The name SSV Markranstädt was widely unknown until Red Bull purchased 49% of the team, renamed it RB Leipzig, and planned to conquer the Bundesliga with it in the next 8-10 years. Will this model be more widely used in the future?
Football purist were, of course, up in arms about this purchase. Companies like Red Bull shouldn’t be able to use small local clubs and turn them into a soulless entity that solely exists to get consumers to buy more gummy-bear like tasting soft drinks.
What these people conveniently forgot to mention is that already a number of Bundesliga clubs are run with the same model. Hoffenheim have lived of Dietmar Hoff’s money, Wolfsburg fuel their economy with Volkswagen money, and Bayer Leverkusen have been fed with the money of pharmaceutical company Bayer.
The difference between RB Leipzig and the clubs mentioned above is that Red Bull has purchased a number of clubs all around the world. The New York Red Bulls in the US, Red Bull Brasil in, you might as well have guessed it, in Brazil and Red Bull Salzburg.
This growing network of clubs opens for a number of exciting possibilities. Red Bull Salzburg coach Huub Stevens has already asked to use RB Leipzig as a station for his up- and coming talents to give them more match practice. The clubs in this network have a much easier time interacting with each other, and they have a global access structure at much lower cost then their rivals.
Of course, the football purist have a point when they point out that a number of teams with exactly the same jersey gives the whole enterprise a feel of a soulless undertaking. In their mind this move could open the door for other companies to do exactly the same. Their horror scenario is a league full of teams that have given up their club identities, in exchange for a lot of cash and a new name of corporate entity. A world where Bayern Munich turns into T-Mobile Munich, and Hannover 96 suddenly turns into Burger King Hannover. Having said that, as the rules currently stand in Germany, this horror scenario is out of the question.(That is also why RB Leipzig aren’t called Red Bull Leipzig.)
Another drawback for the teams is that Red Bull at some point could decide that their money is spent better elsewhere. Hoffenheim have for instance a huge problem at their hand right now. The club’s rich uncle has decided that the club should be a viable company on its own in the near future. How can the club find the money that it usually lost in the couch cushion, and turn itself around financially is the big question of the day in Hoffenheim right now.
The German case
In the case of RB Leipzig one has to point out that Red Bull have done a lot of things right. First of all, they are trying to bring Bundesliga football to a town that hasn’t had it since the mid-90s. Furthermore, this part of the country hasn’t had any Bundesliga football for two years in a row, and might actually not have it next year either(I pointed that out in an earlier post). If Red Bull had decided to create a new Bundesliga team in Southern-Germany, they would of had to fight for their costumers with 7-10 other teams.
The owner of Red Bull, Dietrich Mateschitz, announced that he sees the possibility of the club winning a German championship. The last side from Leipzig that has won a German championship are VfB Leipzig, who won it in 1913. The team has certainly a long way to go before they can lift the salad bowl, but one has to admit that they are on the right way. Currently fighting for a promotion spot to the 3. Liga, the team might reach its goal of the Bundesliga before their time table had planned it.
So far this season RB Leipzig have managed to draw a good crowd, considering that they are playing in the forth tier of German football and that they are competing against Sachsen Leipzig and Lokomotive Leipzig. Their record for the season is an attendance of 13,101 in the game against Chemnitzer FC.
What do you think? Will other companies follow Red Bull’s example? Leave a comment below.