The season isn't even over, but Germany's soccer league has already set a new attendance record. The larger, traditional clubs lead the way in attracting fans. The only problem is: supporters don't always behave.
Dortmund fans turn out even when their team stinks
You don't need to win to put bodies in seats, as Borussia Dortmund showed this season. The traditional working-class club has the highest attendance in the Bundesliga despite languishing in the bottom half of the table.
A total of 1,158,646 yellow-and-black fanatics turned up for Dortmund's 16 home matches thus far -- an average of 72,415 per game. Two other clubs, Bayern Munich and Schalke, have also already broken the one-million attendance mark.
All told, 11,636,578 fans have gone to stadiums to watch first-division matches this season. That represents an increase of almost 120,000 fans over last season, and the figure will rise when the 2007-8 campaign concludes on Saturday, May 17.
The statistics have the management of the German Football League, the DFL, very pleased indeed.
"We have the highest average attendance in the world," DFL Chairman Christian Seifert proclaimed after the figures were released.
Value for money
Schalke fans were treated to keeper Manuel Neuer's acrobatics this season
Part of the reason for the league's popularity is tradition. Clubs like Dortmund and Schalke are able to pack their massive stadiums even in lean years because they are seen as integral parts of the working-class Ruhr Valley region.
But another major factor is affordability. The average ticket price is just under 19 euros ($29) -- a fraction of what fans in England, Spain and Italy pay to watch their favorite teams.
"With that, we have the most affordable product of all the top leagues," Holger Hieronymous, the DFL's Chairman for Game Operations, told the dpa news agency.
So while the Bundesliga's sides, with the possible exception of Bayern, may not measure up to Real Madrid or Manchester United on the pitch, at least their supporters don't have to break the bank to follow them live.
Out of hand
Bochum hooligans behaved disgracefully in Bielefeld
The only black mark on the 2007-8 season has been misbehavior among a small minority of fans.
On April 5, a match between Frankfurt and Nuremberg almost had to be abandoned because Nuremberg supporters threw flares onto the pitch.
More seriously, on May 3, a security official in Bielefeld suffered a fractured skull and jaw after being attacked by Bochum hooligans.
"We have to take another look at our security procedures so that the situation doesn't become like in Italy," Frankfurt chairman Heribert Bruchhagen told dpa. "We're not going to capitulate before a bunch of total idiots."
Bruchhagen's opposite number at Bayern Munich seconded those sentiments.
"We have to remain vigilant and avoid offering a platform to hooligans," Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said.
The German Football Association, the DFB, has banned Bochum supporters from the standing-room portion of the stadium for that team's final home match of an otherwise successful season for German soccer.