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The End of an Investment Deal in German Football

Updated: Jun 9

About Tennis Balls, Remote Controlled Cars, and Football as Risk Capital

By: Christina Schmid


More than two months have passed since the German Football League (DFL) decided to explore options for private-equity investments to improve the league’s promotion internationally. The project was confronted by major protests during games, with fan silences, banners, and tennis balls thrown on the pitch to interrupt matches. During the Bundesliga’s 22nd game day, remote controlled cars were thrown onto the pitch, causing major interruption in various stadiums and German ‘Ultras’ fan groups released a statement titled “German football remains risk capital”.


 On the 22 February, the DFL spokesperson Hans-Joachim Watzke said that “a successful continuation of the process seems impossible in light of the current development”, stating the game interruptions and fan protests as reasons behind abandoning the deal. The disapproval against any potential deal rose with the first discussions on the topic, now almost a year ago. While the first attempt for the proposal in May failed, in December a slightly amended one was passed with the smallest possible two-third margin. The deal would entail outsourcing the league’s television rights to expand internationally and “keep the Bundesliga competitive in the European market.”


Since a statement was released on the 15th of February by Hannover 96, the focus lies on a potential breach of the 50+1 rule and the accusation that the DFL board has not acted upon a warning that the club’s representative Martin Kind might not vote against the proposal. Nevertheless, the vote was conducted anonymously and only the confession of all votes against made it possible to target Kind for his likely breach of the directive. Ever since, he stood in the crosshair, quite literally as depicted in a banner made by Hannover fans.


On the other hand, fan groups, particularly Ultras have been outspoken about their disapproval of the events. They fear a further matchday fragmentation to attract as many television viewers as possible but constraining the possibility of away support and a further power shift away from the clubs, traditionally protected by the 50+1 rule. The major fan alliance “Unsere Kurve e.V.” (Our Block) condemns the process in advance of the voting process as fan involvement was made impossible as information was gatekept and the announcement was only made shortly before the vote.


Despite most fans rejecting the deal, disunity arises in terms of the protests.

Not all fan blocks participated in the protests as these were allegedly short-sighted and did not sufficiently reflect their own position within the football business. Ultimately, the deal was stopped on the 21 of February as the DFL board thought the game interruptions to be too severe and many clubs no longer supported the investment deal.



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