With this in mind and our knowledge that whoever might want to buy us would be taking on a club with huge debts and a severely pissed off fan base, I’ve been looking into not just how the Germans run their clubs, but also how they rescue them.
A few years ago, strategic consultancy group Roland Berger put out a press release with the gloriously straightforward title “How a struggling football club can turn around and come out on top”. This was based on their time spent working with Borussia Dortmund after their disastrous 2004/05 Bundesliga campaign. Dortmund had been run into the ground and were on the verge of total financial collapse before the Consultancy firm stepped in to work out, with typical German precision, how to stop the rot and rebuild the club from the ground up.
A few direct quotes from their helpful little graphic:
The first priority is to stop any bleeding, which means (most of the time) taking a closer look at the club's financial situation.
Heard that somewhere before. Can’t think where..
Football is… a serious business, which requires corporate governance and discipline. Every club is a company and must be treated as such. Politics and personal interests are among the top causes dragging clubs into the abyss. There is no room for amateurism.
Er. Cough. Aye Ellis. Cough.
Instead of focusing on expensive transfers of millionaire players, clubs should consider developing and investing in younger players - they are hungry for good results and are willing to play their best game for a much affordable wage.
I’d say something derogatory about old Davey but I imagine you’re already thinking it.
The continuity of any business is secured by the professionalism of leadership, which is expected to prepare the club not only for today's glory, but also to keep up the level of campaigns.
Now we’re all painfully aware that we aren’t anywhere near Dortmund's level. But these all seem to be very sensible and in some cases glaringly obvious points that can be applied with great success to the majority of football clubs around the world. They may not be as exciting as say, giving your manager a few hundred million to spend on the best players in the league a la Man City and Chelsea, but they’re the sort of steps I’d expect us to take anyway.
So the first major effect of the German influence may be one of how to properly run the business that is Sunderland AFC. We can only hope. I mean they could throw insane amounts of money at us until we win titles, I’d be somewhat up for that considering the misery we’ve endured for the past god knows how many years. But that is highly unlikely considering the possible source of investment.
Looking at the footballing landscape in the Bundesliga leads me to one very specific conclusion. German football, at boardroom level, is complicated. Very complicated at times. Almost painfully boringly complicated. They have a lot of rules and regulations surrounding club ownership and indeed the very definition of what a club is, that makes the English league, in comparison, appear like something of a rich kid's playground.
The financial rules governing the top German league are beyond strict in comparison to our own. Each club is required to operate very sensibly on an economic level - if they don’t and ignore any of the rules in place they may be fined and have points deducted. Or even have their licence to compete declined. Their rules about buying and selling players is a good example of just how tightly the economy of the league is controlled.
For example - if we we operated at our current level of debt in the Bundesliga and wanted to buy, say, Cameron Jerome from Norwich for a couple million, then we’d need to sell someone like Jack Rodwell (to whoever would take him) for a couple million before that would even be allowed to go ahead. Simple as. That goes for any player you want to buy if you’re in financial hardship. Want to splash the cash on that promising youngster to try and help drag you up the league? Well unless you own and are willing to sell someone just as good and more importantly, just as expensive/inexpensive as the player you want to buy. Well you can’t. Sorry.
That’s before we get onto the subject of the 50+1 rule, a league clause that controls the amount of influence an outside investor may have on a club. Unless of course it’s a large car manufacturer/big pharma/soft drink company that’s been providing funds for more than 20 years. But that’s a whole different conversation. Basically the Germans actively oppose ownership like we have in this country. Ellis Short would not be allowed 100 percent control of a football club - and maybe that’s a good thing for German football fans.
Actually, scratch the maybe - that is a fantastic thing for German football fans. Glückwünsche if any of you happen to stumble across this.
Trust me. That’s just the tip of a very complicated and extremely dull iceberg. But because of all this, interestingly (or not depending on whether or not you’ve completely switched off by now) the Bundesliga has always been thought of as a fairer league, in the sense that the teams are all of a much more equal financial footing, leading the teams on the pitch to be closer to each other in player quality which inevitably leads to an unpredictability and excitement not found in many other leagues.
But the money to be made is not as great as it is in our Premier League. So It does make perfect sense to attempt to run an English club with all that discipline and precision they’re famed for, but without some of that more overbearing league oversight and see if they can make their fun little red and white project (after getting the finances shored up and sealed tight) compete with the billionaire run, money hemorrhaging clubs in the top flight.
Of course, we’re currently languishing in the Championship, but it could be seen as an opportunity for someone with patience who wants to effectively mold a club of our size that has, to a degree, already broken the spirit of its fans. There are no downs - only ups. And that in of itself will mean that even the slightest bit of hope will draw the masses back and get them behind the club and it’s new, extremely well dressed and inhumanly polite owners. If they exist at all.
I imagine if we could be bothered we’d give Ellis one hell of a send off party. Dancing in the streets. Dogs presumably no longer fearing the boots of their masters barking in unison to chants of Haway die Jungs and insert new manager's name here’s* Rote und weiße Armee.
Then we could just load him into a cannon and fire him out into the cold, dark, North sea.
Or we could just shout at him from afar.
Ya should’ve gone at Christmas, you ya fucking arsehole.