Allianz Arena, Munich

Only last week I featured on Clarke One Nil giving my response to the ‘Life After Bates?’ question he’s been putting to various people over the last few weeks. In that article I dismissed the idea of a fans run consortium because I felt it would be self-serving and inevitably lead us on another ‘living the dream’ saga which would ultimately result in financial disaster (again).

Since the afore mentioned article was published I’ve had to reassess my stance thanks to a TSS reader, Tim Stott. Tim emailed the site regarding a Sunday Times article which explores the ownership structure and day-to-day running of German side, Bayern Munich.

FC Bayern Munich have won the German Bundesliga a record 22 times, and are currently the reigning champions. They are also a regular feature in the UEFA Champions League, which they’ve won four times and have a squad made up of world-class, household name players such as Mark van Bommel, Arjen Robben and most notably, Franck Ribery who pockets an incredible 200 grand a week! The German side also play their games in the newly built and quite frankly, breathtaking Allianz Arena which holds 70,000 fans.

The surprising thing about Bayern Munich is that despite the heavy investment on players, wages and stadia, this is a club that operates within it’s own income. Aside from a sustainable and quickly dwindling mortgage that was taken out to pay for the Allianz, the club is entirely free of debt. More surprising, is that ticket prices start from just a fiver a head!

“We spend only what we earn” Bayern’s Chief Executive told the Sunday Times which is a philosophy long lost on English teams. The really unusual thing about Bayern Munich is that 82% of the club is owned by the fans – 160,000 of them in total – who all have their say in the big decisions the club takes. Their influence is evident in the price of season-tickets, with a third costing just £104.

The fans powers were exercised once again recently when a vote to sell off some of their shares to clear outstanding debts was turned down. And why shouldn’t they? They already have a sustainable club capable of attracting world-class players, they play in one of the world’s most spectacular stadiums and have a history of success that puts them up there with Liverpool and Real Madrid.

Above all else however, fans of Bayern Munich have the enviable luxury of owning their own team. The German’s efficiency in everything they do has created the world’s only super-club that actually lives within it’s own means and Chief Executives from across the world are queueing up to see how it’s done. At Bayern Munich, the fans really do pay the players wages and no one is bigger than the fans!

The FA has toyed with the idea of forcing clubs to be part-owned by fans but nothing has ever come to fruition. Maybe Ken Bates is missing a trick here? Why not split Leeds United into 1,000,000 shares priced at £50 and sell the club off, with the fans getting first refusal? Or perhaps we could come to a mutually beneficial agreement where Forward Sports Fund retain a controlling stake in the club, leaving Uncle Ken as chairman but giving the fans a sizeable chunk of their club which can help shape future decisions and help us all sleep soundly at night? Not only a nice olive branch from Kenneth, but an excellent way to raise funds which could in turn, be used to repurchase Elland Road.

  • les irwin

    this is fantastic and would be right at elland road bates goes on about 35.000 members but what do they get” NAHDA “there should be an election of members to get a working party to work and put the ideas across at leeds of the fans and iam not talking about the idiot that is ray fell or his cronies
    it is the way forward and i would gladly pay money to have a share infact i did under the old bond scheme surely money could be raised to get rid of bates
    you can be chairman of the working group tss

  • nwh

    Nice Idea but it will be a cold day in hell when Bates sells out to fans! He is looking for a pay day once we’re back in the prem – just follow the chelsea model…How much of his own money has he actually put in?

  • TheReaper08

    If the club is ruthlessly efficient and operating with no debt why did the fans need to vote against plans to sell of shares to settle outstanding debt !

    • Mikelufc

      Good question reaps

    • TSS

      @TheReaper08

      Ever the cynic, hey Reaps?

      They didn’t have to sell to clear debts. Adidas and Audi (I think) own the other 18% of the club and wanted to increase their own stake. They made an offer, which was put to the shareholders and the shareholders rejected. The club has an annual turnover of £300m and the Allianz only cost them £170m – they have no issues paying the mortgage.

      Basically, the interested party came in with the offer attempting to lure them with cash that they could spend clearing the outstanding mortgage and buying players for another CL push. The fans felt the money they currently have available was sufficient so rejected the offer. The chairman of any business has to put such decisions to the shareholders.

      And PS. A mortgage is hardly debt as it’s secured against whatever building it’s taken out against. You’re simply buying the building in manageable chunks.

      • TheReaper08

        @TSS Thank you for highlighting what a mortgage is to me, having had one for a while I always did wonder what the point was and what all that debt was for ;)

        I quote your article above…

        “The surprising thing about Bayern Munich is that despite the heavy investment on players, wages and stadia, this is a club that operates within it’s own income. Aside from a sustainable and quickly dwindling mortgage that was taken out to pay for the Allianz, the club is entirely free of debt”

        Followed by…

        “The fans powers were exercised once again recently when a vote to sell off some of their shares to clear outstanding debts was turned down. And why shouldn’t they?”

        Is this editorial licence with regard to the mortgage/debt thing or just a factual inaccuracy, I will the general public decide as I know nothing about Bayern’s finances.

