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.