October 24, 2017

“Team Marktwert” and the distribution of Bundesliga television money

The Bundesliga’s national TV deal is up at the end of the season and DFL CEO Christian Seifert is currently looking to negotiate what could very well be the biggest contract in German football’s history. Amounts of around 1 billion Euros have been mentioned by the press, as the club’s in the league desperately look to increase the source of their income.

In light of the prospect of the new windfall awaiting the Bundesliga several clubs are now trying to look after their own best interests. Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge put in a request to the German competition authority to see if his club could get out of the solidarity pact between the teams in the league in order to be able to market their own TV rights. In addition to that 6 teams have formed an alliance to ensure that traditional German clubs should reap more rewards than their competitors.

Hertha BSC, Werder Bremen, Eintracht Frankfurt, Hamburger SV, 1. FC Köln and VfB Stuttgart have formed “Team Marktwert”(translation: team market value), because they think they haven’t been getting enough of the sweet TV money nectar.

One of their main points is the fact that pretty much every other league in Europe divides the money between the clubs based on three pillars, whilst the Bundesliga only has two pillars. Right now 65% of the money is distributed equally between the teams, whilst 35% is down to their sporting success in the last 5 seasons. Out of the top 7 leagues in Europe the Bundesliga is the only league that doesn’t have a third pillar taking into account the marketing aspects of televised football.

For HSV marketing head Jochen Hilke, the father of “Team Marktwert”, the Bundesliga should find a way to make that very aspect count. Hilke told Bild.de:

“Somebody who increases the value of product, because he has more fans and supporters, should be awarded more money when the revenues are divided (between the teams). I find anything else to be unjust.”

However, the clubs haven’t yet conclusively defined what the third pillar should include. According to kicker the clubs currently think that their fan base, popularity, TV viewership and social media reach could make up the key numbers for the marketing pot of the TV money. Other suggestions are welcome according to Hilke and the others in Team Marktwert.

It might seem like the six clubs are issuing a reasonable demand, but are they really?

The pros

Do you want to watch Wolfsburg vs. Hoffenheim on the weekend or Hamburger SV vs. Werder? The answer is easy for most television viewers in Germany, and should those two matches be broadcasted at the same time of the day there isn’t a shred of doubt that the Nordderby would win out over the plastic derby. However, the current system doesn’t reflect the difference in popularity at all.

Instead teams like Ingolstadt, Wolfsburg, Hoffenheim and Leverkusen are potentially getting more TV money than the teams that get people to tune into Bundesliga broadcasts every weekend. The popularity of these teams doesn’t reach far beyond their city’s border and many of them struggle to put a butts in seats in their relatively small stadiums.

If the Bundesliga were to exist of more plastic teams, it would automatically lose a lot of its charm. Furthermore, the interest would drop. With a team like RB Leipzig on the rise, and another rich man looking to find their football team in the lower divisions of German football, there is a chance of more plastic than tradition being the norm in the Bundesliga in the not too distant future.

Despite the stadiums being packed, one should be aware of the fact that several football fans are turning away from the Bundesliga as they are starting to get disillusioned with the current development. Having more plastic teams in the league is going to increase that sentiment, and ultimately it would drive fans.

For Wolfsburg and Hoffenheim the interest from the local fans seems to be secondary, as they are getting their pockets filled by a wealthy automobile maker and a software billionaire. A third pillar in the distribution of the TV money could potentially level the playing field according to the clubs in “Team Marktwert”.

However, what about the cons?

There can be little doubt that Bayern München and Borussia Dortmund are going to be the biggest benefactors of such a move. How couldn’t they be? They are the leaders in all categories imaginable. Do we really need a system where the two clubs that realistically have a chance to win the title get even more money? Certainly not, it would help the Bundesliga immensely if some other teams could challenge the two table toppers for the title, or at least give them a good run for their money. With even more money going their way that is less likely to happen.

Additionally, when it comes to the 6 teams in question, they do have a lot going for themselves. Over the years they have managed to create a loyal following among their fans and most of them have a thriving economy around them. Uli Hoeness went as far as stating that HSV could be Bayern’s biggest challenger if the club were to make use of its possibilities and get its act together. The same cannot be said about the other five teams on that list, but they certainly haven’t made the most of their economic possibilities over the years.

These clubs have every chance to level the playing field when it comes to taking on Hoffenheim and other teams on the verge of a European competition. It somehow feels wrong to dish out more TV money to clubs who have nobody but themselves to blame for their own failings.

Furthermore, other traditional teams might get hurt by the new model. Teams like Mainz and Darmstadt certainly do have a lot of tradition going for themselves, but their national reach is limited compared to the 6 teams who have come up with the idea. It takes time to establish a national reach and a team like Darmstadt would have even fewer chances of surviving and doing just that if they are getting even less TV money than they’d usually get from a season in the Bundesliga.

What are your thoughts on “Team Marktwert’s” idea?

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 30-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 and on the @AufstiegPod.