We all have that one club we absolutely hate. Whether it is because they’re your rivals,you dislike one of their players or managers or simply you loathe their arrogant fans on Twitter. We all hate that one club.
In Germany, there is one club that is universally despised.
Whether you like it or not, football in 2016 is a business. We have stadiums named by airlines, shirts covered by mobile networks and players sponsored by shampoo. It’s part and parcel of the “beautiful game” now. For the most part, we are happy to
let these modern additions to our game slide but in a dormant industrial city in Eastern Germany a club has caused international controversy.
This weekend a group of Koln supporters have organised a protest against the recently promoted Red Bull Leipzig – or as the organisation approving their license would like them to be known as “RasenBallsport Leipzig”. Koln are not the first fans to do so either, BMG held a 19 minute silent protest and Dynamo Dresden threw a pig’s head from the stands.
To each their own I guess.
The term “buying the league” is thrown around too often these days – but this cliche has never been more suited to this club. After inquiring around Germany to the likes of 1860 Munich and hilariously St Pauli, the Red Bull franchise decided on the footballing wasteland of Leipzig for their German investment.
As acquiring and twisting an “established” club like they had done previously in Austria was more difficult in Germany and the German Football Association (DFB) were harsher with their licensing regulations, the energy drink producer settled for
cash stricken fallen giant SSV Markanstädt.
Overhauling this declining side, Red Bull injected their sugary caffeine venom into creating the franchise we now see competing in the Bundesliga. Starting in the 5th tier of the German leagues it took just 7 years to reach it’s summit – solely thanks to
copious amounts of money. During the summer of 2014 RB Leipzig were the 8th highest spenders in the Bundesliga and 2.Bundesliga thus spending more than half the clubs in
the top flight. They grabbed headlines by splashing 8m euros on Werder Bremen’s wonderkid Davie Selke and the cash flow does not seem to be halting anytime soon.
So far in Leipzig’s debut Bundesliga season they have been a talking point on and off the pitch, snatching a last minute win against giants Dortmund. Hot prospects such as Timo Werner
and Willi Orban have show cased their potential. RB Leipzig’s high-pressing counter attacking style of play is a perfect fit for the league and – even if I may be lynched for saying it – mirrors Klopp’s dominant Dortmund side.
Leipzig’s electric start has naturally attracted media attention and the club’s sporting director claims the negative comments to be “fear that Leipzig has and will take away one of their (Bundesliga) places” – the arrogance you expect from a soulless organisation I guess.
Honestly, I’m skeptical.
I have grown acclimatised to this football era albeit not immediately. I understand now that, yes, it is extremely annoying for the match clock to be sponsored but in the cut throat commercial hub that is modern football, if it wasn’t I couldn’t enjoy the incredible talent I watch on a weekly basis. Although it frustrates me to see famous stands draped with tacky advertising boards, I have seen first hand the benefits that sponsorship can bring to a local community.
However, there is a lingering fear that greed has no limits. Red Bull Leipzig are not just a clock sponsor or an advertising board. They have engulfed a club, no matter it’s situation and have shown that with enough power and money they can stretch and bend the rules to create an artificial existence. When we read that an MLS team was owned by Red Bull, we scoffed and said “That’s America!”. When we heard Red Bull seized control of Salzburg we shrugged it off. But now, Red Bull, an energy drink manufacturer has guided a marketing project to an elite league in Europe.
Before we know it we might be tuning in to Coca-Cola Manchester v Turkish Airlines London.
Food for thought.
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