Borussia Dortmund boasts of a vast fanbase across the globe and a fresh crop of talented youngsters on the roster is only helping the club attract more eyeballs.
The Bundesliga giants have a huge presence in Asia, with dedicated fan groups in countries like Malaysia, China and even Singapore.
However, India is also a market Dortmund are focusing on. And it seems that fans of the club in India could be in for a treat soon enough.
Does the club have plans to expand their footprint in India? Suresh Letchmanan, Managing Director of Pacific Asia for the club claimed that Dortmund had planned to play a legends’ match in the country.
The Coronavirus pandemic played spoilsport, but Suresh is confident that the match will take place in a major Indian city once normalcy is restored.
“I would not say that due to the crisis we are focusing on commercial activities. Fan activities have always been a priority. This is what BVB (Dortmund) is all about. We have organised many activities for fans in India to Mongolia to Cambodia and this will not change.
“For the Indian market, we had planned to play the legends’ game, but it was not possible in the current situation. But I am sure that we will fulfil the obligation of bringing the team to India. Football is ever growing in India. We also have Evonik’s partnership with W1 Sports which focuses on developing grassroots in India and providing the youth with a chance to play the BVB way.
“At the moment China, Japan and Singapore are key markets. We have offices at China and Singapore which helps us to execute on-ground activities.
“India is definitely a market we are always trying to grow. As soon as we get clearance, we will start planning about the opportunity for legends to play in one of the Indian cities. I am sure it will be an exciting event,” he said.
The Yellow and Black are famous for spotting talents at a young age and converting them into top players who almost immediately attract a financially attractive offer from other big European clubs.
What has been key to Dortmund’s astute work in the transfer market? Head of International Business Benedikt Scholz cited the financial crisis of 2005 as one of the biggest reasons behind the club’s successful transfer policy.
15 years ago, the German side amassed a debt of 100 million pounds and was struggling to pay off the investors. Shifting from star signings to focusing on youth development was hence more of a necessity than a choice. However, the new approach to signing young players clearly worked for the better in the long run and Dortmund have no reason to go back.
The CEO of the club Hans-Joachim Watzke played a vital role in steering the club to financial safety. Benedikt claimed that continuity at the top of club heirarchy and continued faith on young players have been key to consistently successful transfer windows for Dortmund.
“I think it is a combination of different factors – one of those was the financial crisis the club went survived in 2005. There was no money to invest in big stars and players who already had prior experience of playing in Europe at the top level. It was an absolute necessity to focus on young talents who can make it to the first team,” he said.
“There is continuity at the club at the top level. Mr (Reinhard) Rauball has been a president for many years already. Our CEO (Hans-Joachim) Watzke was also the CEO during the financial crisis and he helped the club survive that. We had Michael Zorc as the longest-serving Sporting Director at any Bundesliga club. We have Lars Ricken, former player as the head of youth academy.
“These two factors enabled us to focus on these young talents and still give them time on the pitch. Look at Jadon Sancho for example. He came from Manchester City and joined the first team only one year after he joined. This is not something many of the top 10 European clubs can offer to these players. This makes us a very attractive option for young, talented players such as Jude Bellingham, who joined recently and Giovanni Reyna, our American talent who joined the first team last season.”
Does the sale of these top players after a couple of top seasons hurt their chances of competing in the Champions League at a top level? Benedikt believes that the transfers have, in no way, prevented the club from performing at the top level.
He also spoke about how their focus on developing talented players makes Dortmund a coveted destination for youngsters.
“We don’t feel like we are weakening our chances in the Champions League by selling players. We have missed the Champions League just once in the last decade. We have succeeded in getting to the last-16 often but then it gets difficult," he said.
“We don’t care about how old the players are. We don’t care if Jadon Sancho is 19 or 21 or 27, if he is a good player, he will play. This is one of the ways in which we can convince young players to join our clubs.
“We don’t buy superstars; we buy youngsters and convert them into superstars. And we have been doing it well. We don’t think that we are weakening the team by having to sell players.”