How fan ownership spelt the end for the ESL in Germany

The vast majority of Germany's professional clubs, including Bayern and Dortmund, are governed by the 50+1 rule

Matthew Crist

While clubs from La Liga, the Premier League and Serie A were falling over themselves to sign-up to the now ill-fated European Super League earlier this week, the Bundesliga’s big two refused to come to the party.

Had it gone ahead, the Super League would have featured mid-table Premier League teams and also-rans from Italy and Spain, though not the current European and World champions – Bayern Munich.

Borussia Dortmund, a club with one of the biggest stadiums in Europe and a passionate, match-going, fanbase to match, let it be known they wanted no part in the proposed breakaway as early as Monday.

“It was the clear opinion of the members of the ECA Board that they reject the plans to create a Super League,” said Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke, adding that “both German clubs represented on the ECA Board, FC Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, were 100% in agreement in all discussions.”

Later in the day, Bayern Munich chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge released the following statement, seemingly confirming the German champions’ rejection of the European Super League proposals:

“FC Bayern were not involved in the plans for a Super League. We are convinced that the current format in football guarantees a reliable basis.”

“FC Bayern welcomes the reforms to the Champions League and we believe that this is the right step for the development of European football. The modified group stage will bring more excitement and emotion to the competition.”

“I do not believe that the Super League will solve the financial problems of European clubs caused by the coronavirus crisis. Moreover, all clubs in Europe should act in solidarity to ensure that cost structures, especially player wages and agents’ fees, are adjusted to match revenues, in order to shape European football more rationally.”

Meanwhile, the DFB and DFL stated their support for UEFA’s Champions League reforms, saying: “These reforms were an offer to the top clubs to come together under UEFA – a painful compromise in some places. But this offer has been rejected, with an obvious motivation.”

So why were Germany’s top-two clubs, both European giants in their own right, prepared to make a stand against the move when so many other teams around the continent willing to alienate their fanbase overnight, potentially for a generation?

“Given that in Germany the 50+1 rule applies, German teams and fans know that joining a Super League wouldn’t be an option,” says Fernando Sanchez, Bayern fan of 16 years.

“The German spectator traditionally has close ties with his club, that’s why we see in Germany the best average attendances in all of its divisions, a good infrastructure, and low ticket prices.”

This is true. The vast majority of Germany’s professional clubs, including Bayern and Dortmund, are governed by the 50+1 rule, which essentially enshrines fan ownership.

The system is designed to prevent private investors taking outright control of a club in the way seen in the Premier League and means fans could, in theory, block their clubs from being involved in any super league.

This has forged much better relations between fans and owners in the Bundesliga it would appear, something highlighted by the German clubs’ decision to keep their distance from the ESL.

Back in January, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, the Bayern CEO, said of a proposed Super League: “If the system changed, it could make it more difficult for many people to identify with football.

“It could cause serious damage to the national leagues, that is why I have my reservations. If I had to decide today for Bayern, I would decline.”

As a result, at a time when fans of Premier League teams are venting their anger at owners, many are now looking-on in envy at the way German clubs are run and what the majority membership, or fan ownership, model could mean for them.

Dortmund Bundesliga

“With all this conflict, everyone’s paying closer attention to the Bundesliga and the 50+1 rule, and how it works,” explains Fernando

“I understand some fans would like to see this happening in their teams and leagues. FC Bayern, despite being a very powerful team, you won’t see them spending more than $100M on a player any time soon.

“It would be awesome seeing the rule being applied in many leagues as possible, but there’s also has to be a salary cap, some teams are struggling financially not only because of the consequences of the pandemic, but also because of bad financial decisions made in the last years.

“I’m glad FC Bayern didn’t take part of this, saying NO straight from the beggninng.


“Football is for the community as much as it is for everybody else…”

Sir Kenny Dalglish, FansBet Ambassador


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