BAYER 04 LEVERKUSEN
UPDATED FOR 2023-24 - AUGUST 2023
Founded: Jul 1, 1904
Club Members: 30,000
Nickname: Die Werkself
Coach: Xabi Alonso
Captain: Lukáš Hrádecký
UEFA Cup Winner: 1
Bundesliga.2 Champions: 1
Oberliga Mittelrhein: 2
Web Site: www.bayer04.de
If you had to tell a Bayer Leverkusen fan that 119 years of history had only earned the club the nickname Neverkusen by the British media on account of the number of runners-up medals they collected between 1997 to 2002, then you could understand their dismay. Time can be a great healer, but since emerging from the dark shadow of the ‘Horror Treble’, which saw Leverkusen narrowly miss out on a Bundesliga title before losing both the DFB-Pokal and UEFA Champions League finals (the one with that Zinedine Zidane goal), they've faced an ongoing battle not only to remain one of Germany's top clubs but also win over a fan culture opposed to them because of their affiliation with 'Big Pharma'.
To understand Bayer 04 Leverkusen however, you first have to understand their democratic, industrial-era origins which can be traced back to 1903 when Wilhelm Hauschild wrote a letter - signed by 170 of his fellow workers - asking his employer, the pharmaceutical firm 'Friedrich Bayer and Co' to fund the formation of a sports society. The request was granted and on the 1st July 1904 Turn-und Spielverein Bayer 04 Leverkusen were formed. Their pre-war record was largely unremarkable with much of it spent in local championships before they enjoyed a five year stay in the then top-flight Oberliga West during the 1950s. They returned for another stint in 1962 but given that their influence on the German game had by that point been pretty minimal, Leverkusen missed the cut when the German FA (DFB) were deciding which sixteen teams would be part of the inaugural Bundesliga season in 1963. Die Werkself (The Factory Team) were placed instead in the second-tier Regionalliga West where below-par performances over the next few seasons, including a relegation to the third-tier, appeared to justify the DFB's decision.
Bayer finally reached the Bundesliga in 1979, and it wasn't long before they'd got their feet under German football's top table with a number of strong campaigns - winning their first trophy after fighting back from a 0-3 first-leg deficit against Espanyol to lift the UEFA Cup in 1988. Off the field, the club made one of the most significant appointments in their history when the larger-than-life Reiner Calmund became general manager and over the next 25 years he helped turn Bayer from provincial minnows into a thoroughly professional and well-run club on the back of some astute transfer business. After German reunification in 1990, the club were quick to secure the signatures of East German stars Ulf Kirsten, Andreas Thom and Jens Melzig, and established contacts in Brazilian football to bring the likes of Jorginho and Paulo Sergio to Westphalia. Along with Czech star Pavel Hapal, Rudi Völler and 'The Blond Angel' Bernd Schuster they helped the club lift their first (and so far only) domestic honour in 1993 when they won the DFB-Pokal at the expense of minnows Hertha Berlin Amateure who were the first ever third-tier side to reach the final.
Although they had a near-miss with relegation in 1996, new coach Christoph Daum (who would later be fired for a cocaine scandal that also cost him the national manager position) built a team around the talents of Emerson, Ze Roberto and Michael Ballack as Leverkusen developed into a side that threatened to break the Bayern-Dortmund duopoly of the time, playing "... an updated version of the Dutch 'total football' of the 70s ..." as Uli Hesse described it in Tor !, his history of German football. Despite the promise though, it was around this time that Bayer also began to establish their lamentable moniker of 'Nearly Men' as over the course of four years, they finished runners-up in the Bundesliga on three occasions.
In 2000 for example, they were three points clear at the top of the table going into their final match at mid-table SpVgg Unterhaching. They only had to draw to become champions but Ballack's first-half own goal sent Leverkusen on their way to a ruinous 0-2 defeat and opened the door for Germany's trophy-hoovering machine Bayern München to leapfrog them and win the title on goal difference. Uli Hoeneß, Bayern's general manager, was less than magnanimous afterwards, taking a swipe at the runners-up by saying "Bayer will never win anything. When they play decisive games, they put their nappies on." Whether or not the assessment was fair (or if the stoniest of Leverkusen hearts weren't warmed just a little when Hoeneß was sent to jail in 2014 after being convicted of tax evasion - Schadenfreude is a German word after all !) is a moot point but the tag stuck and Leverkusen were dubbed Neverkusen by the media.
A failure to replicate that title challenge cost coach Berti Vogts his job and he was replaced by Klaus Toppmüller who had carved out a reputation for getting small clubs to punch big. His impact was immediate and after a tour-de-force campaign, both domestically and in Europe, Bayer went into the final three games of the 2001-02 season with a five point cushion over their title rivals. They'd been down this path only a couple of years before but the stakes were higher this time because in addition to being in the running for their first ever Bundesliga title, they were also in the finals of both the DFB-Pokal and, unbelievably, the UEFA Champions League. For a club that had only won two trophies throughout its entire 98-year history, suddenly being on the brink of becoming one of only four European clubs to have won the treble brought with it excitement and nervousness in equal measure, despite Toppmüller's fate-tempting assertions that "There will be no second Unterhaching! "
The spectre of that final-day collapse loomed a little larger after Werder Bremen won at the BayArena to scythe Leverkusen's lead over Ruhr rivals Borussia Dortmund to just two points and, after Toppmüller's men crumpled to a 1-0 defeat at lowly Nürnberg in the penultimate weekend, even a final day win over Hertha Berlin wasn't enough to stop Dortmund winning the title. Worse still for Leverkusen came the news that having already lost captain and defensive stalwart Jens Nowotny to long-term injury a few weeks earlier, Michael Ballack had fractured his foot against Hertha and would have to play the two cup finals with painkilling injections.
