Soccer-German title race must be more competitive to attract global fans - Bundesliga chief


LONDON (Reuters) - Bayern Munich have done a great job in showing the strength of the Bundesliga but the title race needs to be more competitive to attract international fans, Bundesliga CEO Donata Hopfen said on Wednesday.

Bayern have won the last 10 German crowns, a feat not matched in Europe's major leagues. They have struggled this season, however, sitting fifth in the standings five points behind leaders Union Berlin to set up the prospect of a rare title battle.

The last time Bayern's dominance was broken was in 2012 when Borussia Dortmund topped the standings. The ease with which the Meisterschale has returned to Munich every year since partly explains why the Bundesliga lags behind England's Premier League and Spain's LaLiga in terms of global TV revenue.

Hopfen, who in January became the first woman to lead the German Football League (DFL), said more competition could go a long way.

"Bayern Munich have done a tremendous job economically and they have been a great representative of Bundesliga in the world. But, if we would have more competition on top of our league it would be even easier to market our league globally," Hopfen told the Leaders sports conference at Twickenham.

"At the same time I think we do have stars, we do have great stories to tell. I think the Bundesliga develops great youth talent that are then actually embarking to other journeys later on, which also brings a lot of the Bundesliga into the world.

"So I would say if we had two more teams being able to win the league, could even be three, but a little bit more of a competition on top of this would be great."

Bayern were ranked the fifth most valuable soccer team in the world ($4.275 billion) by Forbes but the only other German team in the top 20 were Dortmund at 12th ($1.8 million), with more clubs coming from Spain, Italy and, particularly, England.

TRANSFER SPENDING

Bundesliga clubs also lagged behind their European rivals in transfer spending in the recent window. The Bundesliga's total spend was 484 million euros ($463.58 million), according to Transfermarkt estimates. LaLiga clubs spent 505m euros, Serie A ones 749.2m, and Premier League teams 2.237 billion.

That may be due to the DFL announcing this year a drop in revenues for Bundesliga clubs of more than 8.5% for the 2020-21 season compared to the one before. This was mainly caused by COVID-19 forcing matches to be played without spectators.

Economic growth is a key mission for Hopfen but she did not think clubs being part of a Super League was the answer, particularly after the attempt to get one off the ground last year by 12 major teams from England, Spain and Italy collapsed.

"I think the Germans were the first to actually deny the Super League and to say that it's the wrong direction, and I confirm that this is still the case," she said.

"German football is about solidarity. We have our two leagues; Bundesliga, second Bundesliga. It's about relegation, it's about one supporting the other, be it a very small or a very big club, and it's about a very close tie to our fandom."

The Bundesliga returns to action on Friday with Bayern hosting Bayer Leverkusen.

($1 = 1.0441 euros)

(Reporting by Christian Radnedge,; Editing by Ed Osmond)

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