TV money: Are the little guys finally standing up to Bayern München and Borussia Dortmund?

Over the past 10 years the Bundesliga has been won only by two teams: Bayern München and Borussia Dortmund. The current season is set to pan out no differently. These two giants of the league are likely to contest the title among themselves, barring a challenge from soda-money-fuelled RB Leipzig.

Before 2010, however, the Bundesliga was known to spring surprises on a regular basis. Teams such as Werder Bremen, VfB Stuttgart and even VfL Wolfsburg could at times win the title. These days, though, such scenarios seem to belong to the distant past. And in light of that, some fans may claim that the league lacks excitement.

A new DFL board elected

On Wednesday, the 36 clubs of the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga elected a new steering committee for the next three years. The new head of the DFL is Schalke’s Peter Peters. Alongside him there are now representatives from SC Freiburg, 1. FC Köln, SV Darmstadt, FC St. Pauli and Holstein Kiel. Bayern also captured one of the seats on the board, while BVB went home empty-handed.

As a matter of fact, BVB CEO Aki Watzke had considered running for the position of head of the DFL, but decided against it after it became clear that he wouldn’t get the votes necessary.

All in all, the general assembly voted for representatives of smaller clubs, leaving the big boys of the league with just one seat on the new board. What’s especially interesting in that regard is the fact that the DFL is going to negotiate a new TV deal starting from the 2021/22 season.

How should the TV money be distributed?

This season, Bayern München are set to receive 2.6 times more in TV revenue than lowly SC Paderborn 07. And this gap in income between Germany’s biggest teams and the rest is the main reason that it seems so unlikely that anybody could currently challenge Bayern or Dortmund for the title.

However, a number of clubs are keen to do something about that. The so-called “Team Mittelstand” (translation: team mid-class) is a loose collection of 16 clubs. Teams such as Eintracht Frankfurt, 1. FC Köln, Werder Bremen and Hertha BSC can be found among its ranks.

It seems apparent to them that the ever-increasing gulf in TV revenue between Bayern and Dortmund and the rest of the league should be evened out. In the media, there have been suggestions about turning the present arrangement for TV income distribution on its head, leaving Paderborn with the most money and Bayern with the least. Others have advocated that the money should be distributed equally among the sides in the Bundesliga.

It’s unlikely that either solution will gain the majority of votes among the 36 clubs in the DFL, however. Nonetheless, given that the smaller teams now yield more power within the DFL, a new way of distributing the income could still come about.

Models that have been discussed in the past include a bigger focus on tradition and the amount of fans watching the clubs on television.

What are BVB and Bayern going to do?

While distributing the money pie in a different manner would appeal to many clubs and fans alike, both Bayern and BVB wouldn’t take too kindly to a loss in revenue.

So far, the DFL has decided to market the league as a hole, meaning that teams aren’t free to negotiate their own TV deals. Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has time and time again pointed out that his club would increase its revenue if FCB were to market themselves.

To date, neither BVB nor Bayern have threatened to leave the DFL central marketing agency, but the threat hangs in the air whenever there’s talk about other clubs receiving more of the Bundesliga’s TV revenue.

In addition, there is of course always the wider threat of both top teams leaving the Bundesliga altogether if a European super league came about. And those factors make radical change difficult for the rest of the Bundesliga.

As a result, it seems unlikely that any major upheaval is going to take place. However, if the rest of the league wants to even out the playing field, the upcoming TV deal negotiations would represent a chance to at least make some minor changes.

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 33-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball.

1 Comment

  1. I hope that the TV money can be shared evenly. I like the premier league model in which every team has an equal share and what money is left is divided up into prize money. For example each team earns TV income with a minimum of 10 games, and any other additional televised games equals a bonus of ~1mill per game so teams like Bayern and BVB who would have more televised games would earn more but this I think is fair.

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