Bayern buying only the best

19 February 2013 - 02:14 By Carlos Amato
Carlos Amato
Carlos Amato
Image: Times Media

One of the most irritating things about capitalism is its immortality. Its imminent demise has been predicted daily since Karl Marx first spotted its inherent contradictions back in 1867. But capitalism is min geworry: it just sneers at the doomsayers and rolls on, pumping out an apparently unsustainable flood of money, misery and cool toys. The moral of the story: whatever you do, don't get out of the stock market.

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is not a communist, but he is saddled with a quixotic conviction that today's football capitalism is a doomed bubble. It's not, as Bayern Munich will probably demonstrate at the Emirates Stadium tonight.

Wenger may not admit it, but Bayern are the model of how Arsenal should be run. They offer spectacular proof that lavish transfer spending and financial sustainability needn't be mutually exclusive.

The Bavarian giants enjoy a considerably smaller broadcast income than Arsenal, and smaller match-day revenues - but they have a dramatically superior squad. If you were to select a combined XI from the two likely line-ups tonight, only two Arsenal players - Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla - would feature in the starting selection. All of Manuel Neuer, Philip Lahm, Javi Martinez, David Alaba, Arjen Robben, Frank Ribery and Mario Gomez would walk into Wenger's side if he was able to pick them.

So what gives? Arsenal are lying fifth in the latest Deloitte chart of big-earning clubs - but the income gap between Wenger's side and fourth-placed Bayern is hefty: £63.5-million. That shortfall is odd given that the Gunners rake in £28-million more than Bayern in ticket sales, and £22.5-million more than the Germans in TV money.

The critical difference between Arsenal and Bayern lies in commercial income. Sponsorships and advertising amount to an impressive 53% of Bayern's total revenue: the club are plugged into a mighty regional economy, and their massive Bavarian support base is an enticingly rich demographic. Major German corporations pay through the nose for a piece of the Allianz Arena or the Bayern shirt.

For the last five years, Arsenal have been locked into modest sponsorship contracts - the club had scant bargaining power when negotiating them because it desperately needed ready cash to pay off the debt incurred in building the Emirates Stadium.

Speaking of which, the story of Bayern's home ground is another textbook example of canny club management. Initially, Bayern split the risk of building their spectacular "Schlauchboot" (inflatable boat) with local rivals 1860 Munich; the plan was to share the ground as well as co-own it. That initial conservatism paid off richly when the cash-strapped neighbours flogged their 50% stake in the ground to Bayern for a rock-bottom à11-million.

So Bayern's total outlay on the Arena came to less than à200-million, as against Arsenal's near-crippling à544-million bill for the Emirates Stadium.

Things might get better for Arsenal in years to come. The stadium debt will dwindle, new sponsorship deals will be struck, and better players will be bought. But eight barren years have deeply damaged the Arsenal brand. And over the next fortnight, Bayern will make it nine years.

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