A Local Club in a Global Market
Bayern are currently facing a turning point in the history of the club. Global ties are strengthening while placing a strain on local ones, Qatar has been an unmitigated disaster which has no end in sight and the preseason world tours are nearly as unpopular. Even with TV revenues due to increase next season, Bayern are being forced into increasingly audacious tactics in their attempts to keep pace with the European elite. The obvious fear is that Bayern lose their identity and ultimately hurt the club both financially and in terms of results.
Globalization is upon us and is, at this juncture, a necessity to compete in Europe. In recent years Bayern has done a tremendous job of growing the club outside of Germany, namely in North America and Asia. However, not all the ventures they have undertaken have been successful or remotely popular, especially amongst the Müncheners. The extremely controversial Qatar relationship and the summer tours are chief among those concerns. While globalization is both necessary and inevitable, Bayern has a duty to remain true to their roots.
"Workers' situation in Qatar has improved through football," Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge recently said.
— Felix Tamsut (@ftamsut) January 21, 2018
Without question, the most important thing on the clubs’ agenda is to nurture the local community and ensure that the Müncheners are content. A happy Munich will go a long way to continuing their growth globally. A significant part of the appeal to both Bayern and the Bundesliga are the crowds and the excitement that they bring. Keeping ticket prices within a reasonable range and focusing on the community is what makes the Bundesliga far more exciting than the other major European leagues. Every supporter from around the world can feel the passion that the crowd has for their team and it makes every one of those viewers dream of being in that crowd cheering on their club. Without that support, Bayern and the Bundesliga are just another European football side and league.
Unfortunately, the global interest and support does create some very real issues. A significant portion of the Bayern faithful decry how the Allianz has become a tourist venue and does not provide the level of support that is expected in Munich and the Bundesliga. There is of course a level of truth to this, however the atmosphere can still be very energetic. Additionally, from my own experience, not only does it likely convert those “tourists” to lifelong Bayern fans, it will inspire them to learn how to better support the team. My German is minimal in the extreme, however being a Bayern fan has inspired me to begin learning the language and to learn many of the Südkurve songs by heart. When I am fortunate enough to be at the Allianz, I want to be able to sing along and help create that atmosphere we all love. There will always be a certain faction that is there simply to cross it off a list, but for many supporters, this experience can develop and cement their interest in Bayern, as not only a club but a culture.
Then there’s the controversial preseason world tours. As a U.S. based Bayern fan, I can say without reservation that they should limit these. While I would not eliminate them entirely, there is certainly no reason for a team to tour every year. A good balance would be to tour every other year, specifically the years there are no major international tournaments, and switch between the US and Asia. As someone who has attended these games in the past, I find them very frustrating and extremely unworthy money grabs by the organizations involved. For those in Germany who complain about ticket prices, imagine paying well over $100 for terrible seats to a match that not only means nothing but will feature very few players anyone in attendance has actually heard of.
I cannot entirely blame Bayern for their participation or the ticket prices as they are making significant amounts of money, growing their fan base and are not responsible for setting the prices. However, Bayern, and really all clubs, would be well served to avoid participating in years where the World Cup and Euro are played. The quality of the product fielded is extremely poor and in all reality the players need rest and training that is conducive to their preparations for the season ahead. It is unfair not only to the players but also to the supporters and clubs to force these irrelevant tournaments to go on regardless of the fact that no one besides a few businessmen benefit from it.
The commercial and marketing activities of the club should generate money to improve the on-field performances and not hamper them. The Bayern executives need to be wary of tipping the scales when continuing at the current rate of commercial expansion. The poor start to this season, after the exhaustive Asia tour, has already rang some alarm bells around Säbener Straße. While most of the Bayern supporters that live abroad relish the chance to see the team in person, very few of us would want that opportunity to come at the detriment of the players or the team’s ambitions for the season. Therefore we can only hope that the voice of reason has started to creep in and those executives will find a more balanced and fruitful approach to their global marketing ambitions.