Bundesliga: The Seventies


Part 2 of the “Bundesliga 50” anniversary series takes a look at the Seventies, arguably Germany’s most successful decade. Never before or since has Germany dominated the European football scene as it did between 1972 and 1980, but some scandalous revelations had to be shaken off first…

In typical pose, Franz Beckenbauer finds himself in plenty of space as Bayern Munich take on Stuttgart in 1970

Image: Roger Wollstadt (via Flickr)

It started with a tape

The shiny new side of the Bundesliga was offset by a dark side in 1971, when the league’s first scandal was made public. The bribery scandal shook the Bundesliga to its core and it took almost the whole decade for all investigations to be finished.

It all started with a tape that was played by Horst-Gregorio Canellas to the audience at his 50th birthday party on 6 June 1971. The tape contained secret recordings Canellas had made with other club representatives and players to secure that his club, Kickers Offenbach, would not be relegated. These attempts were futile but it turned out that buying and selling the results of games was a widespread practice among German professional players. In total, 18 games were manipulated and 52 players, two coaches and six club officials, including Canellas himself, were banned from football, either for life or for at least two years. Most players were reprieved but had to pay a hefty penalty nonetheless. Those players included were internationals such as Klaus Fichtel, Klaus Fischer and Reinhard ‘Stan’ Libuda, all Schalke men and some of the first ‘stars’ the Bundesliga had produced.

The scandal also brought to light that Canellas had contacted the DFB once he found out himself that something was going wrong, only for his words to fall on deaf ears. The scandal had enormous dimensions: two thirds of clubs in the Bundesliga were involved, while it wasn’t clear if the other clubs were lily white themselves.

With the World Cup coming to Germany, critics stated that the DFB acted too quickly and only superficially with the forthcoming tournament in mind. However, with hindsight, it is clear the scandal had a distinctly cathartic function for German football. It brought to the fore a new generation of talent, which was to dominate the Seventies. For the public however, the scandal threw a negative light on professional football that was to last for the decade. Surprisingly, it only visibly influenced attendance figures in 1971/72 (when gates averaged 18,700) and 1972/73, when an all-time low average attendance of 17,400 was recorded.

All about Gladbach

The Seventies were arguably Germany’s most successful years, both at club and international level. Bayern Munich and Borussia Mönchengladbach won five European trophies and no less than eight national championships (Bayern 3, Gladbach 5) between them, plus a national cup triumph each. That’s 10 trophies in total for two clubs only, underlining further their domination of German football at the time. On top of their successes, Gladbach had two further final appearances, against Liverpool, in the 1973 UEFA Cup and the 1977 European Cup competitions, losing 3-2 and 3-1 respectively.

The Seventies was the Golden Age of Gladbach. They picked up their first league title in 1970 and repeated the feat in 1971, thus setting the tone for the decade, which was to become their most successful. They also became the first team to win back-to-back titles since the mid-Fifties, when Borussia Dortmund won the forerunner of the Bundesliga in 1956 and 1957.

Gladbach, in turn, were defined by Günter Netzer, the first playboy of German football. The man himself would never accept such a label and reply that he was rather shy by nature. But in his last game for the club before departing for Real Madrid he was named as a substitute for the German DFB Cup Final 1973. During extra-time he approached his coach, Hennes Weisweiler, announcing: “I’ll be playing now”, as Christian Kulik went down with cramp.

Netzer went on to the pitch and scored the winner for Gladbach in his final appearance.

Braunschweig and the deer

Eintracht Braunschweig have achieved something most football fans from Lower Saxon crave for their teams: winning the league. They did so in 1967, preceding Wolfsburg’s success from 2009 by more than 40 years. Hanover had their time in the sun in 1938 and 1954 but since the establishment of the Bundesliga have not won the Bundesliga title.

Braunschweig were pioneers in the Seventies. They were the first team in Germany to have adverts on the front of their kit as, having been heavily involved in the bribery scandal of 1971, they needed money and became inventive about achieving that aim. A local spirit company, Jägermeister, led by Günter Mast decided to invest in the club to enhance the profile of the family company. As a result, the deer of Jägermeister adorned the club’s crest between 1973 and 1986. It helped push sales for Jägermeister and generated income for Braunschweig in hard times. More importantly, it once more showed that those administering the game in Germany were out of step with the game and its immediate environment.

Initial restrictions issued by the DFB with regards to the size of adverts (18cm) were happily adhered to by Eintracht and, within weeks, more clubs requested kit adverts to be allowed. In 1974, the DFB gave in and officially sanctioned advertisement on football kits. The rest, as they say, is history. Advertising on football kits has become a huge factor in generating revenue for clubs.

Unprecendeted success

The idea behind the introduction of the league in the Sixties was clear: allow professional football but more importantly, bring success to German clubs and the national team. The clubs had their fair share of success in the early years, as has been pointed out here, but the 1970s saw the German national team reap the rewards of this move.

It began with a solid performance during the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, particularly against England, where the team of Alf Ramsey were 2-0 up and looked certain winners when a goal by Franz Beckenbauer changed the momentum of the game and, ultimately, the result as West Germany emerged as 3-2 winners after extra time. This was only the beginning, though, as things got better and better for the national team.

The Seventies are often described as the ‘decade of Total Football’, the years in which the Dutch ran riot. Ajax were dominant in Europe, winning three consecutive European Cups between 1971 and 1973, although the national side could not repeat this feat. The Germans proved that it was possible to stop this new brand of football. Not only did Bayern manage to win three European Cups of their own, between 1974 until 1976, but the Nationalmannschaft became the team to beat in Europe, winning the World Cup at Holland’s expense in 1974.

Yet it is the team of 1972 that is often regarded as the greatest-ever German side, with some justification. Never before, and not since, has a German national side boasted so much creativity and esprit. Their performance to win 3-1 at Wembley in a two-legged quarter-final tie against England left the British press speechless. Moreover, the feeling that England had somehow been relegated to a footballing backwater looked to have become a reality. While Germany won the European Cup of Nations in 1972, the display at Wembley was surely their finest. Geoffrey Green, of The Times, described the match as an ‘experience England could do without’ while Ken Jones, ‘the voice of sport’ at the Daily Mirror saw ‘the tiger of 1966′ Geoff Hurst become ‘a tabby cat of 1972.’

The West German national team were now the best in Europe. After their impressive triumph in 1972 and the World Cup success that followed two years later, they once again made the European final in Belgrade, in 1976. This time, however, they were to leave disappointed, losing on penalties to Czechoslovakia.

Not so impressive, however, were their performances at the 1978 World Cup, where the mighty West Germans lost to neighbours Austria and going out at the second group stage. It spelled the end for Helmut Schön, the ‘great old man of German football’, who had been at the helm of the ultra-successful national side since 1964. He was replaced by Jupp Derwall, his assistant, but the move marked the end of an era as the football became more bureaucratic and predictable.

From unknown depths, in the shape of the bribery scandal, to unprecented heights at club and international level, this decade remains the most successful decade by far in German football history. The Seventies saw Germany underline its status as a footballing superpower, a status they have been fortunate to be able to fall back upon in recent times.

Christoph Wagner is the editor of anoldinternational.co.uk, a football blog with a strong historical emphasis. He is currently writing a PhD thesis at DeMontfort University, Leicester on football journalism in England and Germany. He also blogs about Anglo-German football and cultural relations at donotmentionthewar.wordpress.com. You can find him on twitter @wagnerc23
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