Firmino transfer confirms Bundesliga’s worst fears

Liverpool confirmed the purchase of FC Hoffenheim forward Roberto Firmino on Wednesday for €41 million, breaking a German record and striking fear into German pundits in the process.

Firmino transfer confirms Bundesliga's worst fears
Roberto Firmino. Photo: DPA

Germany has long known that the English Premier League has more money to chuck around than its own more modestly-financed top division.

But the fact that a club not even good enough to qualify for European football last season has just bought a footballer for a record German transfer fee has brought home just how impotent the Bundesliga is in the face of the Premier League's financial muscle.

Already this winter German Football League (DFL) boss Christian Seifert observed that the Premier League has the money to “buy every Budnesliga club out.”

“From the point of view of English clubs our leagues are like a bargain basement,” complains Phillip Selldorf in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, describing the English resources as “like something out of an Oriental fairytale.”

Liverpool are the third English club to swoop in to capture a talented Bundesliga player already this close season, after Tottenham Hotspurs and Stoke city bought players from Cologne and Hanover, respectively.

And the flight may well continue, as rumours swirl that Chelsea are prepared to pay €28 million for Augsburg's Baba.

The difference in financial clout is illustrated by the fact that English Premier League bottom club Queens Park Rangers earned €35 million more in television rights than German Champions Bayern Munich last season, according to Kicker magazine.

There is also the possibility English clubs – whic have recently signed a a new deal on international broadcasting rights – will start demanding exclusivity on kick-off times, pushing Bundesliga clubs down the agenda, writes WAZ journalist Peter Müller.

“That would be no utopia,” he argues.

'No great threat'

But not all German pundits see England's money piles as a bad thing.

Jörg Jakob, Editor-in-Chief of Germany's leading sports magazine Kicker, told The Local that there were positives and negatives to England's interest in Bundesliga talent.

“Sure, the Bundesliga is afraid that English clubs can come in and buy many of the best players. But on the other side the money can be used for player development and to improve training facilities,” he argued.

Besides, he said, Firmino justifies the price tag.

“He is not a superstar, but he is an excellent player with a lot of potential. He can play number ten or “9 and a half”, he's got plenty of creativity, he gets loads of assists and he's physically strong,” he said.

“It was always the case that the English clubs have had more money, certainly over the last ten to 15 years. But I don't see any great threat.

“No English club has reached the Champions League final in the last few years – money doesn't necessarily equal success,” Jakob concluded.

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EXPLAINED: The Covid rules for attending German football matches

The German Bundesliga kicks off on Friday evening with a match in Mönchengladbach. Here's a run-down of the Covid rules for football fans itching to join the crowds at the stadium.

EXPLAINED: The Covid rules for attending German football matches
Crowds cheer at a match between FC Kaiserslautern and Borussia Mönchengladbach, on August 9th, 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Uwe Anspach

All eyes will be on Mönchengladbach this evening as the Bundesliga season kicks off with a match against reigning champions Bayern Munich – and this time, a crowd will be present in the stadium.

READ ALSO: German football fans get green light to return to stadiums next season

With several states liberalising their rules for public gatherings in recent months, many football fans are looking forward to enjoying a lively atmosphere at football matches once more. 

There’s just one problem: there are different rules for different stadiums. Here’s what you need to know about the Covid rules before you book your ticket for any of the upcoming fixtures. 

How many fans are allowed in the stadiums? 

According to a recent decision by the federal and state governments, football stadiums around the country are allowed to fill half of their seats and sell up to 25,000 tickets to fans. 

Of course, how much this limit affects the overall atmosphere – and the football clubs’ bottoms lines – depends on the capacity of the stadium. In Borussia Dortmund this weekend, the full 25,000 tickets have been sold – but that only equates to 30 percent of the stadium’s full capacity.

READ ALSO: German football: Which Bundesliga club should I support?

Meanwhile, in the stadium owned by Berlin’s FC Union, selling just 11,000 tickets is enough to fill half of the available seats. 

What do I need to show to get in? 

That really depends on the stadium in question, although in general anyone over the age of six will need to show a negative test or proof of vaccination or recovery – the so-called ‘3G’ rule – to enter the grounds. But other clubs, such as FC Cologne, have decided to only permit people who are vaccinated or recovered to attend matches from August 28th onwards – with exceptions for people who can’t get vaccinated, like children and pregnant woman.

At Mönchengladbach’s Borussia Park stadium, however, unvaccinated fans can enter with a negative test, though visitors who’ve stayed in a high-risk or virus variant area over the past two weeks will be unable to enter – along with people who’ve had recent contact with someone who has Covid. 

If you want to see action like this at FC Cologne’s stadium, you’ll need to get your Covid jabs sorted first. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Robert Michael

Meanwhile, Borussia Dortmund has taken a middle ground. While the 3G rule applies in principle, only 1,000 of the available 25,000 tickets will be sold to people who are providing a negative test. The remaining 24,000 seats will only be available for those who are vaccinated against – or recently recovered from – Covid. 

If you’re not vaccinated and are keen to see a match, it’s worth checking on your local club’s website beforehand or sending them an email to double-check whether you will be allowed in. 

What else do I need to know about? 

You’ll need to bring a FPP2 mask with you to matches to wear in your seat and while heading to the bathroom or bar, and also observe social distancing rules – meaning staying 1.5 metres apart from your fellow fans.

In most states, you’ll also need to provide your contact details, which will be saved by the club and potentially passed on to local health authorities in order to monitor a potential Covid outbreak. 

Will these rules continue throughout the season?

That’s still an open question. If infection rates in Germany continue to rise or high-profile superspreading events occur at future matches, the government could potentially crack down further on sports events in autumn.

This could involve limiting the seat numbers even further, or (more controversially), introducing a ‘vaccinated-only’ rule for entering stadiums. 

READ ALSO: Should Germany bring in Covid restrictions for unvaccinated people only?

A recent outbreak of Covid in the Mainz football team has also dampened celebrations slightly in the run-up to the start of the Bundesliga – leaving club owners urgently calling for both fans and footballers to get vaccinated. 

Speaking to WDR ahead of the season’s start, FC Cologne’s managing director Alexander Wehrle said widespread vaccination was the best route back to normality – a message reiterated by Bayern Munich coach Julian Nagelsmann.