St. Pauli ruffle feathers with call for Bundesliga quartet to be denied TV rights revenues
German soccer clubs which do not abide by the ‘50+1’ rule, under which the membership retains a majority share, should be excluded from receiving a proportion of television rights revenues, according to a controversial proposal from St. Pauli, of the country’s second-tier 2. Bundesliga.
It emerged today that the Hamburg-based club, which has a reputation for being anti-establishment, had written to DFL president Reinhard Rauball and chief executive Christian Seifert on 10 November requesting that top-flight outfits VfL Wolfsburg, Bayer Leverkusen and Hoffenheim be excluded from future deals.
The letter also calls for this measure to be extended to Hannover 96 in 2017, when Martin Kind is set to take a controlling stake in the club.
St. Pauli’s proposition is set to be discussed at a meeting of the DFL, the German football league, in Frankfurt on 2 December and while it is not expected to be approved, the top-tier Bundesliga clubs named by St. Pauli claim that, if it is, then that would bring an end to the central marketing of television rights to the top two leagues.
The dispute comes as the DFL, which oversees both leagues, prepares to issue bidding documents for the German rights to the Bundesliga from 2017-18 onwards.
St. Pauli admitted that it had sent the letter to the DFL, but declined to expand, telling Spiegel Online: “We will share our motives with the clubs now. Before then we will issue no further official statement.”
The DFL has granted exceptions to the 50+1 rule to Wolfsburg, which are 100-per-cent owned by Volkswagen, Bayer Leverkusen, which are owned by Bayer AG, and Hoffenheim, in which SAP founder Dietmar Hopp has a controlling stake.
It is envisaged that this privilege will also apply to Hannover 96 once Kind increases his shareholding under a rule which allows a business person to receive an exclusion after 20 years of significant investment in a club.
The four clubs have issued a robust response, saying that if the proposal is passed then it would represent the “termination of solidarity” between the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga over the distribution of television rights revenues.
They therefore called for it to be ruled “inadmissible” or “unfounded.”
It is widely thought that switching from collective to individual rights selling would only serve to increase the dominance of Germany's top club Bayern Munich, the comfortable winners of the Bundesliga for the last three seasons. Bayern are majority-owned by their members, with Adidas, Audi and Allianz serving as minority shareholders.
The DFL’s existing four-year domestic rights deals for the Bundesliga, which run until the end of the 2016-17 season, are worth an average of €628 million ($668 million) per season, of which Sky Deutschland, the German pay-TV broadcaster, pays €485.7 million for live multi-platform rights.
In the 2015-16 season, some €850 million is being distributed among the 36 clubs in the top two divisions, of which €170 million is going to the 2. Bundesliga.
Volkswagen remains committed to Wolfsburg, the club based in the same city as the famous German carmaker’s headquarters, but it was reported at the weekend that the company is considering ending its sponsorship of other German clubs to cut costs following the emissions scandal that has hit the company.
On Friday, Volkswagen announced that it had slashed €1 billion from its 2016 investment plan.
The firm could now end its sponsorship deals with Hannover 96, Werder Bremen and Schalke 04 of the Bundesliga and 1860 Munich of the 2. Bundesliga, each worth about €1.5 million per year, and its €5-million-a-year sponsorship of ice hockey club Grizzlys Wolfsburg, according to Bild am Sonntag.
Volkswagen said yesterday that soccer remained a major pillar of its sponsorship strategy going forward, but added: “It has not yet been decided what the volume of that will be.”
Last month, Wolfsburg announced that they had postponed plans for a new youth training centre following the emissions scandal.
Meanwhile, Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund have announced that they have extended their sponsorship deal with local beer brand Brinkhoff’s No.1 until the end of the 2022-23 season. The partnership with Dortmund Breweries dates back to 2008.
Brinkhoff’s is an official ‘Champion Partner’ of Dortmund, with perimeter advertising and other rights at the club’s Signal Iduna Park and a presence in its fan projects and media channels.