The 50 + 1 rule and Leipzig’s rise despite of it

Football is for the fans!

The Bundesliga is considered to be one of the best leagues in the world. Loud fans, popular clubs, and exciting football. However, the Bundesliga has one rule that other top leagues in Europe don’t imply. The 50+1 rule.

The 50+1 rule means that a minimum of 51 percent equity belongs to the club and a maximum of 49 percent equity can be outsourced. So what that essentially means is an outside investor cannot make any significant decisions affecting the club without the agreement of the club’s members.

The 50+1 regulation effectively protects German clubs from being purchased by billionaires who may only be interested in the club as an investment. Looking to make a quick buck and not caring enough about the club’s traditions or the sentiments of the fans. So, no Sheikh Mansour or Roman Abramovich, or the Glazers.

Now all of these owners have probably made a positive impact on their respective clubs. But there are stories where this was not the case.

In 2010 a championship club, Cardiff City was purchased by a Malaysian owner. He changed the blue kit and blue bird emblem to a red kit and a red dragon as the kit’s emblem. He did so because the color red is considered to be lucky in Asia. Having no care to understand the sub-context of the Cardiff region and making drastic decisions that suit him.

So, the 50+1 rule can be a blessing or a curse but the Bundesliga fans do not want to take a chance and are in full support of this regulation. There is a saying that football is for the fans, Germany took this sentiment to the next level, and made it a rule!

The rise of RB Leipzig:

RB Leipzig formally known as SSV Markranstädt (before their purchase) were struggling in division 5 of German football. This was in 2009. Their fate completely changed as soon after Red Bull brought the club. How they found the loophole in the 50+1 rule is an interesting story.

Each club has paying members who are an integral part of the club. For example, Schalke has 140,000 paying members. For Leipzig however, at the time of purchase had only 17 paying members and as luck would have it all of them worked for Red Bull. So, this way Red Bull found a way to create a foothold in football by purchasing SSV Markranstädt.

With the club members on their side and no one to veto, Red Bull implanted a number of things at the club. First, they changed the jersey and the logo. With a red color jersey and two bulls in the logo, Red Bull was pouring down their brand publicity into the club’s new redesigned kit.

The owners also changed the name of the club to what we know now as today – RB Leipzig. Now Red Bull wanted to name the club as Red Bull Leipzig but that request was denied by Bundesliga and instead, they had to go with RasenBallsport Leipzig. Which in reality is a perfect surrogate to push forward the Red Bull brand.

All these gimmicks were not taken in a good spirit by the Bundesliga fans. The fans felt this stunt could damage all the traditional values that they stood for. Red Bull was simply not welcome in the German football community.

Nonetheless, Leipzig fans can put a smile on their face. The club from division 5 made the journey to the Bundesliga in a very short span of time. In subsequent seasons, they finished third on the standings once and second once. Not to forget Leipzig reached the champions league semi-finals in 2020.

From struggling in Division 5 of Germany to making the Champions League Semi-finals. All of this in a very short time frame. One might wonder – is the 50+1 rule really necessary?

RB Leipzig has achieved a lot in a very short time frame but they have done that without respecting the basic traditions of Bundesliga. The fans of the club can be happy for the progress, but with all the changes and a critical hit on the identity is it even their club anymore?

The 50+1 rule has people split up. Whether the rule stands, gets removed, or is modified only time will tell. But as of now, the regulation stands strong with a full German wall standing behind it.