In a Facebook discussion a while ago, Markus Hesselmann, online editor of Der Tagesspiegel, a newspaper based in Berlin discussed the names of English football clubs in German media. Hesselmann argued that some over-correct people often reminded others that it is not Arsenal London but only Arsenal. While the correctionists do have a point in this case, it is important to remember that there might be people unfortunate enough to not know where this mysteriously called football club ‘Arsenal’ might be located. There are several ways to find out: asking some one around, google it or watching German television. Most often than not, Arsenal becomes Arsenal London. Hesselmann has a point as he later in the discussion thread stated that a journalist’s task is also to educate, without the journalist becoming an educator or teacher.
It is no secret that football clubs in England are named Arsenal FC or Chelsea FC while their German counterparts are called FC Magdeburg. Therefore it is agreeable that German media stations would somehow ‘Germanize’ English clubs and write FC Arsenal when showing a match. The only exception to the English rule is the FC United of Manchester.
Yet, some appear to disagree. Most notably Raphael Honigstein a German football journalist based in London. He demanded that there is no need to hoist the ‘white flag of dumbing down’ as soon as something appears to be too difficult for the common public to come to term with. He continued that the task of the newspapers is indeed the education of the readers and to transport the truth. Honigstein reminded that calling Arsenal on German TV and elsewhere in the German media ‘FC Arsenal’ is an error that has become accepted. The reverse argument to this statement is Bayern Munich. This is simply a blend of English and German to name Germany’s most successful football club. In German it is FC Bayern München, while the English post it as Bayern Munich whereas it should be Bavaria Munich as Bavaria is the correct translation for Bayern in English. Similarly to German media placing the ‘FC’ on the wrong side of the word, their English counterparts are mixing 2 languages to label Bayern München.
Further examples are plentiful. Most German football fans would know which city to book a flight to, if they wanted to attend a match of Everton or Aston Villa and in recent years – due to the growing popularity of the Bundesliga in England – English football fans have come to know where to travel to if they wanted to see Schalke 04. Likewise, not every football club in Germany carries the town/city name in their club name; again Schalke 04 serve as an example and so do St. Pauli or Hertha BSC. And every one know where these clubs are located.
From this discussion arising is the question how correct media have to be in such instances. Journalists however, have a responsibility to pay attention to such issues. They are widely read (in most cases anyway) and their pronounciation or spelling of a name in a certain will have consequences. Therefore, there is a duty for writers to be careful how to state the name of a football club. Yet, in some cases it has become accepted that the name is spelled wrongly as the Bayern example made clear. Yet, a certain modification might be acceptable if through a slight change in the name the name itself does not become entirely unrecognizable for the public.
It is somewhat difficult to argue who is right. Football fans in England and Germany will certainly know how to call their clubs but it seems that the discussion about what is right or wrong is all about opinions and the acceptance of other’s opinions. It has become accepted to call Arsenal ‘FC Arsenal’ on German TV although this is not the correct name of the club in English while Bayern Munich serves as the German counterpart that the English also alter names to make pronunciation easier for themselves.