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Karl-Heinz Rummenigge under fire for DFL remarks

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After sharply criticizing the outcome of the DFL assembly in support of the 50+1 rule, several club officials, including Dortmund’s Watzke, responded in kind.

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Karl-Heinz Rummenigge’s sharp criticism of the DFL assembly that voted in favor of retaining the 50+1 rule in German soccer has not gone unanswered. The Bayern chairman has been on the receiving end of a wave of criticism—but also some support—from personages throughout the league.

Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke

First and foremost, Borussia Dortmund’s CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke discussed Rummenigge’s criticism in an interview with Die Welt (via Abenzeitung). Watzke stated,

I don’t know what’s so bad about a resolution that was reached democratically. We have to take care that the Bundesliga doesn’t become so divided as German society seems to be divided.

According to Watzke, doing away with the 50+1 rule, which with some exceptions prevents individual investors from owning a majority of a club, is “enormously explosive.” “We have 153,000 members, and I know that most of them want to keep 50+1.” Going “over their heads” and doing away with the rule would bring serious repercussions, he contends.

Watzke spoke with Rummenigge by phone in an effort to understand his counterpart’s view. He stated,

For my part, I don’t entirely understand it, because the argument that one would like to raise the competitive balance of the Bundesliga—with all due respect—isn’t true. I at least have seldom had the impression that Bayern care about the competitive balance of the Bundesliga.

DFL President Reinhard Rauball counters

In remarks to WAZ, Reinhard Rauball pointedly rejected Rummenigge’s criticism of the assembly and in particular the claim that the DFL lacked leadership. According to Rauball,

The criticism is unwarranted. The question regarding 50+1 will be decided solely by the 36 professional clubs. It’s a fatal mistake to believe that the leadership of the DFL could abolish 50+1—the rule is part of the league statutes.

Rauball further argued that it’s “mistaken to believe that a mere interview would suffice to chance these statutes. That’s not a question of leadership, but rather purely the business of the 36 clubs, that moreover must vote for it with a two-thirds majority.”

Since 18 clubs voted the keep the 50+1 rule, there is little chance that the DFL will vote to amend its statutes.

“Rummenigge wasn’t present either”: responses from around the league

The response to Rummenigge’s remarks has been mixed. Andreas Rettig, the chairman of FC St. Pauli who unleashed the “populist spectacle” of a vote on 50+1, cryptically responded,

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was a first-rate striker.

Other replies have been more detailed. Kicker has published many responses from participants at the assembly.

Otmar Schork, chairman of SV Sandhausen:

In principle, I think it’s a shame that the chairman of Bayern Munich was not personally present at the DFL session. Especially the opinion of the branch leader, who thinks far outside the box, would have been important to us. I would have been happy to hear his visions and thoughts. Unfortunately, Bayern Munich did not speak during the session . . . It’s unfortunate that emotional statements were given greater weight than the factual discussion at the league assembly.

Stephan Schippers, chairman of Borussia Mönchengladbach:

For five decades, the 50+1 rule has been a key element of German professional soccer. From our perspective, it is extremely important that this rule . . . is preserved. We don’t want to have the negative consequences that clubs are quickly bought and just as quickly sold. And every attempt to subject majority involvement to certain rules, for example setting a certain time limit, is vague. You can’t regulate that. That’s why it’s important to keep the 50+1 rule in essence.

Peter Peters, CFO of Schalke:

Die DFL consists of 36 members and it’s not a problem when the clubs have different opinions in such an important question—particularly when they’re in fierce competition. 50+1, however, should also ensure that competition is protected and not warped. This goal, regrettably, is no longer being met. Therefore, there should be a discussion about how all the present exceptions to the 50+1 rule and anticipated applications for exceptions should be judged. It remains to be seen whether that can be done in a legally unassailable fashion.

Stefan Heim, CFO of VfB Stuttgart:

In Stuttgart’s view, the first step after the decision is to clarify the legality of 50+1. The second step is to restore the competitive balance in the Bundesliga, which is lacking on account of the uncertainty of the rules governing exceptions, and then the question of how the competitiveness of the Bundesliga internationally can be raised.

Martin Kind, owner of Hannover 96:

I completely share the criticism that Mr. Rummenigge formulated in Kicker. I was also surprised by the level of the DFL assembly. Some participants were obviously not prepared for a discussion or simply had no interest. The leadership did not succeed in providing a framework that could be discussed. My realization: the DFL must be vigilant and reflect on many things, including its own internal organization. In this league, it is necessary to work with sums in the billions, but it is apparently treated as if it were an association for gardening plots.