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Sports

Economic Concern, Not Panic, Reigns in Bundesliga

The boom times for German soccer may have come to an end with the advent of the global financial crisis, but the Bundesliga looks better prepared than most European leagues to weather the financial storm.

Euro bills under a mini soccer ball

Teams are being more cautious with the money

Bayern Munich's chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has warned of a wave of bankruptcies that could hit European club soccer.

"There appears to a number of clubs in serious danger of going bankrupt," said Rummenigge in an interview with daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung. "Not just in England, Spanish and Italian clubs also have massive problems."

Even big-spending Chelsea, the London soccer club controlled by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, has been hit by the credit crunch and will sign fewer new players this season. CEO Peter Kenyon said the team was taking a prudent view and reviewing its cost base.

Michael Ballack

Michael Ballack earned more than 15 million euros in 2008

Abramovich has pumped around 689 million euros ($903 million) into Chelsea since acquiring it in 2003, which included the signing of Germany midfielder Michael Ballack.

Rummenigge said the situations in France and Germany, where there are stricter licensing rules, are better.

"But nobody can predict how things are going to look tomorrow when the world is in such a financial turmoil," said the Bayern boss. "That's why you should keep your powder dry, or money, so you can reload if there are lucrative opportunities."

The current catchphrase is "sink costs" and most clubs used the winter transfer window to reduce the size of their squads rather than sign new players.

"Soccer must realize that the business can no longer reckon with growth," said German Soccer League (DFL) Vice President Peter Peters, even though the effects of the economic slowdown have yet to fully hit many of the country's top clubs.

Top-flight Bundesliga side Schalke 04 offloaded seven players and Dortmund six with loan signings now the preferred method of signing up new talent.

Corporate ticket sales are also suffering with Bayer Leverkusen especially hard hit as the club is looking to sell 2,400 business seats when its BayArena stadium is completed in the summer.

Financial shootout

In the lower leagues the situation is worse. There has been no frantic spending spree during this season's transfer window. This winter only 45 new players were signed in the third division compared to a transfer record of 65 last year.

Michael Owen being treated on the sidelines of the 2006 World Cup

Teams hope they'll be able to get back on their feet after the crisis

"The league is turning into a financial shootout," said Dirk Eichebaum, president of Stuttgarter Kickers.

Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke expects repercussions for the Bundesliga over the medium term, saying "there will be cuts and bruises."

"We were lucky to cut debts by 50 million euros at the right time," said Watzke. "In today's climate that wouldn't have been possible. It is also important that we were able to extend contracts on a long-term basis with our big sponsors shortly before the start of the international financial crisis."

Borussia Moenchengladbach, Karlsruhe, Energie Cottbus, VfL Bochum and Hertha Berlin face an uncertain year. They are all looking for new sponsorship deals with their partners when the contracts run out at the end of the 2009 season.

Schalke president Josef Schnusenberg said he remains confident that the Bundesliga can come out of the economic slowdown in a stronger position than when it went in.

"I am convinced that the Bundesliga is the model of the future for European soccer because the solid financial standing of our clubs will be to our long-term advantage," he said.

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