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Volume 10 No. 24

International Football

Champions League finalists Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund "are the envy of football fans across Europe for the way the German clubs run their business as well as their success on the field," according to Grohmann & Weir of REUTERS. Bayern and Dortmund are the top two teams in the Bundesliga, where clubs "boast the largest crowds in Europe, keep ticket prices low, are largely profitable and have produced a crop of talented young players." Indeed, the German clubs appear to be the ideal model for a new more sustainable financial approach that UEFA "is trying to enforce." Germany is not the richest football league, but is "one of the most stable and sustainable" (REUTERS, 5/23).

NEAR PERFECT MODEL: In London, Rory Smith reported Bundesliga CEO Christian Seifert said that the two clubs are "perfect standard bearers for German football’s 'DNA.'" It is "a structure that is easy to envy." Both are "majority-owned by their fans." Both "turn a profit, despite allowing ticket prices to drop as low" as €13 ($17). Seifert's praise for the Premier League is qualified -- “admiration is a strong word” -- and his belief in the German model "is absolute too." That is "not hard to explain." It "stands out because all of its individual strands -- the fan ownership, the youth, the cheap tickets -- tie together so neatly." It is "a dirty word in England at the moment, but Germany’s approach is, in the best possible sense, holistic." The league "is profitable, and wages under control, because of the emphasis on youth." That means tickets "can remain cheap, and safe standing can remain, so there is no appetite to change the 50+1 shares rule that means most clubs are owned by their fans." It "is a perfect circle." Still, though, Seifert "is not satisfied." Seifert: "The Bundesliga is not a perfect model." The problems? A rise of "far-right extremism and occasional violence among some fans." The "unsightly, and to English eyes, disturbing fences separating supporters from the pitch at some grounds" (LONDON TIMES, 5/23).

FC Bayern Munich and rival Borussia Dortmund are reaching new highs in the global football hierarchy, according to research done by Repucom. Bayern Munich has 17.8 million avid fans in 11 key European and Asian markets -- not including Germany, while its UEFA Champions League final opponent Borussia Dortmund has 5.5 million (see chart below). Repucom Senior Consultant Philipp Kupfer said, "Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern are at a crossroads economically, but each at different levels. For Dortmund, it comes down to consolidating their rapid development in recent years to become established as a top European club. Bayern are already at that level and are now aiming to go one better, by joining FC Barcelona, Manchester United and Real Madrid as one of the absolute elite club brands in global football.”

TURNING UP TURNOVER: Analysis shows that in two years from '09-10, Borussia Dortmund doubled its turnover to reach €215.2M in '11-12. Their int'l fanbase, coverage on German TV and the level of conversation they have generated on social media over the past 12 months underlines this. Kupfer said the performance of Bayern and Dortmund this term has changed perceptions of the Bundesliga globally -- and he is confident this is only the beginning of German football’s renaissance. Kupfer: “In the past, the Bundesliga was always praised for the great atmosphere in its stadiums, cheap tickets and good hotdogs. Bayern was the only club really considered world-class, but now Borussia Dortmund has arrived on the scene" (REPUCOM).

The "latest flash point of sports and int'l politics" is Gibraltar, the tiny tip of the Iberian Peninsula that for centuries has endured as a tug of war between Spain and Britain, according to James Montague of the N.Y. TIMES. The current dispute centers on the Gibraltar football team, an "unlikely collection of amateur players who are generally considered past their athletic prime." However, Gibraltar is not aiming to become a football "powerhouse." Gibraltar would simply like its football team "to be recognized by the sport’s various governing bodies, and perhaps one day to compete in the World Cup." However, Spain, the big next-door neighbor that happens to be the reigning World Cup and European champion, "objects." Spain aruges that Gibraltar "is a territory that should not stand on its own," in football or otherwise. The issue "has stirred one of the most volatile," if obscure, disputes in int'l sports. Spain has gone so far as to "threaten to remove" marquee clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona from European competition if Gibraltar is acknowledged as an independent football-playing country. UEFA, which was forced to admit Gibraltar as a provisional member last year, "will decide whether to make it a full member at the organization’s annual congress Friday" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/22).

GETTING THE MESSAGE OUT: In London, Rory Smith wrote the lobbying on behalf of the Gibraltar FA "has been intense." To get the message across, the GFA hired PR firm Maverick, and produced six short films and sent out "reams of documents -- each translated into 41 languages -- to explain the issue. Maverick's Andy Myring said, “It was an easy story to tell. The reaction was very positive from everyone we met. They were charmed by the effort the GFA had made.” GFA's UEFA liaison officer Dennis Beiso said, “We have spent the last three months visiting more than 30 countries and stating our case. It has been a lot of work, but a hugely positive experience. We have 17 teams in two leagues and 500 people playing football on a regular basis. It is not a tin-pot operation. Membership would revolutionise football here. It would mean £2M-£3M ($3M-$4.5M) a year, which we would plough into the grass roots" (LONDON TIMES, 5/24).

Argentine football club Boca Juniors "has everything ready to start registration for the AFA Plus, the Argentine FA administration system for biometric entrance into Argentine football stadiums," according to OLE. The registration center is located on the lower level of La Bombonera stadium in Buenos Aires and will be open from 2-8pm on Monday through Friday and from 10am-4pm on Saturdays. It will be closed on gamedays. In the new system, to attend an Argentine First Division or national team football game, each fan will have to be registered in a National Fan Register. Enrolling in the NFR will require fans to "register their name, picture, address, National Identity Document number and digital fingerprint." After registering, fans will receive their AFA Plus cards, which will allow them to buy tickets (OLE, 5/22).

ManU has refinanced more than £192M ($290M) of high-interest debt, cutting the club's interest costs by around £10M ($15M) a year. ManU said in a statement it has "secured a new loan from Bank of America with far lower interest rates." ManU said that the new loan would "have an estimated starting interest rate" of around 2.78%, and that interest payments should come down from around £31M ($47M) to £21M ($32M) per year (AP, 5/23). ... Hungary charged 45 people for taking part in a global football "match-fixing crime ring." The cheating affected 32 games, including an int'l match between two countries, a first-division game in the Italian league, three in the Finnish league and 11 Hungarian first-division matches (BLOOMBERG, 5/23). ... England Manager Roy Hodgson has warned supporters "they risk damaging the reputation of fans across the country if they sing anti-IRA songs at next week’s friendly" against Ireland. Next Wednesday’s friendly at Wembley "will be the first meeting between the sides" since Feb. '95 (London EVENING STANDARD, 5/23).

BACK IN TIME: After the Argentine FA, "pushed by the national government," scheduled games for Buenos Aires clubs Boca Junior and River Plate to be played on Saturdays at 9:30pm to compete with Jorge Lanata's TV program, the Buenos Aires City Government decided Wednesday that "games of medium to high risk" will not be played after 8pm in Buenos Aires (CLARIN, 5/22). ... Turkish Cypriot football officials "insist that a landmark agreement aimed at unifying football on the politically divided island is not dead in the water," and that a further meeting with the Greek side will be held next month (INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL, 5/23). ... The Vietnam Football Federation will postpone its seventh VFF Congress scheduled for June 5, with a new date to be set at a meeting of the exec board on June 11. The decision comes after the voting fraud scandal on May 15, "when the voting results to pick the finalists for election to the Board were found to not tally with the actual votes cast" (INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL, 5/23).