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Schalke boss criticizes atmosphere at Premier League games

August 24, 2018

Schalke's board member in charge of sport has criticized the cost of watching football in England – and the atmosphere in the stadiums there. Christian Heidel also warned against similar developments in Germany.

Christian Heidel FC Schalke 04
Image: picture alliance/Guido Kirchner

Speaking to public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk about commercialisation in German football, 55-year-old  Christian Heidel described ticket prices in the Bundesliga as "phenomenal" and drew unfavorable comparisons with the situation in the Premier League.

"Look at the prices in England and Spain," he said. "I’ve often been to England and have experienced the atmosphere in the stadiums there and I must say, as far as I'm concerned, that has nothing to do with football anymore."

According to the BBC's most recent Price of Football study, the average price for the cheapest season tickets in the Premier League is £464 (€514, $595), ranging from £100 for the cheapest at Huddersfield to £891 for the most expensive at Arsenal.

The average price for the most expensive season tickets is £843, with Huddersfield (£299) and Arsenal (£1768.50) again forming the two extremes. All prices are for seats since standing is technically illegal in English top-flight stadia.

In Germany, while the average price of the most expensive Bundesliga seat in the coming 2018-19 season is €652.89 ($754.50) for the year, the average cheapest season ticket works out at just €319. However, the Bundesliga also allows standing, meaning fans can obtain terrace season tickets for an average of €185 – just €10.88 per game, according to figures compiled by the FC St Pauli fanzine Der Übersteiger.

“In Germany, we do a lot for fans and try to keep the prices down," Heidel said in the Deutschlandfunk interview. "We must not push that; football must remain affordable for families and young people."

Sport kurios 2017
"Nothing to do with football anymore" - Many Arsenal fans pay over £1,000 for their season ticketImage: picture-alliance/offside/M. Atkins

Finding a balance

One unique aspect of German football which ensures the game remains affordable is the so-called 50+1 rule which is meant to ensure that the majority control of a club remains in the hands of its members. This is another factor that also contributes to keeping prices down.

The rule has come under intense scrutiny in recent years with detractors, such as Hannover 96 President Martin Kind, arguing that it discourages investment in German clubs, leaving them unable to compete either domestically with Bayern Munich or internationally with Premier League giants.

But Heidel, who has overseen a significant improvement in Schalke's fortunes since arriving in Gelsenkirchen two years ago, isn't convinced that the abolition of 50+1 is the answer.

"Scrapping 50+1 would not solve German football's problems," he said. "[If 50+1 were abolished] you would have an American or Chinese with a suitcase full of money taking a club from the bottom of the second division to the top of the Bundesliga, watched by 3,754 fans at home and taking a minibus away.

"We have to be careful not to put Germany's football culture at risk."