The Power of the Fans: How Union Berlin Supporters Successfully Defended 50+1 Rule in German Football

“Game, set and victory”: Union Berlin fans celebrate the success of the fans and their “tennis ball protests” against the entry of an investor into the German Football League (picture alliance / dpa / Andreas Gora)

Holger Schwiewagner is managing director of the second division club Spielvereinigung Greuther Fürth and a member of the DFL executive committee. He voted for an investor to come in in December and says about the break-off of negotiations after fan protests: “I think it’s a missed opportunity, an opportunity to further develop German professional football. And of course we all have to ask ourselves why we have this opportunity missed.”

The exit from the negotiation process with possible investors had to come at the meeting of the DFL executive committee, of which Schwiewagner is a member: “In the end, you have to say very clearly: I think there was no alternative to protecting German football to break off and to say very clearly: It no longer makes sense because the matter would most likely have escalated even further.”

Dario Minden is an Eintracht Frankfurt fan and is involved in the nationwide umbrella organization “Our Curve”. He sits on the DFB Fans and Fan Cultures Commission and was part of the DFL “Future Professional Football” working group three years ago. Minden is pleased that the negotiations have been broken off: “It’s just nice to see how powerful the grassroots are in football. I see this as a success for the grassroots democratic clubs in football as a spectator sport.”

Fan representative Minden: “Not a great celebration atmosphere”

Nevertheless, Minden is not only optimistic about the future, because now it is about the stability of the 50+1 rule in professional football. Of course, these are too many open questions. The outlook isn’t all that rosy. That’s why it’s not a great celebratory mood right now.” What’s crucial for Minden is limiting the influence of donors in the clubs: “Ultimately, it’s about 50+1 not just being an empty phrase.”

Schwiewagner, on the other hand, advocates not neglecting the economic side of sport: “It would be fatal to ignore the realities and believe that German football is on the island of the blessed. Professional football is an economic factor that many people benefit from Industries benefit directly and indirectly. In the end, for me, it’s also about responsibility.”

However, Dario Minden sees mistakes in the way the league and the clubs handle their money: “The basic problem is that football actually has a lot of income, but the expenditure side is not regulated.” The industry is creative when it comes to generating new income – for example with an investor deal. In order to regulate expenses, it could also be a salary cap. It could work with proper financial fair play: “Why not at the national level if it doesn’t work at UEFA anyway?”

Minden: Strong “brand loyalty” of fans to clubs and football

“In the end, it’s always about competitiveness,” replies DFL executive board member Holger Schwiewagner. “When we talk about salary caps, squad costs, reductions and so on, then we must also note and not forget that the representatives of German football in the European context have been working on these issues for years, working intensively.” German representatives supported this because the excesses in other European leagues were much, much greater. A national cap leads to a loss of competitiveness “if the players decide to play abroad because they don’t have a cap there or the clubs are more efficient.”

Dario Minden argues that international competitiveness is not the crucial point. You shouldn’t subordinate everything to him. It’s not always about good football: “Let’s look at the example of Hamburger SV. They are in the second division for the sixth year and are having the umpteenth boom. People flock to the stadium not because of the football delicacies, not because of them all the successes that are presented. As long as football has this power, this economically speaking “brand loyalty” of its fans, then it is also competitive. And if you put that at risk and something might fall apart, then maybe you can do anything lose.”

Schwiewagner: Decisions must be in the hands of those responsible

According to Minden, a common vision for the DFL and its clubs can only be that German football has something unique with its fan loyalty and its grassroots democratic understanding of football. That’s the much-quoted 50+1 rule.

From Schwiewagner’s point of view, however, grassroots democracy has its limits in professional football: “We are still talking about clubs with commercial operations or about commercial enterprises such as corporations, as in our case in Fürth. You have to say: a decision like this has to be in the hands of those responsible who should listen to the membership, but who also need the freedom to make such decisions in the interests of the association or the corporation. If we start voting on all these issues in a grassroots democratic way, then we will no longer be able to act.”

2024-02-25 19:46:16
#DFL #investor #deal #missed #opportunity


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