Germany: Investor deal collapsed after weeks of fan protests

Germany: Investor deal collapsed after weeks of fan protests
The ultras’ outcry has had an impact.
Image: AFP

There will be no planned investor entry into the German Football League (DFL). The executive board of the umbrella organization of the 36 professional clubs unanimously decided on Wednesday in Frankfurt not to continue negotiations to conclude the billion-dollar deal.

The DFL announced this after an extraordinary meeting. The decision was preceded by weeks of protests from fans and increasing demands from the clubs for a new vote. “A successful continuation of the process no longer seems possible in view of current developments. Even if there is a large majority in favor of the entrepreneurial necessity of the strategic partnership,” explained the DFL supervisory board chairman Hans-Joachim Watzke, who is also managing director of Borussia Dortmund, in the message.

“German professional football is in the midst of a breaking point,” stated Watzke. “The viability of a successful conclusion of a contract in terms of financing the 36 clubs can no longer be guaranteed given the circumstances in the league association with its 36 member clubs.” Even any further votes would not solve the problem.

The DFL wanted to collect one billion euros from a financial investor for a percentage share of the TV revenue. The only remaining applicant was the company CVC, with which the DFL leadership recently held discussions. The US company Blackstone had previously withdrawn from the negotiations; before that, the number of applicants had been gradually reduced.

When the 36 professional clubs voted on the deal in December last year, the necessary two-thirds majority was only barely achieved. Due to the controversial role of Hanover managing director Martin Kind, there is suspicion that the vote could have violated the 50+1 rule. The rule limits the influence of external donors on clubs in the first and second divisions.

Watzke now stated that it should not be overlooked that this vote lacked broad acceptance due to the events surrounding Hannover 96. “Given the great asset we hold in our hands with the 50+1 rule, ignoring this should not be our approach. The DFL Presidium is unanimous in its support of the 50+1 rule.” Any new vote would raise further legal questions about the assessment of the decision made in December, Watzke added. “Avoiding this and returning to orderly game operations must be the DFL’s primary goal.”

Hanover’s club management had instructed Kind to vote against the investor’s entry. However, the voting results and the public confessions of those opposing the proposal suggest that the 79-year-old voted yes and thus helped the DFL plan gain the necessary majority. Child himself does not comment on his vote.

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