American football: what the bundesliga can learn from the nfl

American Football What the Bundesliga could learn from the NFL

It was a coincidence of the framing calendar, but on the weekend of all weekends, when the German Soccer League was on break, the National Football League (NFL) in the U.S. showed why American soccer may currently offer sports fans the better entertainment. There, the two Super Bowl participants were determined in the Conference Championships. And German soccer fans, who watched the two dramatic games between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Cincinnatti Bengals (24:27 after overtime) and the Cincinnati Bengals (24:27 after overtime), respectively, will have to wait for the new rules. The Los Angeles Rams and the San Francisco 49ers (20:17) may be wondering whether they are still in the right place in the Bundesliga soccer.

Just looking at the champions of the past ten years is enough to show what the Bundesliga is currently lacking: namely, a competition that actually deserves the name. The name Bayern Munich has now been emblazoned on the championship trophy nine times in succession. And you don’t have to be a prophet to predict that at some point this spring it will once again be: "Only the FCB will be German champion."

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In the NFL, on the other hand, there have been dominant teams in the past ten years, such as the Kansas City Chiefs and the New England Patriots. Alone: There, seven different teams won the championship, only New England managed to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy more than once (three titles).

And so it sounds like a staircase joke that in the league, of all places, which is considered the most thoroughly commercialized in the world, a pure marketing machine in which even the slightest interruption to the game is used for commercial breaks, trailers or teasers, that in this thoroughly capitalist system, of all places, the sport is at the center despite everything. In the Bundesliga, on the other hand, which prides itself on tradition, fan culture and closeness to the game, but which has long been groaning under all the contradictions in the triangle of fans, commerce and sporting competition, in the very league in which sports social romantics would still like to feel so much at home, boredom and disinterest are spreading.

This begs the question: Are there things the Bundesliga can learn from the NFL?? And indeed one or two things come to mind. Which are:

Restore equality of opportunity

The current system promotes a two-tier society in the Bundesliga. In the top third, the clubs that either count on a permanent influx of capital from companies or patrons (Leverkusen, Wolfsburg, Leipzig, Hoffenheim) or can increase their financial cushion through regular participation in the Champions League (Dortmund’s BVB, which is listed on the stock exchange, and Gladbach most recently). Behind them come the majority of clubs, for whom the only thing that really matters, year after year, is to stay in the league. As long as this system is not broken up, any real competition will be nipped in the bud. And instead of excitement in the fight for the title, soccer fans are left with nothing but big yawns.

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Salary cap and draft system

Serial champions like Bayern don’t exist in the NFL. And that is no coincidence. There you have a system of "Competitive Balance" The rules are established to ensure the competitiveness of each team at all times. One component of this: each team has the same player budget (the so-called "salary cap"). This means that transfers and salaries at lunar prices, which have become commonplace in European soccer, do not occur in the NFL. A Paris St. There can be no Germain or Manchester City. You could possibly afford a top star like Messi or Mbappe, but then you would have to accept that this superstar would have to play with all the district league players, because otherwise you would break your budget. This system makes squad planning an important element of operations. Simply buying up a team with a lot of financial power, as the clubs in England or Spain are currently doing (and accumulating debts to the point of insanity), is not possible. The salary cap ensures that the competition is financially fair.

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Second component for equal opportunities is the draft system. This is about distribution of the best young players to the respective teams. In short, the way it works is that last season’s worst team is the first to help itself from the colleges’ pool of young talent. Then the second-worst team, the third-worst, etc.. The reigning Super Bowl champion is the last team to be selected. Transferred to the Bundesliga, this would mean that talents such as Jamal Musiala or Youssoufa Moukoko would complete their first professional stint in Furth or Bielefeld instead of immediately joining Munich or Dortmund and further strengthening the already overpowering squads there. This ensures that the sporting competition is balanced.

Playoff mode

Gone are the days when Uli Hoeneb once said, "Santa Claus has never been an Easter Bunny" and thus allude to a club other than Bayern topping the table at Christmas. Today, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny always go by the same name. Matchday after matchday results in dejà vu: Bayern is enthroned at the top, followed at a respectful distance by teams from Leverkusen, Leipzig, Wolfsburg, Hoffenheim. Exceptions like Freiburg or the Gladbach Borussia confirm the rule.

The TV stations also feel the extent of the problem in the ratings of their expensively purchased live games. It is now a regular phenomenon that games from the Second Bundesliga, where many crowd-pullers such as Schalke, Bremen or HSV are currently playing, attract more people in front of the TV than the Bundesliga with pairings such as Furth vs. Bielefeld or Augsburg vs. Bochum. Nothing against Furth, Bielefeld, Bochum, the clubs deserve every respect for facing the overpowering competition week after week. But the attraction for fans who are not from the region is rather manageable.

For the TV stations this must be an alarm signal. Only recently, the streaming service Dazn has drastically increased the prices for new customers. Apparently, this is the only way to refinance the recent rights offensive. But the calculation could still not work out, because the "product Bundesliga" is not a good one is currently not interesting enough for a large number of fans.

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A playoff system like in the NFL would remedy the situation. In the "Regular Season The 32 teams play 16 games each to determine the best team in their division. The twelve best teams make it into the playoffs (eight division winners and the four winners of the so-called "Wild Card Games").) Only there it goes in the K.o.-Mode for the title. Only one game, whoever loses, gets kicked out. This will keep the title fight exciting until the very end. Bayern could lead the table for months on end. But still fail in the playoff to Mainz or Union Berlin. But maybe they will prevail, just like they won the Champions League two years ago in playoff mode.

But: The suspense would be high until the last matchday and finally Sepp Herberger’s maxim would apply again: "Football is so exciting because no one knows how it will end."

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