There is only an elite echelon of football clubs that were not gravely effected by the financial problems posed by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. For non-elite clubs, the lack of gate receipts, television revenue, and matchday hospitalities was incredibly devastating from an economical standpoint. Even Bayern Munich is still trying to do everything in their power to conservatively balance their books in a difficult period of negotiating contracts for key players on the squad having faced their own slew of financial losses since Germany had some of the toughest, and longest, COVID restrictions in Europe.
In a recent episode of the TOMorrow - the Business & Style Podcast, former Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge explained how he wants their to be more strict financial fair play rules put into place for European clubs and he also called for the abolishment of the Bundesliga’s 50+1 rule (Sport1). With the ever growing financial disparities between Europe’s most elite clubs and everyone else, he feels that the sport, as a whole, is not currently ready to deal with the issues at hand. “The big problem in football is that football isn’t prepared to draw any conclusions from these things. While other sectors such as tourism have drawn the consequences from this (COVID), I don’t think football is ready for it. Salaries are still rising, transfer fees are still rising and any industry that ramps up budgets during a crisis will eventually have to foot the bill,” he passionately explained.
Before the problems continue to get much worse, creating even more of an economical gap between the elite clubs and everyone else, Rummenigge said the time is now for governing bodies like FIFA and UEFA to enforce stricter policies for clubs to follow. Even UEFA’s financial fair play reformations, in his view, have not been enough to hold the elite clubs responsible enough and feels it’s time for more changes to be made. “Football, like many things in life, has taken on a life of its own and now the big associations FIFA and UEFA must do something to stop that. I think it could now be the big hit, in which the clubs are given tools in terms of more serious financing, for example in terms of debt levels. Don’t spend more than you earn. That is the essence of financial fair play,” he said.
As for Germany’s 50+1 rule, which is in place to protect clubs from financial influences of outside investors, Rummenigge feels that it is a “handicap” in terms of the DFL’s competitiveness with other European leagues. “In Germany there is a huge, huge handicap called 50+1. This is very much desired by the fan groups, at least by the ultra groups. The big question that you only have to ask yourself here in the Bundesliga is how long can we afford to have more tradition than competitiveness,” he said.
The 50+1 rule is a part of what makes the Bundesliga culture so admirable as it correlates to the clubs being for and by the fans since at least 50% of shares are owned by club members. In the wake of the proposed European Super League, football fans across the globe referenced the Bundesliga’s 50+1 rule as a beacon for what football clubs should be and the anti-commercialization values it holds. Of course, companies like SAP and the Red Bull soft drink company have found ways to circumvent the 50+1 rule, but Rummenigge feels there is a way to change the rule to keep its core principals, but also help the Bundesliga become more competitive in the global market.
“At some point you have to think about it, wouldn’t it be better, more modern and competitive for the German league, but especially for international competition,” Rummenigge questioned of potentially making changes to the 50+1 rule. “In football, you have to try to be refinanced seriously and not become dependent on multi-billionaires. It won’t be easy to become more rational again and put the genie back in the bottle,” he continued.