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SBD Global/December 4, 2012/International Football

Borussia Dortmund CEO Launches Attack On EPL Ownership

Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke criticized EPL clubs over foreign ownership.
Bundesliga Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke has "launched a passionate defence of German football principles and attacked English clubs' ownership by rich men from overseas," according to David Conn of the London GUARDIAN. Watzke described German football as "romantic" for retaining its "50% plus one" rule, which requires Bundesliga clubs to be owned by their members. He "questioned the ethos and sustainability" of Premier League clubs' ownership, including Man City being owned and funded by Sheikh Mansour of Abu Dhabi. Of Man City Watzke said: "I am a little bit romantic, and that is not romantic. In England people seem not to be interested in this -- at Liverpool they are fine for the club to belong to an American. But the German is romantic: when there is a club, he wants to have the feeling it is my club, not the club of Qatar or Abu Dhabi." Watzke was a "prominent supporter" of the 50% plus one rule when it was challenged last year by Bundesliga Hannover President Martin Kind. Watzke: "Germans want to have that sense of belonging. When you give [the supporters] the feeling that they are your customers, you have lost. In Germany, we want everybody to feel it is their club, and that is really important" (GUARDIAN, 12/2).

MORE THAN A BUSINESS:
In London, Graeme Yorke reported Dortmund has had its "financial ups-and-downs," but now arguably "boast one of the most successful models in Europe" -- producing exciting young players like Mario Götze and Nuri Sahin and having the opportunity to sell them for great profit. Added to cheap ticket prices, which consistently produce crowds of up to 80,000 fans, they are "the envy of many clubs across the continent." Watzke: "We would make €5M ($6.5M) more a season if we had seats, but there was no question to do it, because it is our culture. In England it is a lot more expensive. Football is more than a business" (DAILY MAIL, 12/2).

THE GERMAN MODEL: In London, Conn wrote on the GUARDIAN's Inside Sport blog "admiration for the German way, posing a challenge to Premier League assumptions, is stretching beyond the Mannschaft's performance, to the nation's clubs and the way it organises football." Even before this week's final round of Champions League group matches, the three Bundesliga clubs have qualified for the knockout stage. Bayern Munich, which earned £290M in '10-11 according to financial adviser Deloitte, is "always expected to qualify." European football has been struck this season by Bundesliga club Schalke, which defeated Arsenal 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium last month, and, in particular, by Borussia Dortmund, who sits atop its "devilishly difficult group" after beating Real Madrid. While growing stronger on the field, German clubs have "purposefully retained traditions and atmospheres off the field too." Fans can still "pay cheaply in their thousands" to stand and watch their teams -- 25,000 supporters in Borussia Dortmund's famed south stand Die gelbe Wand (Yellow Wall) pay a mere €11 ($14) a match to watch the German champions (GUARDIAN, 12/1).
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