The Deutsche Fußball-Liga (DFL) has announced it will stop planned private investment for its new marketing entity after fans of Bundesliga clubs protested against the initiative. 

It is believed that up to €1bn was expected to be installed into the DFL’s new marketing strategy that would sell broadcasting rights in exchange for capital investment for the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga, with CVC Capital being the sole investor. 

After 24 out of 36 Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga clubs voted in favour of the 8% stake for the media subsidiary, fans across Germany protested against the investment as it is widely believed that they deem the process to be undemocratic and goes against the 50+1 ownership rule. 

Fan protests have seen tennis balls and chocolate coins being thrown onto the pitch before and during games, most notably on 10 February during the top of the table clash between Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich

To address fan concern, the DFL held an ‘extraordinary meeting’ in Frankfurt to confirm that the strategic marketing investment will no longer continue. 

Hans-Joachim Watzke, speaker of the DFL Executive Committee, stated: “In light of recent developments, it appears that continuing the process successfully is something that is no longer possible. 

“Although there was a significant majority in favour of the necessity of the strategic partnership from a business perspective, German professional football is in the midst of a crucial test of its strength, and this topic has given rise to considerable conflict.”

Whilst the capital investment would have signalled international growth for the Bundesliga to many new markets, due to the 50+1 rule enabling clubs to hold a majority share in the club themselves, fans across Germany believe this goes against the league mandate. 

Other major European leagues, such as the Premier League, have openly welcomed capital and foreign investment to significantly accelerate commercial and revenue growth of their teams. 

With no private company being able to hold more than 49% in a Bundesliga or 2. Bundesliga clubs, these entities are unable to pass proposals like the strategic marketing partnership without the greenlight from fans. 

“The Executive Committee of the DFL is unanimously in favour of the 50+1 rule,” added Watzke. 

“However, any new vote aimed at establishing that acceptance by resolution would raise further legal questions relating to the assessment of the legally valid decision taken in December 2023, which was not questioned or contested by any club at the time. 

“This could pose the risk of fresh legal questions or even disputes. Avoiding such an eventuality and returning to orderly match operations must be the DFL’s primary objective.

In the closing statements by Watzke at the DFL meeting, he confirmed that club management will be inviting clubs to talks in the “next few weeks” to discuss the implications of the process.

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