DFL clears concerns of the cartel office

NAfter almost five years of testing, a deal between the Federal Cartel Office and the German Football League (DFL) to secure the 50+1 rule has come much closer. The DFL announced on Wednesday that its executive committee had unanimously approved a proposal that would allow Bayer Leverkusen, VfL Wolfsburg and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim to continue to benefit from the exception that applies to them – exclusively. After the presentation of the DFL Executive Committee, no further exceptions to funding should be possible in the future.

The relevant passage (paragraph 8 number 3) of the DFL statutes, which gives the league executive committee the option of approving an exception to the “requirement for a majority holding of the parent club”, namely “only in cases in which another legal entity has been involved for more than 20 years has continuously and significantly promoted the football sport of the parent club for years”, must be changed for this. Then, according to the proposal, to which the President of the Federal Cartel Office, Andreas Mundt, has already signaled his approval, the decision-making majority for all other clubs in German professional football should always remain with the parent club.

What the DFL calls “grandfathering” for Leverkusen, Wolfsburg and – as long as majority owner Dietmar Hopp has not returned his shares as announced – Hoffenheim is subject to conditions. These stipulate that the parent association must be represented by a representative with voting rights on the supervisory board of the corporation. In addition, “identity-forming features” of a club – the DFL executive committee names, among other things, the club name, colors and logo, but also the club headquarters and the “significant reduction” of standing room in the stadium – should not be changed against this vote of the parent club in the supervisory body can. In addition, compensation payments are to be introduced if the investor compensates for a loss of at least 7.5 percent of the club’s total income.

The league association had asked the Federal Cartel Office to examine the 50+1 rule in the summer of 2018, and in 2021 the authority found the rule to be harmless, but criticized the exceptions. Four weeks ago, the “Sportschau” reported on a meeting of the three exceptional clubs and the DFL with representatives of the Federal Cartel Office in December 2022, at which proposals were presented. The proposals mentioned in the report are largely congruent with what has now been decided by the DFL Executive Committee.

According to FAZ information, the DFL is now asked to submit a so-called commitment to the Federal Cartel Office by March 20. In this way, the Bundeskartellamt’s “preliminary concerns about competition” can be dispelled. In all probability, the cartel office will then declare the proposal to be binding, after which the general assembly of the DFL must approve an amendment to the statutes with a majority of two-thirds of its members.

Those invited to the proceedings, including the other Bundesliga clubs benefiting from the exception and the investor at TSV 1860 Munich, now have the opportunity to comment. In the past, the Executive Committee of the Munich-based company had already complained about the Federal Cartel Office’s lack of information. Investors and opponents of the 50+1 rule, such as the patron of Hannover 96, Martin Kind, will ask themselves whether they are satisfied with the regulation that has been found; especially since this was largely formulated by those whose exceptional status was the core of the discussion and their – from the point of view of the 50+1 critics – preferential treatment is now to be fixed for the foreseeable future through the change in the DFL statutes. In this respect, it cannot be ruled out that lawyers and courts will have to deal with the 50+1 rule, which is characteristic of German professional football, in the future.


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