FC Hollywood to a model franchise : The Bayern story
23rd May 2001, San Siro – Oliver ‘der Titan’ Kahn goes the right way and thwarts a match-deciding penalty from Mauricio Pellegrino of Valencia; and Bayern Munich are Champions of Europe once again! But it wasn’t just a Champions League victory. It marked the beginning (and end) of an era. 25 years’ wait for European glory ended – first Bundesliga and Champions League double since 1974. Yet the significance of that glorious moment lied elsewhere. It was the end of the FC Hollywood era for good and the inception of Bayern Munich – a model franchise.
For the uninitiated, Bayern were called FC Hollywood in the 1990s (mostly outside Bavaria) because their ‘stars’ kept featuring in the tabloids for non-footballing reasons. Being the most glamorous club in Germany didn’t help their cause. After a period of immense domestic and continental success in the 1970s, Bayern went on a lean streak. It wasn’t simply a case of elusive European glory; the 1980s marked a period of off-field turmoil for the club and it continued till the end of 1990s. The appointment of Ottmar Hitzfeld in the 1998 season brought about winds of change and the 2nd glorious era in Bayern’s history was set to unfold.
The past decade has seen Bayern win 5 Bundesliga titles, 5 DFB-Pokal cups and feature in 2 Champions League finals. They can now boast of having some of the most sought after names in world football (luckily for the club, the stars feature on the back pages of tabloids for all the right reasons!) and display a brand of exciting, attacking football that has lured thousands of football fans into jumping on the Die Roten bandwagon. However, it would be unfair to heap all the praise on the coaching staff and star players. The foundations of success were laid way back in the 1990s when club President Uli Hoeness and Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge hit the road to see how the top names in the sporting world work. They studied the youth system at Ajax, merchandising schemes of Manchester United and star-power leveraging of Chicago Bulls. As a direct consequence of their efforts, today Bayern Munich is not only competing for top honours on-field; off it they are economically well positioned for the future.
Bayern is run like a joint business venture, whose stocks are privately owned. Most of the present board members are ex-Bayern Munich stars who live and breathe Bayern. Last season, Bayern posted their best financial stats in 112 years, churning out a profit of 11.1m Euros and a record turnover of 332.2m Euros, despite 2 seasons without a major trophy. Bayern are also expected to gain an additional 30 million Euros once it pays off the Allianz Arena stadium. This goes to show the financial stability at the club; and the fact that it is not riddled with debt could make them big winners if and when UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules kick in. And the success story doesn’t stop on the financial front; Bayern have strived hard to make itself a global brand and the number of registered members of Bayern has almost doubled within nine years from 96,440 in 2002/3 to more than 187,000 in 2011/12.
Despite all the good vibes around Allianz Arena stemming from their economic prosperity, the fans and staff are demanding trophies that a club of the stature of Bayern should be delivering. In an effort to give the fans something to cheer about, Bayern have once again dug deep into their transfer kitty to bring in quality players. They have also invested in staff, bringing in Matthias Sammer as Sporting Director, hoping to utilize his experience as technical director with DFB.
The current season has seen Bayern record their 2nd best points tally halfway through the campaign. They have topped their group in the Champions League and are set to face Arsenal in the first knockout stage. With their team starting to show champions’ calibre, the mood around Bavaria is festive indeed and the fans can sing the Bayern anthem, Stern des Südens (Star of the South) in full voice!