There were a number of stand out factors making it so memorable:
Getting to the games was a doddle. Even in a massive 75,000 crowd at the Alliance Arena, catching the U bahn (Underground) from the Marienplatz in the centre of Munich to the ground was without problems or delays. After the game the wait for a train was minimal.
In Leverkusen it was even easier, this time by car, following hoards of fans into a Bayer company car park 5km from the ground with free park and ride buses laid on every few minutes before and after the game.
The process of registering with the Leverkusen website and purchasing tickets was done a couple of weeks before the game. The tickets arrived by post from Germany 4 days later. It has taken longer for me to receive tickets- even as an existing fan- from my own club in Nottingham!
The cost- 22 euros (about £19) - was also great value for top flight football.
3. The match day experience
Fans from both teams mingle inside and outside the ground without a hint of any tension. This is despite the fact that there is significant consumption of fine German pilsner, not only before the game or in the concourse, but during the game in the seats. It’s more akin to watching sport in the US than the UK. So yes I confess I did indulge with the beer and Brat combo!
The quirky thing in the ground was that both stadia are cashless. The only way to make a purchase is to get a club card and pre-load it with local currency (5, 10, 15 Euros etc.). In truth this is a bit of a pain for a one time visitor, but I guess for a regular fan it’s pretty straight forward. I would imagine that the secondary spend is significantly higher than in the UK as a result.
4. Fan engagement
There was tons of it, from a great Bayern Munich app with a log in for online voting and feedback, to fans getting the chance to be on the pitch as flag wavers as the teams come out and even the announcer inviting the crowd to give the line ups and score updates almost pantomime style.
Both clubs also had their own songs, which rang out at various intervals encouraging the fans to sing. Ok there were a bit Eurovision standard but the combination of full or nearly full grounds, great atmosphere, great value and loads of goals made it a top experience.
5. Community engagement
Bayer Leverkusen have a unique version of fan engagement in the fact that the club is a ‘Werkself’ or a factory club, with the club wholly owned and run by the Bayer organization. The company is a massive employer in the area, and I wonder how many fans actually work for the company too? The model works to combine the company’s values with the local community through the guise of the football club.
It works really well too for activating sponsorships.
So all in all it was a great weekend, and I know where I’ll be watching my football next season if I get the chance!