March 22, 2017

The Bundesliga On Friday: A Positive Addition or Too Much?

Almost every Bundesliga matchday beings with a sole match on Friday, that is supposed to be the precursor to the rest of the weekend’s matches. While most fans know what to expect from one of the Saturday or Sunday games, the matches on Friday have remained very unpredictable. Some of the games—including this Friday’s FC Augsburg-RB Leipzig match — have been filled with goals and chances, while other games have been scoreless sleepers. With this being the case, should the Bundesliga keep the Friday games, or just leave the weekday games alone?

Quality Of The Games

The Friday games in many ways are meant to be a showcase for the Bundesliga. They’re in primetime (in Germany), there is only one game available to watch, and there is little competition from other leagues during this time in the week. A lot of the features of the last game on Saturday are seen in these Friday games, and since the games are supposed to be a barometer, how entertaining and the quality of the games is very important. If the games don’t contain some level of substance, they might be hurting the league more than helping generate tv revenue. With this being the case, it’s important to assess the quality of the Friday games individually and compared to the rest of that weekend.

Individually this season, the Friday games have been a mixed bag in terms of the substance. While there have been some good games, including the recent clash between Wolfsburg and Werder Bremen, the Leverkusen matches against Leipzig and Augsburg, and the Hoffenheim vs. Dortmund game, there have been a number of very drab matches —  these include the 1-0 win for Frankfurt in Gelsenkirchen, the 1-0 win for HSV against Bayer, and the scoreless draw between Frankfurt and Hoffenheim. For all of the good games on Friday’s this season, it seems like there has been a bad one that essentially cancels it out. Even though the same thing can be said about the matchday weekends in terms of the variety in entertainment, most of those games aren’t played under the microscope of the Friday night matches. With the inconsistent results, the Bundesliga might be better off just doing away with the Friday matches, especially if the league wants to have Monday night matches.

Even though there are plenty of quality matches on Fridays, people will tend to remember the bad matches more than the good ones. This is because when you expect a game to be of high entertainment value—such as the clash between two of the seasons surprises teams in Hoffe and Eintracht—and then it doesn’t deliver, people tend to remember that feeling of disappointment more than that of the satisfaction of watching a game that lives up to the billing. With this in mind, the bad matches might be remembered more than the good ones, and with the Friday matches being so important for the league’s exposure, the games end up being a very risky proposition rather than something the Bundesliga can depend on. Since this appears to be what’s gone on this season, from an entertainment standpoint the Bundesliga might be better off without the Friday matches.

The Business Side

While the entertainment of the games is very important, the most important barometer for the Friday matches is the business side of the coin. Let’s face it, the entire idea of weekday games was a business related idea. This is why the NFL, NBA, MLB and almost every other soccer league in the world has weekday games in primetime. The TV deals that come with these games and the exposure for players, teams and coaches can do great things for a league’s business. These kinds of games are part of why the Premier League now has such a large TV deal and why the Bundesliga’s popularity is clearly growing in the USA. With events such as the Florida Cup and Bayern’s various matches in America this summer, the product is certainly growing. This growth is not only due to primetimes games, but these showcase games must have some kind of role in the expansion of the Bundesliga’s market.

With the business and financial state of the league being one of the league’s priorities, the fact that the Bundesliga broke 3 billion euros in revenue for the first time ever is telling. But what is even more impressive is that the revenue saw an increase by over 20% from the 2014-15 season, which means that the league is growing rapidly. The 2.Bundesliga—which also has weekday games—posted similar gains in revenue with an increase by 20% from the previous season. And despite the higher transfer fees for the stars of the Bundesliga these days, this gain in revenue occurred with ticket prices stayed almost the same, and German clubs spend much less on wages than teams in most of the other top leagues. With these impressive revenue figures and the clear interest from fans abroad, what the Bundesliga is doing right now to expand the fanbase of the league is clearly working.

While these increased revenues are due to much more than just having primetime games, it’s not a coincidence that this is occurring at the same time as the Friday, Saturday and Sunday spotlight matches. From just being on TV, the games help the league’s exposure and make fans able to watch the games. If they all were on at the same time on Saturday and the same time on Sunday, they would be harder for fans to watch. And now that they are on Friday’s, the accessibility of the league is greater than ever. And while the Friday games can be dull, just having the game helps bring attention to the league. With the way that the Bundesliga is going revenue-wise it appears that the games aren’t hurting the league even though they aren’t consistently entertaining. While the league might be better off having two teams play a match at a time that almost guarantees entertainment rather than the risky Friday’s, the Bundesliga’ business performance suggests otherwise.

And if the chance that one of the many matches in a matchday is a snooze fest allows German clubs to spend more money and help their teams improve the quality of the league in the long run, having the Friday matches is something that the Bundesliga would be wise to continue.

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Alex Lynch

Alex a passionate fan of the Bundesliga and German Football who resides in the United States, who also loves writing and talking about the Bundesliga.

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