Thousands of seats remained empty when Germany faced England in Dortmund. Germany’s national team manager, Oliver Bierhoff, thinks too much football is having a negative effect on the game.Germany’s national team manager Oliver Bierhoff has warned of an “oversaturation” of football after Wednesday’s international friendly between Germany and England failed to sell out.
Approximately 5,000 tickets went unsold at the Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund – despite a large travelling contingent from England and a considerable number of Cologne fans who made the short trip to bid farewell to local hero Lukas Podolski.
“I must admit I am worried for football,” Bierhoff told German Sunday broadsheet ‘Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’. “More and more big sponsors are involved whose primary concern is the maximization of profits,” the 48-year-old added.
What is football’s future?
“Profits from merchandising are either stagnating or falling – and not just for the national team. Between 2005 and 2014, our home games were always sold out,” Bierhoff said. “But now we’re seeing that we can’t take full stadia for granted.”
In December, Bastian Schweinsteiger’s farewell game against Finland in Mönchengladbach attracted only 30,000 supporters – 15,000 short of the stadium’s reduced capacity.
I recently spoke to a bank executive who told me the situation reminds him of investment banking in 2005,” Bierhoff stated in his interview. “Football is on the march, everyone is looking to squeeze that little bit more out of the game and looking for ways to make it even bigger and even more important.”
“But such a narrow vision of the game is a problem because, in the end, the quality of football suffers,” Bierhoff continued. “Eventually, the bubble will burst.”
As television coverage of football all over the world increases, driven by insatiable demands from sponsors, it is increasingly difficult to find a day without football.
In a recent interview with DW, former Germany international Thomas Hitzlsperger also identified a looming issue surrounding football coverage.
“There doesn’t seem to be a limit,” he told DW. “You can watch almost any game on this planet and it’s difficult to decide what is important and what is not – while also finding time to switch off a little bit.”
The quality of the football on offer also becomes questionable as international tournaments are expanded to include more smaller nations, and the latest drop in attendance figures follows warnings from Germany head coach Joachim Löw.
“The top players are physically and mentally at their limits. You have to be careful that you do not overdo things with too many games, because the quality must not suffer,” Löw said last year. “Fans would then also turn away and the interest would subside.”
Pricing is also an issue. Non-reduced tickets for Wednesday’s friendly match cost between 25 and 100 euros (up to $108) whilst tickets for Germany’s World Cup qualifier against minnows San Marino in Nuremberg are on sale for between 25 and 80 euros.
Even more football?
In an attempt to add a competitive element to international friendly matches, the UEFA Nations League will get underway in 2018. Teams will compete in four mini-leagues with each group winner progressing to a play-off in 2019. But Bierhoff is not convinced.
“In the end, you have the feeling that UEFA just want to make even more money with this new competition,” he said.