08.10.2009, New York and Leipzig
In mid-September we spent a week or two in New York City. Strictly work. Or at least as strictly work as is possible in New York.
The train from Newark Airport to Manhattan takes you through a post-industrial wasteland, reminiscent in many way of Leipzig-Plagwitz or Leipzig-Leutszch or – in short – most parts of West Leipzig. Suddenly, and in our jet-lagged haze somewhat unexpectedly, the future Red Bull Arena appeared on our right-hand side; towering out of the landscape of crumbling brick and twisted steel like – well a modern football stadium.
A thing of beauty it aint.
Much like the Red Bull Arena in Leipzig.
But the unappealing architecture of the stadia is not the only parallel between Red Bull Leipzig and Red Bull New York.
Firstly, and most obviously, neither club plays in the city implied by the name.
Technically we should be discussing Red Bull Markranstädt and Red Bull Harrison. We could of course just as easily speak of Red Bull Berlin or Red Bull Los Angeles.
A harmless marketing sleight of hand it may be, but one that accepts and acknowledges the absolute lack of connection between team and community. And as such confirms the fans role as consumer. In the land of the sporting franchise, such may be normal but even in England, the centre of commercial football in Europe, it aint. Yet. The question is where is the better competition to be found and is the German or American model better for the future of the game?
More subtle, and potentially related to the name/location inequality, is the lack of presence of either club on the streets or in the stores.
A “normal” person would never notice it, but the trained eye is quickly aware that whereas the shops, streets and metros in NYC are full of Yankees, Giants , Jets and Knicks merchandise and inofficial-tat – we didn’t see a single Red Bull item.
And just as it is not possible to buy a Red Bull Leipzig shirt- so we only saw one person in NYC with a Red Bull New York shirt.
And that was an english tourist. And even they don’t wear RB Leipzig shirts.
Or, again, not yet.
The important difference, however, is the media’s attention.
We once had the pleasure of interviewing a lot of the players and officials from FC Sachsen. A recurring theme was the complaint that the press in Leipzig, faced with the need to write something every day about football in the city – and equally faced with the obvious dirth of material – generally ended up filling their pages with any old tosh just to make sure FC Sachsen were represented.
That was then.
FC Sachsen now barely feature in the Leipzig press and their mantle has been taking on by the RB Leipzig who receive a press coverage inversely proportional to their importance amongst the general readership
In NYC, RB New York barely got a mention. In fact the only time we did see their name it was in a fixture list.
As we left New York we took a couple of pictures from the train of the Red Bull Arena. They aint the best impressions ever, but hey… next time.
And as a final note, and proof that Herr Mateschitz does have a sense of humour: The Red Bull Arena New York will officially open on March 27th 2010 . The same weekend RBL play in the Red Bull Arena Leipzig… against LOK.
Alternatively, and if the promotion is secure by then, the Oberliga Süd match might make for an interesting warm up programme in Harrison, NJ.
Watch this space 😉