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After fan protests: There are signs of a change in the discussion about the DFL investor

Sports after fan protests

There are signs of a turning point in the discussion about the DFL investor

As of: 8:38 p.m. | Reading time: 4 minutes

Shows willingness to talk: DFL boss Hans-Joachim Watzke

Source: dpa/Christian Charisius

Under the pressure of the fan protests, the willingness of the professional clubs to vote again on the planned investor deal with the DFL is growing. 1. FC Cologne announced a corresponding application, and Mönchengladbach is also positioning itself. Others fear damage to their image.

In the heated debate about investors joining the German Football League, there are increasing numbers of supporters for further coordination among the clubs. On Friday, 1. FC Cologne and Borussia Mönchengladbach became the next DFL members to make their intention to vote again on the possible billion-dollar deal public. DFL supervisory board chairman Hans-Joachim Watzke had previously signaled a concession on the issue via “Bild”. “We as the Executive Board have been given a binding final mandate. But if we have the feeling that the majority no longer wants this in March, we will certainly not give our vote against their will,” said Watzke.

In view of violent fan protests against the plan, the league association and clubs have recently come under great pressure. The decision of December 11, 2023 for a negotiation and conclusion mandate stands “on a very fragile foundation,” wrote the management of 1. FC Cologne in a letter that was also sent to the 35 other clubs organized in the DFL.

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The FC leadership announced a motion through which the DFL management would be released from the obligation to conclude the deal and the decision on investor entry would go back to the clubs. FC St. Pauli had already made a corresponding proposal on December 19th at a DFL executive board meeting, as stated in the “MillernTon” blog. A number of other clubs such as VfB Stuttgart, Hansa Rostock and 1. FC Union Berlin have already brought up the possibility of a new vote.

In the planned deal, the DFL wants to collect one billion euros from a financial investor for a percentage share of the TV revenue. When the 36 professional clubs voted on the deal, the necessary two-thirds majority was only barely achieved.

Fans demand more transparency

Because of the decision, there were protests from the organized fan scene in many stadiums on the last few match days, and some games were about to be canceled. “I ask the fan scenes at this point not to push the point of escalation further,” said league boss Watzke and renewed an offer to talk to the fans. “We all have to be aware of our responsibility for German football. If you cancel a game, you are doing massive damage to your own club,” warned Watzke.

Referee Patrick Ittrich also had to deal with tennis balls on Friday in Hanover

Source: dpa/Swen Pförtner

The controversial role of managing director Martin Kind of second division team Hannover 96 and the suspicion that his vote on the investor question could have violated the 50+1 rule caused great displeasure in the fan scene. The 50+1 rule is essentially intended to prevent investors from having a majority of votes in the corporations of clubs.

Hanover’s club management had instructed Kind to vote against the investor’s entry. However, the voting results and the public confessions of the respondents suggest that Kind voted yes and thus helped the DFL plan gain the necessary majority.

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The secret vote and the lack of clarity about the vote of individual participants fueled criticism and fan protests. “But if it is above all this point at which tempers are so at loggerheads, then we have no problem voting again on whether we want to release the DFL Presidium from the final mandate issued in December – and this “To make voting open, transparent and comprehensible for everyone,” said Borussia Mönchengladbach’s managing director Stephan Schippers.

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The delicate debate about December’s vote also worries the DFB President, “because the mere suspicion that there could have been a violation of the 50+1 rule in this context endangers the reputation of football in Germany.” Bernd Neuendorf said. The 50+1 rule guarantees that the Bundesliga does not become a plaything for donors. “We all want to develop football further – also economically. But that has to be done with a sense of proportion,” said Neuendorf.

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The DFL’s only remaining negotiating partner for the hoped-for deal is the company CVC. The US financial investor Blackstone somewhat surprisingly withdrew from the bidding process on Tuesday. The fans celebrated this as an interim success for their resistance.

DFL supervisory board chairman Watzke assured that CVC would have “zero influence” on key issues with the league association. “There will be no new kick-off times or anything like that with us,” said the Borussia Dortmund managing director. CVC also “accepted all of our red lines” and “doesn’t want to even begin to reform our football”.

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