What does a VIP experience at a Bundesliga match actually look like? In the middle of everything rather than just being there, or exclusive and elitist?
An Experience Report
On 1 February, I was at the second rounds duel of “David” Eisern Union versus “Goliath” BVB in Germany’s biggest stadium in Dortmund and took a closer look. But not just at the grass, where the young BVB star, Erling Haaland once again performed incredibly against Union Berlin, also particularly at the VIP area of the Black-Yellows.
Both of the clubs, with a long tradition, appear to be far away from one another in many aspects. And yet, they have so much in common. Both are not just guarantors of a passionate fan culture and unique football experiences, but their stadiums are also constantly sold out.
This applies to the above-average number of standing room places, as well as the VIP areas. Nevertheless, both clubs are facing major economic challenges with respect to the VIP issue. Borussia Dortmund is aiming for ambitious sales figures, while 1. FC Union Berlin is planning to expand the stadium. So, what do the spiritual brothers need to be prepared for in the future and what does the VIP experience look like at present?
Already on the train journey from Berlin to Dortmund, the Union fans, with their crates of beer, are welcomed extremely hospitably with a distinct “U.N.V.E.U.” (“Und Niemals Vergessen Eisern Union”) on the Deutsche Bahn screens. The match day experience already begins before Hanover. But I am already served well by the BVB VIP Newsletter the day before. Up-to-date information about the journey, parking options, admission, food and drinks on offer and important topics about the match day leave no question unanswered.
In Dortmund, the talkative taxi driver tells me about additional mobility services on the short drive to the stadium. In the meantime, the quickest way to reach the match is by e-scooter. If you arrive in your own car, the reserved parking spaces immediately at the entrance to the stadium are the best that money can buy. In any case, the topic of the inward and outward journey has grown organically and sustainably here and offers options for any budget.
When I arrive at the stadium, I notice: No indication of “premium” or “exclusive” vocabulary on the signs and guides in the area surrounding the stadium. Instead, the VIP areas are called “Börsigplatz” or “Alter Markt”. Quite likeable, somehow. Very authentic. This authentic atmosphere is noticeable.
Friendly young people greet me at the VIP entrances. Here, I hear the beeping of ticket scanners everywhere and notice that almost everyone has a paper ticket and the digital eTicket is obviously still not used very much. The tangible ticket version is presumably still a very popular choice for many, or a prized, tangible souvenir.
My personal host is waiting for me just after check-in. Such a host is available in every VIP area, as an individual contact person for all questions and requests. Suddenly, I find myself in service heaven and whenever I would like a drink, it is already put in front of me. Because there is still time until the starting whistle and my initial thirst is quenched, the host gives me a little stadium tour. Players’ tunnel, dressing room, office, etc. I’m as excited as a young boy, when I see the places with my own eyes, that I only know from exclusive TV reports.
When I explore the catering in the in between, I am no less blissful. I meander through cooking islands that smell delicious. Here, almost everyone takes time for a nice chat with the chefs, although it’s obvious that their mouths are watering. It’s tempting to try everything – even the vegan dishes, which devoted meat fans are usually not very interested in. Everything has really been thought of here, even dotting the i, such as espresso or waffles on a stick. Even if there is an occasional personal request. One of the many friendly cooks always finds a way to fulfil this.
The Glimpse Behind The Scenes
On my strolls through the VIP areas, I repeatedly come past legendary quotations, players’ jerseys and large-format historical pictures. Nothing really special, but authentic through and through. And always for the passionate BVB fan. Then, I need to take a little detour. I find out that the Borruseum, the club museum within the Signal Iduna Park, is being converted. It is supposed to become more digital and interactive.
But I already notice now that it not about a high-status site, but rather, a big gathering. An experience that is super-emotional, yet unpretentious at the same time, just like the standing room culture, in which it has its roots. Of course, it’s also possible to withdraw to the private VIP area, to feel absolutely exclusive, or simply stay amongst themselves. But the actual exclusivity clearly lies in the straightforward accessibility of all participants. And also, the accessibility of the club itself.
No later than when celebrities, such as Nico Santos, Matthias Sammer and the BVB legend, Karl-Heinz Riedle just happen to cross my path in the “Evonik Stammtisch”, I feel completely like part of the family. And once again, it becomes clear to me: That’s what makes the difference with this sport. Even if it appears as though all of it is just “business as usual” for the other VIP guests. For me, anyway, it was just as perfect a match day as it was for the Borussia team, who swept the rising stars from the capital city off of the pitch with a 5:0 home match spectacle. Marked by emotions, excitement and closeness to the club. Even in the VIP area.