Is Bayern Munich's Dominance Good or Bad for the Bundesliga?

Cristian Nyari@@cnyariContributor IMarch 21, 2014

Bayern's players celebrate with supporters after the Champions League round of the last 16 second leg soccer match between FC Bayern Munich and Arsenal FC in Munich, Germany, on Tuesday, March 11. 2014. The match finished 1:1. (AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson)
Kerstin Joensson/Associated Press

If Borussia Dortmund and Schalke drop points this weekend, Bayern Munich have the chance to wrap up the Bundesliga title with a win against Mainz. On top of all the other records they have already set and broken, it would be the earliest a team in Germany has ever won the league.

Bayern's treble-winning campaign last season and their dominant run this year have raised German football's profile enormously, but it has also raised questions over whether that dominance actually benefits the league or is in fact detrimental. 

The prevailing thought, or the most lingering on the surface, is that Bayern's imperious form has made a traditionally competitive league boring and predictable. Bayer Leverkusen sporting director Rudi Voller has been one of the many voices reinforcing that sentiment.

"The danger is very real that it will be boring at the top," Voller told the BBC earlier this year. "This season we have been close in terms of points, but Bayern's quality is not just in the starting 11 but also in the 11 after that. It is so high," Voller said.

A league-wide resignation over Bayern's dominance has set in with with the inevitable acceptance that Bayern will win the title before they have even made it official. The rest of the league very much remains competitive and as exciting as ever, but the gap at the top, now at 23 points from second-placed Dortmund, is simply too glaring.

Voller is one of many who think Bayern's dominance hurts the Bundesliga.
Voller is one of many who think Bayern's dominance hurts the Bundesliga.Clint Hughes/Getty Images

But predictability alone is not sufficient in justifying the belief that Bayern's dominance is in any way harmful to the league, not when one looks at other leagues in comparison. In Spain, for example, Barcelona and Real Madrid have won nine of the last 10 league titles.

In England, Manchester United have won 13 of 21 titles in the modern Premier League era. Similarly, Italy's Serie A is contested between the same two or three clubs on an annual basis. Football is not immune to hierarchies established over the course of decades that simply keep the more successful clubs at the top.

The Bundesliga is no different. Also speaking to the BBC, Stuttgart sporting director Jochen Schneider explained the cyclical nature of the league: "One team dominating in that way is something we can't like, but remember it happened also in the 70s and the 80s when Bayern Munich dominated for a certain period."

Throughout league history, Bayern's dominant spells have always been broken up, whether it was by Borussia Monchengladbach in the 1970s, Hamburg in the 1980s or Borussia Dortmund in the 1990s and 2000s. 

The argument goes deeper than just boredom then. Beyond the surface, Voller's words reflect what most other club officials feel, namely the fact that regardless of the cycles of dominance they simply cannot compete with Bayern's resources.

Dortmund CEO Joachim Watzke mentioned that imbalance and powerlessness earlier this year, "When they offer double the wages you have no chance," as reported by FAZ (h/t ESPN FC). But it is not just a matter of being outbid on players but the looming threat of Bayern's aggression against its competition.

Following Dortmund's back-to-back titles, Bayern were accused of targeting their players to weaken them. "They have now retaliated. They want to destroy us. To permanently switch us off as a direct competitor by taking our players so that we no longer constitute a threat for them," Watzke said.

Watzke fears the Bundesliga can head the way of the Scottish league.
Watzke fears the Bundesliga can head the way of the Scottish league.Sascha Schuermann/Associated Press

What Watzke alluded to may be true but it is as much Bayern attempting to maintain the upper hand as it is other clubs simply failing to take the right measures to keep up. Everything Bayern have built has been a result of responsible financial management and intelligent squad building.

"Sometimes it's a bit frustrating but on the other hand they've done a very good job for 40 years," Stuttgart's Jochen Schneider said. "It's not that they won the money in the lottery or that a Russian guy came to give them lots of money—it's the result of their work. It's our job to close that gap."

Sure enough, that process is very much under way at many Bundesliga clubs, but it will not interrupt Bayern's dominance anytime soon. But in that sense, Bayern's stranglehold is encouraging other clubs to rethink their strategy and adopt more prudent policies.

What must also be kept in mind is that this is not your ordinary Bayern side. It is arguably the greatest German club of all time. According to the Wall Street Journal, Bayern are on course to finish with the highest points-per-game rate ever amongst Europe's top four leagues. 

Bayern broke over 30 records last season and are on course to set many others this year. In that sense it is easy to understand how many would be put off, especially when we look to football, or sports in general, as a medium for unpredictability and competitiveness. 

However, consider the many benefits and the influence this Bayern team can have on the Bundesliga and German football in general. 

For one, Bayern are the best example that success on and off the pitch does not derive from wealthy outside investors but from manageable and responsible long-term planning. That should at least provide some reassurance in the era of growing corporate involvement in the ownership and management of football clubs.

On a smaller scale, Bayern's dominance also proves that internal investments have beneficial effects. For all the talk of Bayern's aggressive poaching of rival teams' players they have built one of the most sustainable and successful youth academies in world football. 

Bayern's standards may be high but it has the inevitable effect of encouraging other clubs to follow suit. In the long run it will increase the quality across the league and German club performance in Europe. 

Whereas German clubs have swayed between doing well one year before completely falling off the next, there are a handful of sides in the Bundesliga that have kept up sustained challenges for European spots.

This year the Bundesliga had four clubs in the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time in the competition's history. Not that Bayern have been directly responsible for that but their success has challenged others to stay sharp and keep up.

More than ever before, clubs outside of Germany look to the Bundesliga as a great source of young talent. Simply put, more and more clubs and people are becoming aware of German football predominantly because of Bayern's strong performances.

Bayern are attracting other markets and with that will come inevitable interest in the league and other clubs.
Bayern are attracting other markets and with that will come inevitable interest in the league and other clubs.Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Spo

Bayern have recently expanded their international operations and will open offices in both the United States and Asia, two growing markets with tremendous commercial potential for the club. Inevitably then, a spotlight on Bayern is also a spotlight on the Bundesliga and German football. 

So, is their dominance completely positive? No, not from every perspective and certainly not in the short-term. But in the long run, Bayern are helping German football grow. This team will go down as one of the greatest club sides of all time.

Decades from now we could look back at a "golden period" in which a brilliant Bayern side spearheaded German football's European revival and global presence.


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