The first of those finals, the DFB-Pokal against defending holders Schalke 04, started well enough with languid conductor Dimitar Berbatov calming Leverkusen nerves by opening the scoring after half-an-hour and it was the fans in red and black that initially rocked the foundations of the Olympiastadion. However, once Jörge Böhme had equalised for Schalke on the stroke of half-time, having a painfully thin squad running on empty after a season fighting on three fronts, a side-lined captain and a hobbled talisman caught up with Leverkusen and they ended up on the wrong end of a 4-2 score line.
Three trophies had become just one and with a Champions League final date in Glasgow against Real Madrid's Galáticos to come just a few days later, there was time enough for demons to take hold. Leverkusen fans could be forgiven for thinking that fate was against them from the moment Raul put Madrid ahead with only eight minutes on the clock. Leverkusen rallied but after Lucio had brought the underdogs level, Zinedine Zidane delivered the most brutal of knockout blows on the stroke of half-time, meeting Roberto Carlos' arching cross with a sweeping left foot volley to score one of the most replayed goals in Champions League history. Leverkusen's season was over and they had to settle for second place. Again.
As a grim addendum to that crushing fortnight, the implosion that followed was as dramatic as the rise that had taken them within three matches of football immortality. Ballack and Ze Roberto defected to Bayern München in the summer and Toppmüller was clearing his desk by February as Leverkusen went into a tailspin and were in danger of sliding out of the Bundesliga before three wins from their final four games saved them from the drop.
The allergy to silverware continued with a losing DFB-Pokal final appearance in 2009 and another (albeit distant) Bundesliga runners-up finish in 2011; and despite consistent finishes in and around the Champions League places since, the balance of power in football today makes it harder than ever for a modest-sized club like Leverkusen to achieve any success - let alone be on the brink of an era-defining treble. The 'Horror Treble' certainly left its mark and surely only the most hard-hearted of neutrals wouldn’t be happy to see Bayer 04 Leverkusen finally have their name engraved in the sterling silver of the Meisterschale and lose the Neverkusen tag that continues to haunt them every season.
Ground Name: BayArena
Year Opened: 1958
Renovations: 1998, 2008 - 2009
Capacity: 30,210 (4,500 standing)
Executive Boxes: 26
Executive Box Seats: 400
Media Seats: 228
Wheelchair Spaces: 58
Construction Costs: €74.1m
Undersoil Heating: Yes
Running Track: No
Playing Surface: Hybrid Grass
Pitch Size: 105m x 68m
Bayer Platz (1923 - 1932)
Am Stadtpark (1932 - 1958)
Ulrich Haberland Stadion (1958 - 1998)
BayArena (1998 - )
Bayer have played football on the site of the current stadium since 1958 and no major changes were made until the team was promoted to the Bundesliga in 1979 when a temporary east stand was built. However it was apparent by then that the stadium was inadequate for top-flight football and a series of works were begun in 1986 which weren’t completed for a decade but saw the team play in a 22,500 capacity all-seater stadium, deemed one of the best in the country.
However with the team performing very successfully, it was realised that an increased capacity was required to meet the increased demand for tickets. This resulted in the programme of works that took place from 2007 to 2009 and produced the current stadium. Initial interest in hosting 2006 World Cup games was withdrawn once it was realised that the required 40,000 seater stadium would prove too big for the club’s ongoing needs after the tournament.
The stadium is a South American-style 'horseshoe' design which makes it unique amongst Bundesliga stadiums and features two-tiered stands down either side of the pitch, a three-tiered Nordtribüne and a single-tiered Südtribüne dominated almost entirely by hospitality boxes with just a couple of hundred seats in front. Perhaps not surprisingly for a corporate backed team (the stadium was even designed to look like a huge aspirin from above !), each stand features a VIP area. The away fans are welcomed into the south-west corner of the ground (Blocks SG1-SG3 and G4-G5).
2022-2023: 28,612 (Bundesliga)
2021-2022: 17,086 (Bundesliga) *
2020-2021: N/A *
2019-2020: 21,236 (Bundesliga) *
2018-2019: 27,990 (Bundesliga)
* Season affected by COVID pandemic
Expected Ticket Availability
Most games at the BayArena will not sell out and tickets will be freely available. The likely exceptions this season will be the local derbies against their neighbours on the Rhine 1. FC Köln; the visit of Ruhr big hitters Borussia Dortmund; and the annual visit of Bayern München.
