This week has seen the rise and fall of the European Super League, an attempted coup on football from some of the world’s biggest teams.

It was put down by widespread fury from fans, discontent amongst players and coaches, and backlash from politicians.

Following the collapse of the ESL, which was branded the “future” of football, there have been widespread calls for fans to have greater control over the running of their own clubs.

One potential solution that has been touted is adopting ‘The German Model’.

The German Model is a regulation that ensures German clubs remain majority-owned by the fans. It came in in 1998 when a rule passed by the German Football League allowed private ownership for the first time.



Real Madrid's president Florentino Perez was one of the driving figures behind the failed European Super League
Real Madrid’s president Florentino Perez was one of the driving figures behind the failed European Super League

European Super League announcement fallout

However, a 50+1 rule stipulated that any club with more than 49 per cent private ownership wouldn’t be allowed to play in the Bundesliga, meaning fans are always, technically, in control.

For Borussia Dortmund, this has meant that 139,000 paying fans have a say on issues like ticket prices.

Many have pointed to this as the reason both BVB and Bayern Munich didn’t join the ESL – amid fan fears they would become priced out of the game – and calls for it to be implemented in the Premier League have emerged.

However, the German Model may not be the answer to every problem in the Premier League, as RB Leipzig have shown.

Currently, there four teams in Germany, including Leipzig, who fail to adhere to the 50+1 rule.

Two of them, Leverkusen and Wolfsburg, are the company clubs of Bayer and Volkswagen, who were given exceptions to the rule.

The other two exceptions are Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig.



Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick (left), and RB Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann
Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick (left), and RB Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann

After an unpopular legal challenge from Hannover 96 chairman, Martin Kind, the Bundesliga altered the rules for fear the precedent of losing that challenge might set.

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The amendment meant any individual who had heavily invested in a club for “more than 20 years” could take over a majority share.

Kind’s bid though was still rejected as his investment over the previous 20 years was deemed insufficient.

The German was forced to step down in 2019 as a result when the then 2,100 members voted to replace him.

However, longtime Hoffenheim benefactor Dietmar Hopp used the new loophole to buy a controlling share in his club in 2015.

All in all the German Rule serves to protect the best interest of the fans, but if it was to be implemented in the Premier League it would likely face much fiercer opposition.

And here’s why Premier League clubs could get around it.



Borussia Dortmund are famed for their support and the "yellow wall"
Borussia Dortmund are famed for their support and the “yellow wall”

Rasenballsport Leipzig, a very unpopular club in Germany, is commonly known as Red Bull Leipzig, after their sponsor, the energy drink company that also own RB Salzburg.

RB Leipzig began life as a fifth-division side called SSV Markranstadt before the energy drinks company bought the club’s license, changed their name, crest, and kit, and promised a transfer budget of around £85million.

RB Leipzig then got to work making wholesale changes and simply refused to let any non-Red Bull employees become members.

When they were eventually forced to do so, upon entering the Bundesliga in 2016, they charged members extortionate amounts. The idea being, fans can’t vote against you if the only registered supporters are your own employees.

A membership at Borussia Dortmund, for reference, costs €62 (£54) per year. Whereas to become a non-voting member at RB Leipzig (with no say in the club) you must pay €1,000 per season.

RB Leipzig also maintains the ability to refuse any and all member requests without explanation.

This means the club, while technically obeying the 50+1 rule, is run with a commercial interest.

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Oliver Dowden said the government is looking into the German Model
Oliver Dowden said the government is looking into the German Model

However, the same rule has also allowed Leipzig to challenge the hegemony of the Bundesliga.

The Bundesliga has been referred to as stagnant in the past, with the celebrated 50+1 rule sometimes blamed for this.

It has prevented clubs from investing, allowing Bayern Munich to dominate the top-flight with eight title wins in as many seasons.

It also may handicap German teams in comparison to the European counterparts, who have deeper pockets.

By side-stepping the rule, RB Leipzig have been able to splash the cash in a deeply unpopular manner, but are on course to finish second this campaign and look set to be Bayern Munich’s biggest challengers next season.

Many have touted the German Model as the answer to some of English football’s many problems, including politicians.

Secretary of state for culture, media and sport, Oliver Dowden told talkSPORT: “Naturally we’ve got to learn the lessons from the crisis in football financing during the COVID crisis. We need to put this on a more sustainable footing.



Boris Johnson promised to drop a "legislative bomb" on the ESL plans
Boris Johnson promised to drop a “legislative bomb” on the ESL plans

“For example in the German leagues they have a different governance structure so it’s right we look at those things.

“The PM was good, I had a meeting with him and fans on Tuesday and he said we had to do whatever it took and that includes legislation and if legislation is required we’ll do that.

“But the immediate legislation we were preparing to pull together was to deal with this immediate threat from this outrageous proposal.”

Sports Minister Tracey Crouch is also leading a fan-led review into football.

If the government is serious about using the German Model, then it would have to strip the club owners of their assets using legislation or buy it off them in deals worth billions of pounds across the Premier League.

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For example, FSG owns Liverpool, and if the government – a government of free-market Conservatives – were serious about the German Model they would have to take a majority 50 per cent + share from them.

This could cost around £1.5billion based on Forbes’ recent estimation that Liverpool is worth around £3billion.



Liverpool fans tied banners to the gates at The Kop
Liverpool fans tied banners to the gates at The Kop

Questions have been raised about how willing politicians would be to do this, and whether there is any substance behind the words.

Implementing the German Model in the Premier League would require radical, deep-rooted, widespread change.

However, it might be just this that football needs to continue to thrive as a sport, not a business, in a sustainable manner.

The model would most likely handicap the spending and commercial power of clubs in the richest football league on the planet.

But is this necessarily a bad thing?

The Bundesliga has the best average attendance of any league, with teams like Stuggart and newly relegated Schalke routinely bringing in more fans than Liverpool and Man City in recent seasons.

Fans are more involved in their clubs, and not priced out by extortionate ticket prices.



Chelsea fans protesting outside Stamford Bridge
Chelsea fans protesting outside Stamford Bridge

Trying to implement the German Model in the UK would undoubtedly be an extremely complex process, tied up in endless legal proceedings and appeals.

RB Leipzig have proved the rule isn’t infallible, but in Germany, the rule has succeeded far more than it hasn’t.

The answer to the ultimate question, is the German Model the solution to some of football’s problems in this country, depends on the answer to another question. What do we want football to be?

Since Sunday, we have had a cabal of some of the most powerful men in football put forward their own vision of what the game could be.

Their vision of football was a ring-fenced league of the ‘best’, where money would be pumped in relentlessly to the self-anointed few. The vision was universally rejected.

The German Model, or something similar, would mean less money in the game but it would mean the game is accessible to all and sustainable for the future.

Installing it would be difficult, likely it would require forcibly removing and limiting the power of club owners – owners who wouldn’t go without a fight.

But perhaps it is time for a fan-vision of football where everyone can afford to enjoy a rainy night in Stoke, as well as a top of the table clash.





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