After being relegated from the 2. Liga this Tuesday, Bayern Munich’s city rival München 1860 will suffer still more degradation: the club’s majority shareholder and financial mainstay, Jordanian billionaire Hasan Ismaik, has refused to finance the club’s license to play in the 3. Liga, Germany’s lowest professional league, damning them to the amateur fourth-tier Regionalliga, where they will compete alongside Bayern Munich II.
In exchange for paying 1860’s license fee, Ismaik had issued the club a series of demands that would have consolidated his total control. His demands, however, would have been in flagrant violation of DFB regulations, most notably the 50+1 rule that limits shareholders’ voting rights. Among other things, Ismaik had demanded full discretionary power and the right to veto 1860’s mother club, which retains 51% of voting rights in accordance with DFB policy.
At a press conference today, 1860 vice president Heinz Schmidt gave us a glimpse into the grim reality of negotiating with an all-powerful investor. Ismaik issued the club his demands eight days before license fees were due, but these could not be met “partly for reasons of time, partly for legal reasons.”
Ismaik informed the club, however, that his terms were "not the beginning of negotiations," but rather an ultimatum: "We will move forward once all the points have been fulfilled."
It was probably this stonewalling that prompted 1860s CEO Ian Ayre to resign even before the final relegation game, citing internal disputes with the “shareholders.” 1860 vice president Heinz Schmidt pointedly exculpated Ayre of all blame in the catastrophe, saying he worked feverishly until the very end.
Rainer Koch, president of the Bavarian Football Association, also spoke, welcoming 1860 München to the Regionalliga, despite the challenge that incorporating 1860 into the Regionalliga will pose with respect to scheduling and other logistics.
Koch also welcomed Ismaik to future collaboration with the Regionalliga, but cautioned emphatically that 1860 must observe the 50+1 rule. He said he hoped Ismaik would recall their previous conversation about the 50+1 rule.
In sum, despite some reprieve in the Regionalliga rather than the fifth-tier Bayernliga, the debacle is virtually the absolute worst-case scenario for 1860. They now not only face almost total irrelevance, but also remain tied to Ismaik, who seems intent on waging war against what remains of 1860's club structure.
After refusing to pay for their license to play in the 3. Liga, Ismaik ominously claimed that he would continue to “support” 1860 even in the 4th or 5th league. The reality of that support poses a grave threat to the club structure of German soccer itself.