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German football timidly opening doors for international investors

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FILED - Football: Bundesliga, Matchday 30, Arminia Bielefeld - FC Schalke 04, Schüco Arena: Schalke's coach Dimitrios Grammozis (2nd from right) reacts after the final whistle with relegation confirmed. IMPORTANT NOTE: In accordance with the regulations of the DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga and the DFB Deutscher Fußball-Bund (German Football Association), it is prohibited to use or have used photographs taken in the stadium and/or of the match in the form of sequence pictures and/or video-like photo series. Photo: Friso Gentsch/dpa Pool/dpa
FILED - Football: Bundesliga, Matchday 30, Arminia Bielefeld - FC Schalke 04, Schüco Arena: Schalke's coach Dimitrios Grammozis (2nd from right) reacts after the final whistle with relegation confirmed. IMPORTANT NOTE: In accordance with the regulations of the DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga and the DFB Deutscher Fußball-Bund (German Football Association), it is prohibited to use or have used photographs taken in the stadium and/or of the match in the form of sequence pictures and/or video-like photo series. Photo: Friso Gentsch/dpa Pool/dpa

After a second vote and revised key points, German football is finally opening doors for a strategic investor.

In a second attempt, a two-thirds majority of the 36 professional clubs this Monday voted in favor of a new partner to increase the league’s international competitiveness.

Plans of the German league association DFL envision an extra influx of up to one billion euros (about 1.08 billion US dollars) with a partner benefiting from increasing revenues from media rights for a period of up to 20 years.

Unlike in May, when a majority vote failed, reports speak of an eight percent participation for the new investor when it comes to media-rights revenues.

The new deal, set to start in 2024, includes several red lines such as a restricted influence on sporting decisions like kick-off times.

The German league’s intentions come as a direct response to the vast advantage the Premier League has created by collecting nearly eight billion euros (8.6 billion US dollars) in international and national markets for a TV deal from 2025 onwards.
League association officials spoke of the attempt to secure second place in European football after the Premier League, while other leagues have lately made further progress.
Bayern Munich chairman Jan-Christian Dreesen called the Premier League untouchable and said the new deal is far from a sellout.
Spain’s La Liga, France’s Ligue 1, and Italy’s Serie A have triggered similar actions, while the German league has lost ground compared to its European competitors.

The DFL’s revenues of only 170 million euros (about 183 million US dollars) appear small compared to La Liga (897) and Serie A (205). The Bundesliga has dropped to fourth position among Europe’s top-five leagues.

The French league in 2023 opened doors to investors, allowing them to buy the majority of shares of clubs, and is expected to challenge the German league.

The DFL intends to maintain the 50-plus-one rule as a national specificity, as most of the 36 clubs from the first and second tier are voting in favor of the current rule. The German rules don’t allow investors to acquire the majority of shares from clubs.

The DFL’s actions are said to primarily strengthen the league’s digitalization, infrastructure, and international marketing. Dreesen called the new deal a “step into the future.”

The DFL plans to use the additional investment to set up a streaming platform to create greater access to games for international viewers. Experts say up to 200 million international fans are considering spending 100 euros (about 107.6 US dollars) per season to see games live.

Marketing experts fear the Bundesliga might turn into a development league, accompanied by the loss of emerging stars if it doesn’t head for new strategies. Nearly half of the league’s recent transfer income of 600 million euros (about 645.8 million US dollars) came from the Premier League.

Fan organizations have expressed concerns about a possible growing influence of investors from outside and used last weekend’s league game days for intense protests.

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