In 2006, Bayern purchased part of Fürst Wrede Barracks in Munich; an area that was originally destined for all non-footballing departments of the club. Various buildings were going to get created, including a 5,000 seater for the first team basketballers. But the planning stage turned out to be challenging.
For one, the previous use of the area as barracks meant that the ground was contaminated and had to be cleaned. The city borders between Munich and Oberschleißheim also run right across the grounds, so that all red tape processes had to be completed twice, to make sure both authorities were on board – not an easy task in bureaucratic Germany. The long-winded approval processes meant that the original plans had to be revised and updated to fit the current needs several times.
When Bayern bought the grounds in 2006, the extension building at Säbener Straße that today includes, among others, the Service Center and fan shop, was still in planning stage. Besides, Bayern’s NLZ was Germany’s undisputed #1, both sporting and infrastructural. However, over the past 10 years, the club has been growing relentlessly, with both turnover and membership numbers increasing threefold.
At the club’s headquarters, various offices for employees have had to be moved into makeshift container offices, and Bayern have lost ground with the NLZ in more than one way. Fuelled by TSG Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig, who both not only attracted youth players by paying previously unheard-of sums, but also invested hugely into infrastructure, a number of Bundesliga clubs have improved their own NLZs.
This increasing infrastructural gap was one of the first things that Matthias Sammer noticed during his first months at FC Bayern, and he was the driving force behind making the newly-purchased area an exclusive NLZ, without other departments. This lead to further delays, since plans had to be revised and get approved again, but will eventually make sure that the new grounds are perfectly suited for the now defined needs.
In the end, only one hall (B) from the original plan has remained, and on top of that, two pitches with artificial turf and five pitches with natural turf will be built. To compare: the Säbener Straße complex offers three pitches for training.
The big academy buiding (C) will hold not only changing rooms and offices, but also the boarding school and canteen. According to the plans, a total of 35 rooms will be available for boarding, that’s 20 more than at Säbener Straße. The club house (D) will be home to a restaurant with beer garden, a fan shop, the caretaker’s flat, as well as more offices. The area marked (E) will turn into an artificial turf pitch for technical and conditional exercises.
To take care of the grounds, there will also be a greenkeeper yard (F). Next to the youth stadium (A) will be plenty of parking spaces (G). In the stadium – with room for 2,500 visitors – the Under-19s and Under-17s will play their home games. Pitches 2 and 3 are also part of the “public area” and intended for games, they share small stands.
The Reserves will continue to play their home games in the stadium at Grünwalder Straße, lovingly nicknamed “Hermann Gerland Arena”. There has been no definite communication about where the Reserves will train, and it’s possible that plans will change in the future, but according to my information, they will stay at Säbener Straße. The geographical split of the two training locations means there will have to be a cut at some point that will make it difficult for young players to simply train with the next team up on the same grounds. That is a problem that will have to be faced with two sets of grounds located at opposite ends of Munich. The final decision about the cut-off line will be a difficult one that will have to be thought through thoroughly.
Filling the NLZ with life
Building the NLZ means that FC Bayern has invested some 70 million Euros in bricks, but even the best academy won’t work unless there’s a good concept behind it. We showed that Bayern is on a fairly good track there, in our half-year analysis. The countless changes made over the last years are resulting in more and more almost constantly good age groups.
Going forward, the people in charge will have to work on the details some more in this area and make sure to consistently improve the teams every year. This will likely have to include more aggressive demeanour on the transfer market, where Bayern has been very reserved in recent, not just compared to newcomers Hoffenheim and Leipzig, but also other traditional clubs like Schalke or Dortmund. This new behaviour will have to mean transfer fees, more often than has been the case before; however, these usually pay off, if not with a well-performing player at the own club, then at least with a training compensation once the players transfer to another club.
It seems a given that Wolfgang Dremmler won’t stay head of the NLZ forever; he jumped in on short notice in 2012 to replace Jörg Butt, but mentioned quite some time ago that his time was limited, while talking to fans. Dremmler managed to get Bayern three stars, the highest possible ranking for an academy, for the first time. He’s working very long hours, including weekends – there’s hardly any Junior Team game at Säbener Straße without him in the crowd.
This is in contrast to Heiko Vogel, Sports Director, who’s a rare guest at games of the teams under his responsibility, Under-16s, Under-17s, and Under-19s. In an interview with bfv.tv, Uli Hoeneß recently mentioned that Heiko Vogel had realised that working as both the Reserves’ coach and as Sports Director for the Junior Team wasn’t an ideal solution, and it seems likely that Heiko Vogel will hold only one of these positions next year, to ensure he can then work on that with all his focus. Two other frequent visitors at youth games are Jürgen Jung and Michael Tarnat, both of whom left Bayern’s youth department last year at their own wish.
The executives will examine the coaches as well and analyse whether each position is occupied by the best suitable coach. Not all teams play according to the general style of play: dominantly, with high percentages of possession, and high pressing. It will be important to keep hold of the good coaches, which is particularly true of Under-17s coach Tim Walter, who has been doing an excellent job ever since moving to Bayern from Karlsruhe 18 months ago. He will complete his coaching license in spring and will, in the long run, undoubtedly receive offers to work in senior football.
There will always be a certain amount of rotation in coaching positions, which will have to be filled with young, talented youth coaches who are full of passion for their task at FC Bayern.