Die Bayer Leverkusen hoof uitvoerende beampte, Fernando Carro, believes the Bundesliga risks turning into a “development league” for the Premier League if it cannot find a way to bridge the gap between the TV revenue earned by both leagues.
The German club can lay claim to the third largest wage budget in the Bundesliga but in England Leverkusen would likely be in the bottom three of the Premierliga.
As sulks, Die Werkself have found themselves struggling to compete with English clubs in the transfer market to the extent that they were outbid by a recently promoted side and were unable to match the wages offered to a potential signing in the summer.
And while the prospect of English clubs outspending their rivals across Europe is nothing new, Carro fears it has now led to German clubs being forced to sell key players every summer just to keep up. "Natuurlik, we are suffering from it,” he told the Guardian when asked about his fears over the spending power of English clubs.
“We tried to buy a player in the summer and in the end a promoted side from the Premier League was able to pay more money and a higher salary than us, a top four side in Germany. The Premier League has so much more money and resources than any other country. This is not good for us. Definitely not.”
In the last five seasons alone, Leverkusen have made around £142m from selling players like Bernd Leno, Kai Havertz and most recently Leon Bailey to English sides. And while that may seem like good business, the one-way nature of the market troubles Carro.
“The TV rights deals are the ones that we have. It would be difficult to increase them. So the biggest change in income can come from sporting success in European competitions. The only other way is through transfers," hy het gesê.
“At the end of the day you can make money from transfers. English clubs pay the transfers, we get the money, but then that just means the entire Bundesliga is like a development league for the Premier League.
“Even Borussia Dortmund have to sell players to the Premier League. The only club that can compete at the moment from the Bundesliga is Bayern Munich.”
The issue comes from the huge gulf in money earned from broadcasting revenue between the two leagues. Not only does the Bundesliga make around half as much from its domestic TV deal, but its income from overseas broadcasting deals are completely dwarfed by the worldwide appeal of the Premier League.
“I think in general we aren’t as good as other leagues at marketing ourselves,” said Carro. “If you look at Spain, they make €860m from overseas TV rights and we only make around €200m.
“So there’s a possibility. But even if we could make, sê, €300m more from overseas rights, we would still not bridge the gap with the Premier League. The gap is still much higher. So we could double or triple our TV income and we still wouldn’t close the gap.”
Worryingly for Carro and the rest of the Bundesliga, there are not any clear solutions to this existential economic problem for the league.
“It is the biggest income we have,” he said when asked about the possibility of increasing the Bundesliga broadcasting deals. “If you look at the other revenue streams – merchandising, ticketing, sponsorship, etc – the growth there will never match the TV income. But at the moment there’s no structural possibility of increasing revenue to that level.”
Prominent voices in German football, such as the former Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge have called on pan-continental salary caps to try and stem the spending of English clubs. Egter, Carro isn’t sure that would be enough to fix the problem.
“It matters how a salary cap is implemented. If it is a percentage of income then it will be different at different levels," hy het gesê. “If you have an absolute number it’s also different. It’s difficult with a salary cap to bridge the gap between the Premier League and other leagues. I don’t think that would help. I don’t see how they would help bridge the gap.”