wages, it is refreshing to see German football resist the sweeping broadcasting changes which are altering the outlook of football in other nations. Sky’s Monday Night Football has now become synonymous with the English game as fans tune in to hear what the likes of Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher have to say.
There have been talks of Sky extending their rights to broadcast Thursday night Premier League matches more regularly as well as an extra Saturday evening slot.
In the Bundesliga though, it is the community of fans which is prioritised ahead of the pockets of businessmen for now.