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“You can’t drive a new sow through the village every six months”


With embarrassed faces, the frustrated bosses of the German Football League announced the premature end of the hoped-for billion-dollar deal with an investor. “Sometimes life is simple. This is democracy. There was a clear majority, but not the one we wanted. So the topic is over as of today, ”said DFL Supervisory Board Chairman Hans-Joachim Watzke on Wednesday after the extraordinary general meeting.

At the eagerly awaited meeting of the 36 first and second division clubs in a Frankfurt airport hotel, a motion to this effect did not receive the required two-thirds majority. Although 20 clubs voted in favor, that was not enough with eleven votes against and five abstentions. “I thought the project made sense and I wholeheartedly supported it because I am convinced that it is the right way. But I’m not offended now,” Watzke said of the result.

The pictures of the Borussia Dortmund manager on the podium and his words spoke a different language. Quite openly, Watzke even questioned the longstanding solidarity between top clubs like BVB and FC Bayern and the second division. “No one should come up with solidarity issues in the near future,” said Watzke.

The 63-year-old, who, like the interim managing directors Axel Hellmann and Oliver Leki, was one of the supporters of the project, was particularly annoyed by the abstentions in the groundbreaking vote. “Anyone who abstains on such a central question, I can be a bit surprised, but everyone can do it as they want,” said the head of the Bundesliga leader with a dash of sarcasm in his voice.

The result of the vote is a crushing defeat for the DFL leadership, which had previously campaigned for broad approval. “The question will have to be asked where security and stability for the Bundesliga will come from in the future,” said Hellmann and warned: “For me, and I’ll say that very clearly, this is a defeat for central marketing.”

The spokesman for the board of Eintracht Frankfurt, who was actually supposed to manage the DFL business until the planned investor deal was completed, will resign from office on June 30th after the failure of the process, like his Freiburg colleague Leki. However, both will remain in the governing bodies of the umbrella organization of German professional football – Hellmann on the executive committee, Leki on the supervisory board.

Watzke will also continue to fill his DFL office. The BVB boss would only think about personal consequences if the management committees spoke out in favor of high levels of debt in the future in order to trigger growth in the league. “It can’t be the point to get up to your neck in debt. I would consider that a disastrous path and would be too much for me. At that point I would say I won’t go along with it,” said Watzke.

The DFL had promised fresh capital of around two billion euros from the entry of an investor. In particular, the money should be used to strengthen the overall marketing of the Bundesliga, primarily abroad. A fixed amount was also earmarked to finance local infrastructure projects for the 36 professional clubs. In addition, the clubs should receive around 300 million euros at their disposal.

“We can reasonably guess at the consequences this will have for the future, but we cannot publicly specify them. The whole league has to deal with that,” said Leki about the failed investor plan and said: “It will be complicated in the next two years.”

If approved, the DFL would have the national and international media rights in a subsidiary called DFL MediaCo GmbH

This plan, against which there have been loud protests in the organized fan scene for months, is now obsolete. “The result shows that transparency is essential in these processes. Backroom politics becomes a boomerang and questions have to be answered,” wrote the fan alliance “Our Curve”. “Obviously there is a rethinking: more money alone will not solve the problems of football,” it said.

In the weeks leading up to the general meeting, resistance had also been stirred up among the associations. In the open plenum, however, only three clubs voted against the application, Watzke reported. The vote itself was secret.

Critics of the plan had pointed out that a potential investor would also demand co-determination rights in order to protect and actively increase the return on his investment. In addition, it was criticized that the DFL was accessing future revenues that the clubs would lack in ten to 20 years.

It will not come to that now. In any case, Watzke cannot imagine making another attempt in the near future. “It’s over,” he affirmed. “You can’t drive a new sow through the village every six months.”