Säbener 51 magazine: a first look

In 1981, the year I became a fan, the first copy of FC Bayern München’s stadium magazine rolled off the press. Bayern Magazin had been running since then, covering every Bundesliga home match. This season, that run came to an end. The club has a new monthly magazine. Servus, “51”.

The concept of the football programme has never been a big thing in Germany. While many clubs do publish newsletters and magazine-style publications, they are not “match programmes” as we know them in the United Kingdom. These publications usually come out around the time of every home Bundesliga fixture – unlike here in the UK where we also see souvenir programmes for friendlies and cup matches.

As an overseas FC Bayern member, my copy of Bayern Magazin would usually land on the doorstep every Monday morning. Or occasionally before the match on a Saturday morning, if I was lucky.

Match day magazine

Bayern Magazin had started out as a relatively thin, staple-bound brochure, but by the end of the 2017/18 season had expanded into a glossy, perfect-bound publication with ninety printed pages of content. Over the last couple of seasons, the look and feel had been completely modernised.

The A4-sized magazine contained a number of features. The one-time stadium magazine now included stories and features on Bayern’s other sporting teams. You may know that Bayern have a basketball team. Did you know that they also have a chess team?

Following the introduction by the club chairman, one could find player interviews and articles about the club and its history. It was also a great tool for improving your German reading skills.

Among the popular features was a focus on selected FC Bayern fan clubs. My own local chapter, the Red Dragons London, featured in 2014. There was also a fold-out poster for those who liked to decorate their walls. On one side there would be an action shot of the team, and on the other an individual player.

What provided Bayern Magazin with its “match day” feel, however, was the focus on that week’s opponents. Covering around ten pages, there was a look at the week’s visitors, colour head shots of the opposition squad as well as a historical snapshot. Then, my favourite bit, the data tables.

New developments

For the last year or so, there had been a desire to modernise the publication. To make it better. In today’s fast-moving world, the club had come to the conclusion that the printed copy of Bayern Magazin had fallen behind the times.

A new approach was needed. After consulting with both marketing specialists and fans, “51” was born.

Taking its name from Bayern’s address – 51-57 Säbener Straße – the new publication has been designed to set new standards, working alongside other methods of communication such as email, the web and mobile applications. In the words of chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge,

The crisp title already shows what it’s all about… Säbener Straße has been the home of FC Bayern for decades, and this is where the pulse of our club beats. And we would like to provide you with stories directly from our heart. From the whole Bavarian family, even beyond football.

The planned revamp was the perfect opportunity to ramp up production values. The decision was also made to move away from the match-based focus, with there being twelve monthly issues instead of the long-established seventeen issues across every domestic season.

The result

Having received my first copy of “51”, the results are pretty impressive. The glossy, 90-page Bayern Magazin has been transformed into a title that has the look and feel of an exclusive journal. There are an additional 28 printed pages, but the use of high quality heavy stock paper means that the new publication is over twice as thick.

Perfectly bound with a matt cover and glossy accents, “51” really does have the look and feel of a luxury boutique publication. The finishing touch to this premier issue is the studio portrait of new coach Niko Kovač. Who looks suitably satisfied with the result.

The expected downside, of course, is the lack of match focus. There are no more opposition player mugshots, and no more dry stats and tables. Even the fold-out poster has gone. Then there is the fact that “51” is for members only. Not an issue for me and 200,000 or so others of course, but a shame for occasional and visiting fans who might have wanted to take back a souvenir.

A quick look

Flicking through the pages of the new magazine, the uptick in quality is immediately evident. The layout is modern, with a twist of the traditional. The presentation is stylishly bold, functional and clean, with plenty of room for an artistic twist. There is even a seven-page article on the FC Bayern chess team.

While there is no longer a match focus, there is a nod to upcoming opponents. Among the many articles, there is a feature on fourth-week opponents Schalke 04, which includes a potted history of classic encounters from years gone by.

The photo-rich articles are spliced with some neat and original infographics, something that I particularly enjoyed when looking through this first issue. The challenge, of course, is to maintain this high standard and originality.

As something special for FC Bayern members, “51” certainly fits the bill. I have always loved print, and am more than happy paying what is a very reasonable ten Euro of my annual membership to receive my copy every month. For those who prefer otherwise, they can lop this amount off their membership fee and still have access to the digital version.

Multimedia solution

The old match day Bayern Magazin may have gone, but this does not mean that the information it used to provide has disappeared completely. While both “51” and its digital equivalent are exclusive to FC Bayern members, there is a new digital match day feature available to everyone via the FC Bayern app.

While “51” takes its readers deeper into the inner sanctum of FC Bayern, “Pack ma’s” delivers immediate match content. According to a report in the Munich local paper Merkur, it will also be in a special printable format.

It has taken time and much thought, but FC Bayern have found the perfect solution. The relaunch of the new quality may even open new doors. With the club looking to widen its international appeal, an international version of the magazine is a very realistic possibility.