English football fans 'clients', says Borussia Dortmund chief Hans-Joachim Watzk


30,000 fans snubbed Borussia Dortmund’s Monday night game against Augsburg

English football fans are “more clients than members” of the clubs they support, says Borussia Dortmund’s chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke.

Watzke expects Germany’s experiment with Monday night fixtures to be scrapped following fan protests.

English fans have complained about the timing of some games, but are at the mercy of the TV rights holders.

“The Germans don’t want to have the circumstances like in English football,” Watzke told BBC Sport.

Watzke said 30,000 of his club’s fans snubbed Monday’s game against Augsburg, even though they had paid for their tickets.

This week’s fixture was the second to be played on a Monday as part of the new TV deal that runs to 2021.

Watzke estimates 80% of fans in Germany are against Monday games.

He said: “The TV contract is not done again until 2021. Maybe something happens before then but 80% of the football fans in Germany don’t want it and you can’t do anything against 80%. No chance.”

‘Special spirit in German football’

Frankfurt supporters threw hundreds of tennis balls on to the pitch during their Monday night game against RB Leipzig

The Bundesliga sold its domestic TV rights from 2017 to 2021 to Sky Deutschland and Eurosport for £4.1bn.

For the first time, it made available the potential for five Monday night matches, commonplace in England since the Premier League was launched but never trialled before in Germany.

At the first, on 19 February, Frankfurt supporters threw hundreds of tennis balls on to the pitch, delaying the start to both halves of their game against RB Leipzig.

Watzke observed the vehemence of the protests at the Westfalenstadion at close hand and was not surprised.

He said: “In English football, the fans accept, mostly, that they are more clients than members or pieces of the club.

“We have 154,000 members. Everyone wants to be a part of the club, not a client of the club. That is a big difference. That is the special spirit in German football.”

‘We don’t want owners from America, Arabia or Russia’

Watzke believes the protests were the result of Germany’s rigid 50+1 ownership limit.

The 50+1 prevents individuals or groups getting control of individual clubs and operating them without recourse to the fans, which is completely different to England, where the only rule is a requirement to pass a ‘fit and proper person’s test’.

There have been discussions in Germany about scrapping the system to allow clubs the opportunity to attract outside investment in an effort to become more successful, of which Manchester City and Chelsea are obvious examples.

Watzke does not see it happening, even if it means clubs such as his own, who have one of the biggest average attendances in Europe, are now lagging behind almost the entire Premier League.

He said: “Numbers 18, 19 and 20 in the Premier League has the same financial situation as Borussia Dortmund. That is not so easy for us.

“For us, the nearest step to go to someone in the USA, or China to get one big investor. That is not our way because our people, our members, don’t like it and if someone tried to change the 50+1 rule in Germany, they would get a fan reaction the type of which they could not imagine.

“We have 81,000 spectators every match – apart from Monday. But we have 28,000 standing places, where the cost of tickets is between 11 and 14 euros. That is the Borussia Dortmund way.

“At the moment there is more money in England but maybe, in 20 or 50 years, we will, perhaps, be able to say our way was the better way.

“It is important what your fans think.”

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