        • stotty

          Obviously Reaper you prefer the present financial setup at Leeds!

          • TheReaper08

            @Stotty Au contraire, however what I don’t do is by the first piece of propoganda that’s thrust under my nose without the relevant due dilligance.

            If it was really a succesful platform for running a club wouldn’t a few more be doing it by now.

        • TSS

          @TheReaper08

          Always happy to help :)

          As for the debt/mortgage/sustainable etc. parts, it’s all the same thing, but badly worded on my part. Stop holding my accountable for what I write!

  • Mark R

    That Calgon advert is driving me crazy !
    All I can eat in London ???
    Spa in my City ?
    Stell Artois ?

    Is TSS now under the ownership of the Yanks – Hicks & Gill – with their policy of rampant commercialism ?

    Say it ain’t so TSS ??

  • Mark R

    Why is my comment awaiting moderation ?

    Censorship as well ?

    Say it ain’t so TSS ….

    • Mikelufc

      how can it be awaiting moderation? I just read it OH! you mean another one? Cant wait for it to be approved :-0

    • TSS

      @Mark R

      The ‘all you can eat ad’ always reads Leeds at my end? Must be location based – ads are clever these days.

      As for moderation, the site uses various spam filters to weed out any attempts at undermining my authority. Glad to see it’s working well ;)

      Oh, and the Calgon ad is driving me mental too. Turning the volume off seemed to sort it. I’ve cleaned the dishwasher once and that was enough.

  • Mikelufc

    Good question Reaper

  • Dje

    Bayern Munich looks a good model way to run a club. But I can only see the surface here – where are the details about how they run financially? ie…

    – Do you need 160,000 members?
    – Maintain 75,000 a week coming through the gates? – Guaranteed Champion’s League football each year (umm, we’ve been there before)?
    – Thirty years of good financial prudence and player sales profits?
    – A national culture that is at home in dealing with profit and growth and not debt, more debt and bloody debt on top of boom and bust?

    I am not being cynical here – well, not much – I just would like to see what actually is working the books at Bayern before even dreaming of a similar set-up at Leeds United. My hunch is that the conditions that have proven a success for the Bayern model will be unique to the city of Munich and its relationship between the fans, local big business and the club, and perhaps German football as a whole. ie. a non-transferable model.

    Interesting though.

  • Mark R

    Don’t want anything to do with Bayern Munich und zer ruthless Bavarian efficiency.

    We were robbed of the European Cup in 1975.
    One of the greatest injustices in our history – if not the history of the European Cup.

    Brought me to tears as a kid. Very traumatic and to be honest Bayern Munich are the team I most like to see lose above all others – even now after all these years.

    Would like to read a post from someone who was at the match in Paris.

    For me That memory will only be laid to rest if we can meet and defeat them in the Chamopions League final sometime in the future – whilst Beckenbaur is stil involved with them.

    I’m not bitter…… not at all……

    MOT

  • Mark R

    @TSS

    Dettol surface cleansers ….protects against 99.9% of Germ(an)s….

    Say it ain’t so TSS ?

    • TSS

      @Mark R

      I can’t comment mate as I’ve not yet experienced that particular brand. However, I have tried the ‘Stella Artois’ that keeps popping up and I can tell you from first-hand experience that, that stuff meticulously cleanses the liver, lowers inhibitions (in a good way mostly) and can result in good times, unprovoked punch-ups and carefree, meaningless sex. Highly recommended.

  • Colin

    @TSS I’m not sure this model could ever work in England. Why? Because the people of continental Europe act differently to us. Europeans have people power. We just put up with whatever gets thrown at us.

    If Bayern put their prices up by 10%, they wouldn’t put up with it. And they wouldn’t turn up. And then there would be no Bayern. Guess what – the fans win.

    Man Utd were transformed from having the greatest amount of cash in the bank of any top football club into a big red debt machine. The fans weren’t happy? Did they boycott Old Trafford? No, they spent more money on green and yellow scarves and still turned up. Well Done!! That’ll make the Glazers sit up and take notice! Guess what – the club wins.

    In France they want to raise the pension age to 62 – they go out, protest and show their disapproval.
    In Britain, our pension age will rise to 66. What did we do?
    In continental Europe they have people power. We don’t. Did the French people reverse the rise to 62? No, but I tell you this it won’t rise to 64 anytime soon. But I bet you £100 that in 10-15 years time, our pension will probably rise to 68.

    And another key point – what do I get for my £50 stake? Not much really. We tried a similar ‘fans own the club’ experiment here in England – it was called Ebbsfleet United – that was a flop. I bought a stake in that for £20 and it was spent turning a shit club into a mildly less shit club and it’s back to being a shit club again – they were relegated last season.

    • Des

      So what you are saying is that we are the muppets of europe.
      Does being born in Scotland exclude me from this conclusion?

      • Colin

        @dess
        So what you are saying is that we are the muppets of europe.

        Not necessarily – we do some things right – the PL is the most watched league in the world, and the championship is up there in the top 5 watched leagues – so that is good.

        Does being born in Scotland exclude me from this conclusion?

        No it certainly does not. You’re going to have to retire at 66 as well :)