- Associated Press - Friday, November 12, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) - Bayern Munich’s struggles this season benefit the Bundesliga as a whole, in the view of the league’s chief executive officer.

The Bavarian power, which has won nine of the last 14 Bundesliga titles, is ninth in the 18-team league with four wins, three losses and four draws, 12 points behind first-place Borussia Dortmund.

“It’s good for the fans. It’s good for the sponsors. At the end, I think it’s good for Bayern Munich because they are living in a real challenging day-by-day-enviornment,” Christian Seifert said. “A lot of the so-called top leagues in Europe are in fact very boring leagues. They have maybe one or two real good clubs, but at the end they’re maybe a little bit boring.”

Speaking Thursday during an interview at The Associated Press headquarters, Seifert said the Bundesliga had benefited from a decade of tight financial regulation of debt. He endorsed the financial fair play rules enacted by Union of European Football Associations president Michel Platini, which limit spending, and says it’s important for teams to keep player compensation below 50 percent of revenue.

“We completely support this idea of Platini because a 15 billion euro ($20.5 billion) industry, which alone in Germany creates more than 100,000 jobs, has to have a sustainable business model,” he said. “At the end it’s not rocket science to say you should not spend more than you have.”

Yet, big spending on players by Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and Manchester City owner Sheikh Mansour raise the prices for their competitors.

“A market is only as rational as the most irrational player,” Seifert said. “I would not talk about the strength of a league because one club can afford one player for 100 million. You have to see what happens on the pitch.”

Relative financial stability has enabled money to be invested in stadiums. Following construction and renovation for the 2006 World Cup in Germany, most big clubs appear to be satisfied with the facilities.

“We have the best stadium infrastructure for a soccer league all around the word,” Seifert said.

Seifert has pushed for the Bundesliga to expand its overseas presence. In the United States, its games on GolTV draw a small fraction of the viewers that watch England’s Premier League on Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Soccer Plus and ESPN2.

Still, Bundesliga TV distribution has increased from 135 nations to 207 in the past five years, boosting international broadcast revenue from $20 million to $70 million.

“The Bundesliga missed the chance when you had a real strong brand of German football _ German soccer,” he said, citing the nation’s 1996 European title, and Champions League titles by Borussia Dortmund in 1997 and Bayern Munich in 2001.

He’s encouraging German clubs to make more extended preseason trips to the U.S., following the practice of Manchester United, Chelsea and other English teams.

“It makes much more sense to come over and not only play one friendship game _ which in most of the cases is not friendship, but it’s about money,” he said. “The better way is to go to the market, to be here for a few days, to do a real training camp, work with media, go to schools, have one or another match. This is a more sustainable approach.”

Yet, he opposes the plan suggested two years ago by Premier League CEO Richard Scudamore to add international regular-season league matches, the so-called “39th game.”

“First of all, I think FIFA would deny to do so,” Seifert said. “For the German market and for the German brand and the Bundesliga, I think that it’s not the right approach.”

Fans wouldn’t want to miss even one of their team’s home games, Seifert maintained, as the chase for titles, European berths and avoiding relegation intensifies each season.

“I can hardly imagine that it’s good to play such an important game somewhere else than in your home stadium or in your home country.”

Having seen Major League Soccer matches here and been in contact with the league, Seifert thinks having the 2022 World Cup played in the United States would be a big boost. FIFA’s executive committee will vote on the 2018 and 2022 hosts on Dec. 2.

Competing in the U.S. market is a daunting proposition for soccer.

“It’s a challenge because the U.S. sports fan is used to having the greatest league on earth in this country, like the NFL or the NBA or baseball or hockey,” he said., “Nevertheless, what they have done in the last years is a real good development.”

Copyright © 2017 The Washington Times, LLC.

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