50+1 rule

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The 50+1 rule (German: 50+1-Regel) is an informal term used to refer to a clause in the regulations of the Deutsche Fußball-Liga. The clause states that, in order to obtain a license to compete in the Bundesliga, a club must hold a majority of its own voting rights. The rule is designed to ensure that the club's members retain overall control, protecting clubs from the influence of external investors.

Background[edit]

Prior to 1998, football clubs in Germany were owned exclusively by members' associations.[1] This meant that clubs were run as not-for-profit organisations, and private ownership was not allowed under any circumstances.[2] This changed following a ruling by the German Football Association (DFB) in October 1998, which allowed clubs to convert their football teams into public or private limited companies. However, the "50+1 rule" requires the parent club to own at least 50% plus one additional share of the football company, ensuring that the club's members still hold a majority of voting rights.[3]

Exceptions[edit]

In cases where a person or company has substantially funded a club for a continuous period of 20 years, it is possible for that person or company to own a controlling stake in the club.[4] This exception most notably applies to Bayer 04 Leverkusen (owned by pharmaceuticals company Bayer), and VfL Wolfsburg (owned by automobile manufacturer Volkswagen), and has more recently allowed SAP co-founder Dietmar Hopp to gain control of his former youth club of 1899 Hoffenheim.

Criticism[edit]

The rule has been criticised on a number of occasions. One of the rule's most vocal opponents is Hannover 96 president Martin Kind, who argued that the rule could be in breach of EU competition law.[5] In 2009, Hannover put forward a motion to change the 50+1 rule, but this was overwhelmingly rejected, with 32 out of 36 clubs voting against the proposal.[6]

The effectiveness of the rule has also been brought into question following the rise of RB Leipzig. Although it is theoretically possible to become a voting member here, RB Leipzig reserves the right to reject any membership application without citing a reason. As a result, RB Leipzig has only a handful of members, most of whom are Red Bull GmbH employees. Critics have also noted that the annual membership fee is relatively expensive compared to other clubs.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Schaerlaeckens, Leander (21 October 2010). "The best league in the world?". ESPN. Retrieved 8 March 2015. 
  2. ^ Müller, Christian (21 February 2011). "Football Governance". www.parliament.uk. Retrieved 8 March 2015. 
  3. ^ Honigstein, Raphael (10 February 2009). "League crack down on lewd shirt numbers to concentrate on 50+1". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 March 2015. 
  4. ^ Hesse, Uli (30 December 2014). "Issues looming for Germany's footballing landscape". ESPN. Retrieved 8 March 2015. 
  5. ^ Amies, Nick (19 November 2009). "For better or worse, Bundesliga clubs to keep ownership rule". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 8 March 2015. 
  6. ^ Conn, David (13 November 2009). "Bundesliga votes to keep clubs owned by members". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 March 2015. 
  7. ^ Oltermann, Philip (6 March 2014). "Why RB Leipzig are sending shockwaves through German football". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 March 2015. 

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