Home sweet home: How Bayern Munich made the Allianz Arena their own

Words By Euan McTear Illustration by Philippe Fenner
April 12, 2018

Living with someone else can be hard. Just ask Chandler Bing. “He’d stolen all the insoles out of my shoes because he thinks I slept with his ex-girlfriend and killed his fish,” the Friends character once said of his roommate Crazy Eddie, who earned his nickname for obvious reasons.

1860 Munich never levelled such accusations at Bayern Munich, nor did they dehydrate all of the fruit in Bavaria or stare over their city rivals while they were sleeping. But nevertheless, they were still uncomfortable roommates for the German champions at the Allianz Arena.

The stadium was built at the beginning of this century as a partnership between Bayern Munich, 1860 Munich and the City Council. While the City Council initially preferred a redevelopment of the old Olympic Stadium, residents voted in a referendum in 2001 and gave the green light for a new construction, which would be called the Allianz Arena after the financial services company purchased the naming rights.

Construction was completed in 2005 and the stadium was opened that summer, with veterans XIs from the two city rivals squaring off in a friendly for the first ever match. From the start of the 2005/06 season, both Munich sides players their football there, even though they were in different divisions, with Bayern in the Bundesliga and with 1860 in the second division following their relegation from the top tier one year previously.

Understandably, both clubs were operating in very different economic spheres and in 2006 an agreement was signed for Bayern to purchase 1860 Munich’s 50% stake in the ground for €11m, with both clubs having been equal partners in München Stadion GmbH, the company which was set up to manage the venue’s construction. There was a clause which would have allowed 1860 Munich to repurchase their shares within four years if they paid back the fee plus interest, however this clause was cancelled in 2008 to make Bayern the sole shareholder of the Allianz Arena with immediate effect.

That didn’t meant they had the place to themselves, though. At least not yet. The blue and white club were permitted to remain as tenants until 2025 and, with attendances numbers fluctuating between 20,000 and 25,000, this still made sense. However, the Lions then suffered a double relegation at the end of the 2016/17 season, having been relegated from the second tier on the field and then demoted one further division because of a refusal to pay around €5m for a third-division license. It could have been even worse, but the club was able to stave off bankruptcy.

They were not, though, able to continue at the Allianz Arena. It would simply have been too big for them now that they were playing all the way down in the regional leagues. As such, they moved out, just like Crazy Eddie eventually did, to return to their old Grunwalder Stadion. “1860 are happy that the internal problems are solved,” Bayern Munich’s chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said of the development in the summer of 2017. “Playing Regionalliga games in a stadium with 75,000 capacity would have been absurd.”

Now that Bayern have ‘an empty’, they have started to make the Allianz Arena feel even more like home. The latest agreement signed between themselves and 1860 Munich does not allow for the city’s second largest club to return to the Allianz Arena in the future, so Bayern are now getting rid of the neutral grey seats which have previously caressed the buttocks of football-loving Bavarians and are introducing red and white seats, while the club badge, name and mottos will be displayed on the seating arrangement too.

Their approach to making the stadium their own was a patient one, but one where they were waiting and ready to fully plant their red and white Bayern Munich flag in the centre circle if the opportunity arose. They quite literally accommodated 1860 Munich for several years, but now that their neighbours have hit hard times, Bayern Munich have been able to make the Allianz Arena permanently theirs and theirs alone.

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