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Getting round the rules


One can devise rules to restrict external investment in football clubs, but it is also possible to find ways of getting round them.   That is what the German Bundesliga has found.

RB Leipzig are currently second in the top German league.   They are sponsored by Red Bull, the energy drinks manufacturer, and play at the Red Bull Arena.   They are affiliated to New York Red Bulls and Red Bull Salzburg, the Austrian champions, both of whom play at grounds called the Red Bull Arena.

Red Bull owns 100 per cent of RB Leipzig's non-voting shares.   However, RB does not stand for 'Red Bull' as that would represent a breach of German rules.   RB stands for 'Rasen Ballsports' which is a made up name meaning 'lawn ball sports'.

The club also got around Germany's 50+1 rule which specifies that a majority of shares must be held by club members to stop external investors taking control.   The voting members are either current or former Red Bull employees.

RB Leipzig was created by acquiring a struggling fifth division outfit, Markranstadt, which was moved eight miles away to Leipzig.   Four promotions have been gained in seven seasons, often outspending the rest of the division every year.

This past summer their net spend of £45m was more than the rest of the Bundesliga combined and two and a half times that of Bayern Munich.   The two previous seasons they had a net spend of £20m, roughly 20 times that of the next biggest spenders.

There are two company teams already in the Bundesliga.  Bayer Leverkusen and Wolfsburg are owned by pharmaceutical and automotive companies respectively.   However, they originated as works teams.   Such teams have largely disappeared, along with the paternalistic, locally based employers who funded them.   It's a new international corporate world and it's difficult to football to stand aside.