Billionaires Begin Seeing Openings to Enter German Soccer

A little known rule that has stopped big money from German soccer is losing its support, while club owners are finding ways to get around it.

Over the last few years billionaires have invested large sums of money into international soccer buying European teams as well as signing high-priced stars. While for the most part, Germany has missed most of the action, but that could change very soon.

Following years of inaction, the German soccer league (Bundesliga) has moved closer to allowing billionaire investors to purchase majority stakes in the clubs, potentially giving them additional firepower to battle with the world’s cash rich clubs such as Chelsea in London, Manchester City in Northern England and Paris Saint-Germain.

This issue has caused protests by German fans who fear the rising prices for ticket and a loss of overall influence, but challenges in court and the exploitation of loopholes by SAP SE and Red Bull GmbH tycoons have forced a rethink.

Unlike the majority of professional sports, soccer clubs in Germany are for the most part controlled through associations that are made up of members who pay fees instead of by investors.

The 36 clubs in Germany’s top two soccer divisions meet on Thursday to discuss potential changes to the 50+1 rule where the parent associations must own over 50% of the voting rights of the club. The league in February said it was time to consider the new opportunities for development, while protecting the German soccer culture’s principles.

The league is aware the rule has always been somewhat shaky and wants to debate changes and deal with the issue.

Considerable shifts have taken place on this issue since 2009 when the league last voted on it and only one club favored loosening the restrictions and 32 voted against it.

The biggest resistance is with 16 teams. To revise statues, a two thirds majority is needed or 24 votes.

Opponents to giving the right for investors to control clubs say there is more here than just wins and losses pointing out the close ties created by the Verein structure, which gives fans an influence on the decision making.

Fans, who regularly fill stadium to over 90% average capacity week in and week out, have demonstrated regularly against any rule change.

One opponent argues that Bayern Munich, the hugely successful club in Germany and Europe, is a fine example that an oligarch is not needed.

Bayern is a big success in the Bundesliga not only as a German club but one that is successful in Europe and listed as the fourth richest by revenue for Europe.