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Karl-Heinz Rummenigge calls for solidarity between clubs at the DFL general assembly

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Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge fears that the so-called “middle class” clubs are creating a divide between the big and small clubs in German football over TV revenue.

FC Bayern Muenchen Unveils New Signing Philippe Coutinho Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images

At the DFL’s general assembly in Berlin on Wednesday, Reinhard Rauball bid farewell to the 36 clubs that comprise the Deutsche Fussball Liga (DFL), leaving his post as president after twelve years. DFL CEO Christian Seifert will take Rauball’s place.

In his new role, Seifert is inheriting a power struggle between some of the “middle-class” teams across the Bundesliga and the 2. Liga and the biggest, most lucrative clubs — especially Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich — over the distribution of income from the new broadcasting rights deal that will take effect in 2021.

A group of clubs including Eintracht Frankfurt, HSV Hamburg, Hertha Berlin, Werder Bremen, FC Köln, and VfB Stuttgart met separately from the others prior to the assembly to determine their own position in solidarity. That meeting led Borussia Dortmund’s Joachim Watzke to retract his candidacy for the presidency and supervisory council in anger.

As fate would have it, Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge defended Watzke’s reaction and warned of the repercussions of such division in German football (via Bild):

It got on all of our nerves that 16 clubs met. I’ve never seen such a thing since the founding of the DFL — that there was a separation of interests. They shouldn’t divide the spoils before the battle is won; that is absolutely not OK.

Specifically, the “middle class” clubs are agitating for a greater share of the revenue from broadcasting rights, which could ultimately effect marketing German football as a collective, especially in European competition, where the more financially successful clubs contend.

Rummenigge called on these middle-class clubs in the DFL to come back to the fold, citing the interest of the large clubs in forming a faction of their own:

I advise them to return to the fold of all clubs as quickly as possible and not to pull away. The big clubs, of course, have also thought about meeting and reaching decisions. But we very deliberately did not do that, because we did not want to take up a counter-position.

Seifert went so far as to quote the Bible (and Abraham Lincoln) to reinforce Rummenigge’s warning against the division in the DFL: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Seifert has been accused in the past of favoring the interests of the bigger clubs over the others, but he now is committed to unifying the DFL.