For the rest of the home schedule there should be no difficulty in securing tickets and the easiest way to do so is via the club’s online ticket shop, by phone or by calling in at one of the fan shops. For those preferring to keep things traditional, the stadium box offices open a couple of hours before kick-off.
Information about visiting the Bay Arena for fans with disabilities can be found at:
The pricing of tickets is divided into four categories depending on where in the stadium you want to watch the action from. To sit in the Westtribüne, it's €50 for adults and €33-43 for seniors and concessions. It's €40 for adults to watch the action from the Osttribüne with seniors and concessions paying €26-34. To watch the action from the Südtribüne, adults pay €30 and seniors and concessions will be asked to part with €20-26. Children (under-14) cost their parents just €12-20 and under-3s receive a free 'lap ticket' ('Lap Tickets' in Germany don't entitle children to a seat of their own).
If it's an afternoon on the Nordtribüne terrace that you're after however, unfortunately the entire north end of the stadium (Blocks C1-6, D1-6, E1-6, SC 1-3, SD1-3 and SE1-3) is currently reserved for season ticket holders only !
GETTING THERE & AWAY
Don't even try to park near the stadium - the BayArena is in a residential area and road closures are in operation on matchdays. You're recommended to leave the A1 to join the A3 in the direction of Frankfurt and take the Leverkusen exit (24) before following the signs to the shuttle bus parking area.
Bayer 04 provides free parking at the Kurtekotten car park (Edith-Weyde-Straße, 51373 Leverkusen) next to the Chempark S-Bahn station. Note that the entrance to the car park is on Otto-Bayer-Straße 10, 51061 Köln. The shuttle buses run two hours before kick-off between the car parks and the Am Stadtpark terminus; and from there it's a short walk to the BayArena. After the game, the shuttle buses will depart from the same place for up to two hours after the game for the return transfer to the car parks. Disabled parking is just opposite the stadium, next to McDonald's.
Alternatively, regular bus 207 (Direction: Rheindorf-Nord or Alt Steinbüchel) and bus 222 (Direction: Bergisch Gladbach or Opladen) will also bring you to the BayArena on matchday.
The stadium is a 10-minute walk from the S-Bahn stop Leverkusen-Mitte, which is on Line 6 that runs between Cologne and Düsseldorf and the walk to the stadium from here through the park is clearly signposted. Another option is to head to the Leverkusen-Manfort stop from where it's a 20-minute walk to the ground along Gustav Heinnemann Straße before turning right onto Bismarkstraße.
Your match ticket entitles you to free transport on the local Rhein-Sieg (VRS) and Rhein-Ruhr (VRR) transport networks for four hours before the game until 3am in the following morning. Note that this doesn't apply to E-Ticket (Mobile & Print@Home) holders !
FAN SHOP, MUSEUM & STADIUM TOURS
Shop BayArena (BayArena, Bismarckstraße 122-124, 51373 Leverkusen; 10am-5pm, Mon-Fri; 90 mins before kick-off - one hour after full-time on matchdays)
Bayer 04 Shop (Wiesdorfer Pl. 9, 51373 Leverkusen; 10am-7pm, Mon-Sat)
A number of BayArena tours are offered including the 'Public Tour' which lasts for 90 minutes and takes you to all the places you'd expect (adult/concessions/children, €10/€8/€6). The 'Matchday Tour' is shorter at 45 minutes and individual tours can also be arranged. Information about all the tours and how to book can be found here.
FOOD & DRINK OPTIONS
For pre-match food and drink, Leverkusen fan Marius Eve suggests heading to Bismarkstraße which runs next to the ground and where "... there are more drinking and eating options than at most of the other Bundesliga grounds." Amongst the places he recommends here are Brauhaus Janes, Stadioneck (supporters bar), Haus am Park (a restaurant which operates a beer stall on matchdays), Gyros Palace, Arena Kebaphaus, Manforter Hof, Curry Berry (we can vouch for the currywurst here !) and Pizza Pazza. There's also one of the ubiquitous McDonalds branches right opposite the BayArena if you're a fan of super-processed fast food. On the other side of the BayArena, you'll find SC Leverkusen's ground (Tannenbergstrasse 54, 51373 Leverkusen) where food and drinks are served in the club house on Bayer matchdays.
Once inside the ground there are the usual food and drink options at the concession stands and payment is either with your own contactless debit/credit card, by mobile phone (Apple Pay or Google Pay) or using the BayArena Card which needs preloading. No cash in other words.
There's a supporter's bar at the stadium called the Schwadbud which opened in 2014 and is bedecked in Leverkusen memorabilia. It opens two hours before kick-off (entry with a valid match ticket only) and although it gets crowded on a matchday, it's a good place to meet members of the Werkself support.
OTHER CLUBS IN THE AREA
BUNDESLIGA: 1.FC Köln, Borussia Dortmund, Borussia Mönchengladbach, VfL Bochum
BUNDESLIGA 2: FC Schalke 04, Fortuna Düsseldorf, SC Paderborn 07, VfL Osnabrück
3.LIGA: Borussia Dortmund II, DSC Arminia Bielefeld, FC Viktoria Köln, MSV Duisburg, Preußen Münster, Rot Weiss Essen, SC Verl