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Bundesliga Coffers Grow Despite Economic Crisis

The global financial downturn may have already put millions of Europeans out of work and damaged industry, but the German Soccer League (DFL) says it is still well placed to handle the crisis.

A soccer ball on euro notes

The German Football League says times were good last season

The DFL's confidence may be based largely on figures released Thursday, March 12, showing that the German Bundesliga had its most successful financial year ever in the 2007-08 season.

The 36 first and second-division clubs in Germany registered record turnover of 1.93 billion euros ($2.45 billion) and reduced their combined liabilities to just under 470 million euros, the association said at a board meeting.

The 18 top flight Bundesliga clubs saw turnover climb by a healthy seven percent to 1.57 billion euros, while second division clubs recorded a jump of 26.3 percent to 368 million euros.

DFL chief Christian Seifert said any downturn in the league due to the financial crisis would likely occur next season.

"We won't notice anything this season, but if there is a global economic crisis then soccer won't escape unscathed," he said. "We will feel the effects and suffer a few cuts and bruises. However, it won't be a major threat to the business model as it is too stable for that."

FIFA boss Sepp Blatter

FIFA boss Sepp Blatter says soccer will eventually be affected by the crisis

Seifert's words were an echo of those by world soccer chief Sepp Blatter, who spoke of a so-far unscathed world game at a press conference in Manchester, England, on Wednesday.

"Soccer is not too much touched by this economical tsunami," he said. "But you've got to guard against the second wave."

Bad news for some clubs

However, there are some black clouds on the horizon. While all 18 top Bundesliga clubs registered a profit after tax in the 2006-07 business year, last year just 15 remained in the black. In the second division the number dropped from 12 to nine.

"The figures aren't as good as in 2006-07, but are still very respectable," said DFL finance officer Christian Mueller.

Transfer costs rose from 164.5 million euros to 192.3 million, while wages also increased by 40 percent from 530 million euros to 627 million.

While the 40-percent figure is significant, it compares favorably to the English Premier League and France's top division where wages in the same period rose by 63 and 64 percent respectively.

Transfers hit

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, left, and Arjen Robben, right,

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, left, and Arjen Robben, right, are now team mates at Real Madrid

Despite the optimism in the DFL boardroom, the global economic slowdown managed to drag down activity in the January transfer window for the 2008-09 season.

While English Premier League clubs forked out 172 million euros for new players in the window, the top clubs from Europe's four other major leagues couldn't match this amount between them.

"European transfer markets as a whole have been extraordinarily quiet, and much of the activity in England has been in the form of loans and short-term contracts," Simon Chadwick, professor of Sport Business Strategy and Marketing at Coventry University, told Reuters news agency.

In Italy, spending dropped by about 43 percent from the previous season to around 29 million euros. German clubs meanwhile spent a little over 16 million euros for 42 player transfers.

Real Madrid were the only Primera Liga club to buy big, spending around 43 million euros to sign Klaas-Jan Huntelaar from Ajax Amsterdam and Lassana Diarra from Portsmouth.

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