Commentary

German fans say Nein Danke to Monday Night Soccer -- but TV is king

Nearly a half a century after the NFL launched Monday Night Football, the Bundesliga has started Monday Night Fussball, which has sparked protests and boycotts.

NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle came up with the idea for weekday football to capitalize on prime-time television revenue. He opted for Monday nights because his Friday night proposal met stiff resistance from those who cited it would hurt high school football attendance.

In September 1970, the New York Jets, led by Joe Namath, played the Cleveland Browns while Keith Jackson, Don Meredith and Howard Cosell provided the commentary for the first game of Monday Night Football, which has been the cash cow NFL figured it would be and nary a fan complained.

The Bundesliga, the soccer league with the highest average attendance in the world, has added five Monday night games to its 2017-18 season as part of a television contract agreement.

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At the Eintracht Frankfurt vs. RB Leipzig Monday night game last week, fans protested by jeering instead of cheering throughout much of the game and delayed the second-half kickoff by tossing tennis balls and toilet paper rolls on the field, and hoisted "No Monday Games" banners.

Last Monday, Dortmund fans announced a boycott for BVB's game against Augsburg and the attendance was down to 54,300 from the usual 81,000. (It was a good night, at 31 degrees Fahrenheit, to boycott.) The banners included "For fan-friendly kickoff times!"

American football has a long history of prioritizing the TV viewer over the fans who make the (quite expensive) effort to go to the game.

Long ago, I remember attending my first NFL game and being puzzled -- until the TV timeout was explained to me -- because the players were standing around for a couple minutes doing nothing. More recently, it's frustrating for those who like going to college football games that they don't determine the kickoff times until even less than a week before game day. Because the TV network gets to decide when to slot the games into their schedule. And little do they care if 70-year-old alums on the West Coast are offered games that last till midnight.

That the fans attending the games are inconvenienced to accommodate those sitting in their living room is something American sports fans have long gotten used to.

The Bundesliga has generally taken good care of its fans, with the lowest ticket prices and highest scoring games among Europe's major leagues, played in the most modern of stadiums, which are conveniently accessible by public transportation.

NFL teams, which now also have Thursday night games, play only eight home games. Bundesliga teams have 17 league homes. Although only five Bundesliga games this season will be played on Monday, protesting fans fear a proliferation in the years to come.

I wonder, though, how long the anti-Monday movement will last in Germany. When Dortmund plays an away game on a Monday, might it's fans not enjoy the early weekday diversion in their homes the same way American football fans took to Monday Night Football?

What if the extra revenue enables German clubs to better compete with the richer foes in the Champions League? We hear Bundesliga fans complaining about the commercialization of their sport but not much grumbling when expensive big-name signings improve their teams.

The fans who go to great lengths and spend hard-earned money to support their teams and create the atmosphere that makes sports so exciting should demand good treatment. But Monday night games, I predict, is something they'll get used to, probably even start enjoying.

However, the Bundesliga fans should never allow what happened to American football fans, who are inconvenienced for the sake of TV viewers while getting gouged at the ticket booth -- and have to put up with TV timeouts.

1 comment about "German fans say Nein Danke to Monday Night Soccer -- but TV is king".
  1. R2 Dad, March 1, 2018 at 11:42 a.m.

    I wouldn't be too sure, Mike. Unless the german clubs keep those monday ticket prices low, there might not be the same crowds at the weekends. There are lots of middle-age fans who have to work the next day, unlike most matches played on Saturday where you can recover. One of the main attractions of german football is the environment, the crowds, the atmosphere. In the US, fans are just people in seats--in germany fans sing/chant/whistle, and are responsible for the home atmosphere. It's an important home field advantage an expanded schedule won't take into consideration until it's too late. Players and managers in England have complained that the elimination of stands (where fans still stand the entire match) has hurt the atmosphere. The stands revenue has been more than made up by the "prawn sandwhich" crowd, but the atmosphere seems to have been deflated as a result.

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