How the Big Six could get around financial rules if the Premier League adopted the German model


This week saw the rise and fall of the European Super League, an attempted football coup by some of the world’s biggest teams.

He was put down by widespread fan fury, discontent among players and coaches, and backlash from politicians.

Following the collapse of ESL, dubbed the “future” of football, there have been many calls for supporters to exercise greater control over the management of their own clubs.

One potential solution that has been touted is the adoption of the “German model”.

The German model is a regulation which ensures that German clubs remain majority owned by supporters. It happened in 1998 when a rule passed by the German Football League allowed private property for the first time.

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez was one of the driving figures behind the failure of the European Super League

Fallout from the announcement of the European Super League

However, a 50 + 1 rule stated that any club with more than 49% private ownership would not be allowed to play in the Bundesliga, meaning the fans are still, technically, in control.

For Borussia Dortmund, that means 139,000 paying fans have a say in matters such as ticket prices.

Many have pointed this out as the reason why BVB and Bayern Munich have not joined ESL – amid fan fears that they will no longer be excluded from the game – and calls for its implementation as Premier. League have emerged.

However, the German model may not be the answer to all Premier League problems, as RB Leipzig have shown.

Currently there are four teams in Germany, including Leipzig, which do not respect the 50 + 1 rule.

Two of them, Leverkusen and Wolfsburg, are the corporate clubs of Bayer and Volkswagen, which have been given exceptions to the rule.

The other two exceptions are Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig.

Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick (left) and RB Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann
Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick (left) and RB Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann

After an unpopular court challenge by Hanover 96 President Martin Kind, the Bundesliga changed the rules for fear that the precedent of losing this challenge would be set.

The amendment meant that anyone who had invested heavily in a club for “more than 20 years” could take a controlling stake.

Kind’s offer was rejected, however, as its investment over the past 20 years was deemed insufficient.

The German was forced to resign in 2019 when the 2,100 members at the time voted to replace him.

However, longtime Hoffenheim benefactor Dietmar Hopp used the new loophole to buy a controlling stake in his club in 2015.

Overall, the German rule serves to protect the best interest of the fans, but if it were to be implemented in the Premier League, it would likely face much more fierce opposition.

And here’s why Premier League clubs could get around it.

Borussia Dortmund are renowned for their support and the "yellow wall"
Borussia Dortmund renowned for their support and ‘yellow wall’

Rasenballsport Leipzig, a very unpopular club in Germany, is commonly known as Red Bull Leipzig, named after its sponsor, the energy drink company which also owns RB Salzburg.

RB Leipzig started life as a fifth division team called SSV Markranstadt before the energy drink company bought the club’s license, changed its name, crest and kit, and promised a transfer budget of around $ 85million. of pounds sterling.

RB Leipzig then got down to business making global changes and simply refused to allow non-Red Bull employees to become members.

When they were finally forced to do so, when they entered the Bundesliga in 2016, they charged members exorbitant amounts of money. The idea being that fans cannot vote against you if the only registered supporters are your own employees.

A Borussia Dortmund membership, for reference, costs € 62 (£ 54) per year. While to become a non-voting member of RB Leipzig (without a vote at the club) you have to pay € 1000 per season.

RB Leipzig also maintains the option to refuse all member requests without explanation.

This means that the club, while technically obeying the 50 + 1 rule, is run with a commercial interest.

Oliver Dowden said the government is looking at the German model
Oliver Dowden said the government is looking at the German model

However, the same rule also allowed Leipzig to challenge the hegemony of the Bundesliga.

The Bundesliga has been called stagnant in the past, with the famous 50 + 1 rule sometimes being blamed for it.

This kept clubs from investing, allowing Bayern Munich to dominate the top flight with eight titles in as many seasons.

It can also handicap German teams compared to European counterparts, who have deeper pockets.

By circumventing the rule, RB Leipzig have been able to save money in deeply unpopular ways, but are close to finishing second in this campaign and look set to be Bayern Munich’s biggest challengers next season. .

Many have presented the German model as the answer to some of the many problems in English football, including politicians.

Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sports Oliver Dowden told talkSPORT: “Naturally, we have to learn the lessons of the football funding crisis during the COVID crisis. We have to put that on a basis more sustainable.

Boris Johnson has pledged to drop a "legislative bomb" on ESL plans
Boris Johnson vowed to drop ‘legislative bomb’ on ESL plans

“For example, in the German leagues, they have a different governance structure, so it’s fair that we look at these things.

“The Prime Minister was good, I had a meeting with him and the fans on Tuesday and he said we have to do whatever it takes including legislation and if legislation is needed we will.

“But the immediate legislation that we were preparing to put in place was to deal with this immediate threat of this outrageous proposal.”

Sports Minister Tracey Crouch is also leading a fan-led review on football.

If the government is serious about using the German model, then it should either strip club owners of their assets using legislation or buy them out in multibillion-pound deals across the Premier League. .

For example, FSG owns Liverpool, and if the government – a government of free market conservatives – were serious about the German model, it would have to take a 50% + share from them.

It could cost around £ 1.5bn based on Forbes’ recent estimate that Liverpool is worth around £ 3bn.

Liverpool fans tied banners to the gates of the Kop
Liverpool fans tied banners to the gates of the Kop

Questions have been raised about the willingness of politicians to do this and whether there is substance behind the words.

The implementation of the German model in the Premier League would require a radical, deeply rooted and widespread change.

However, perhaps that is precisely what football needs to continue to thrive as a sport, and not as a business, in a sustainable manner.

The model would most likely hamper the spending and business power of clubs in the richest football league on the planet.

But is that necessarily a bad thing?

The Bundesliga has the best average attendance of any league, with teams like Stuggart and recently relegated Schalke consistently drawing more fans than Liverpool and Man City in recent seasons.

Fans are more involved with their clubs and aren’t put on the hook by exorbitant ticket prices.

Chelsea fans protesting outside Stamford Bridge
Chelsea fans protesting outside Stamford Bridge

Trying to implement the German model in the UK would undoubtedly be an extremely complex process, with endless legal proceedings and appeals.

RB Leipzig have proven that the rule is not infallible, but in Germany the rule has been much more successful than it has not.

The answer to the ultimate question, is the German model, the solution to some of the problems of football in this country, depends on the answer to another question. What do we want football to be?

Since Sunday, a cabal of some of football’s most powerful men has offered their own take on what the game could be.

Their vision of football was a delineated league of the “ best, ” where money would be relentlessly pumped into a few people who anointed themselves. The vision has been universally rejected.

The German model, or something similar, would mean less money in the game, but it would mean that the game is accessible to everyone and sustainable for the future.

Installing it would be difficult, probably would require forcibly removing and limiting the power of club owners – owners who wouldn’t go without a fight.

But maybe it’s time to get a fan view of football where everyone can afford to enjoy a rainy night in Stoke, as well as a top-of-the-table clash.

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