Each year a greater number of English fans flock to Dortmund to see what all the fuss is about. Perhaps it reminds them of what English football has long forgotten. Incredible atmosphere, cheap tickets and beer on the terraces. A club that puts fans first, not finances.
Football is encompassing here, it attracts fans from all over the world. Dortmund may not have the glamour of Bayern Munich or Real Madrid, but here the football is real, with passion and love, that’s what makes it unique. 80,000 audible fans creating the best atmosphere on the continent, with the Gelbe Wand at the epicentre of it all. A sea of luminous shirts, scarves and flags covering the terraces, nowhere else comes close. Even the players themselves are admired for their interaction with the fans. After a lost 1-0 at home to Augsburg Hummels and Weidenfeller climbed into the crowd to apologize to the fans, letting them express their frustration. Then when you realise all this costs a fraction of the price in England it begins to make sense.
So why are the tickets so cheap? “Football is part of people’s lives and we want to open the doors for all of society. We need the people, they spend their hearts, their emotions with us. They are the club’s most important asset.” Says the club’s marketing director Carsten Cramer. The truth is, English ticket prices in Germany would lead to a storm, and It’s not just the ticket prices that remain cheap. After 3 seasons at the same price the club’s kit manufacturers asked Dortmund to increase the price of their shirts. They refused. The same reason prompted Dortmund to say no when the clubs caterers asked them to increase beer prices. Yes, it is money for the club but not a lot, it does however affect the fans. Cramer says the club try to be as fair as possible, it’s easier to ask sponsors for money than to ask fans. The club keeps prices low to ensure that all aspects of society are represented in the crowd, there is no such thing as the ‘prawn sandwich brigade’ as the lower social classes of society aren’t priced out.
When these figures are compared with England the gulf becomes even more apparent. A season ticket in Dortmund’s famous Gelbe Wand will set you back around £160, whilst Arsenals cheapest season ticket will cost you £1,035. There’s no doubt that Dortmund could boost revenue by raising prices, but the won’t. Why? Because they don’t want to lose the credibility and loyalty of the fans, they choose to have a price that any fan can afford regardless of which social background they come from. If you price people out, you change the atmosphere. If you price people out, it isn’t the people’s game anymore. Which is why many English football stadiums have become quiet and boring.
Finances may be shaping the dynamics of football across Europe and even more so in England, but at Dortmund the fans will continue to remain the priority. There’s a reason why over 1,000 Brits make the trip abroad. Dortmund are a club that are doing it right, not just on the pitch but in the boardroom and on the terraces.