DFL: The league is betting on the future

DFL: The league is betting on the future

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Page 1 — The league is betting on the future

Page 2 — You can’t catch up with the Premier League with this amount

The German professional clubs did it after all. They have said yes to negotiations with investors who will pay them around one billion euros for a share in the income of the next two decades. 24 of the 36 clubs voted in favor, exactly a two-thirds majority: there shouldn’t have been any fewer yes votes.

There is now the necessary majority in the German Football League (DFL), but the result also shows that despite all the agreements and meetings, the clubs still do not come close to agreeing on such a central issue. And how could they? After all, today no one knows whether it is a profitable business. The valuation of the deal depends primarily on how optimistic one is about the future of the league and the help of investors. If the DFL can really significantly increase its income through the investor’s money and network, the deal will also be profitable for them; otherwise she will pay extra. The investor, on the other hand, makes a profit unless everything goes down the drain.

The DFL is betting on the future, not least hoping for an increase in international revenue. But she could make a mistake. Internationally, the Premier League has long had an exceptional status that can hardly be caught up. Is the growth potential of the German professional leagues really big enough to make the business worthwhile? Can enough people outside of Germany really get excited about the Bayer Leverkusen and FC Augsburg games, the everyday training routine at 1. FC Heidenheim and Bayern’s next championship celebration in the long term? Hard to believe, no matter how beautifully digitally prepared it all is.

There are some things that speak against great hopes for growth. In addition to the English market power, there are the advantages of the Spanish league; it is much closer to football fans in South America than the German one. There is the often one-sided German competition. There are new markets like Saudi Arabia, which have not yet played a role in sport, but shine with the star factor. This is particularly important to the audience that the DFL wants to appeal to with this deal: the young generation. It is said that she is increasingly consuming football via social networks and that she is less interested in club loyalty than in contact with world stars. Al-Nassr from Riyadh now has more Instagram followers than BVB, and even an out-of-form Neymar interests more people than Florian Wirtz.

The process was not grassroots democratic

The Bundesliga traditionally scores points in a different way. In addition to the quality of football, which is still quite good compared to international standards, it relies on atmospheric stadiums and the participation of members through the 50+1 rule. The new DFL managing directors Marc Lenz and Steffen Merkel have also committed themselves to 50+1 several times, and yes, all of this can certainly be marketed abroad. It’s not for nothing that the league advertised a few years ago with the slogan: “Football as it’s meant to be“.

The process itself, however, was one in which the membership base did not have much say. The DFL did approach fan representatives and listened to their concerns. But there was only around a month between the first information event for the clubs and the final vote, so hardly any club let its members vote on such a forward-looking decision. In Düsseldorf, where this opportunity existed because there was a general meeting at that time, the members influenced the result: The Fortuna board wanted to approve the investor deal, but the supervisory board instructed it not to do so.

The DFL wanted to push through the deal quickly because the TV rights for the next few years are due to be awarded in spring 2024. In this respect the approach probably made sense, but it was not grassroots democratic. The fans to whom the DFL markets its product will take note.

The German professional clubs did it after all. They have said yes to negotiations with investors who will pay them around one billion euros for a share in the income of the next two decades. 24 of the 36 clubs voted in favor, exactly a two-thirds majority: there shouldn’t have been any fewer yes votes.

There is now the necessary majority in the German Football League (DFL), but the result also shows that despite all the agreements and meetings, the clubs still do not come close to agreeing on such a central issue. And how could they? After all, today no one knows whether it is a profitable business. The valuation of the deal depends primarily on how optimistic one is about the future of the league and the help of investors. If the DFL can really significantly increase its income through the investor’s money and network, the deal will also be profitable for them; otherwise she will pay extra. The investor, on the other hand, makes a profit unless everything goes down the drain.

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