Rummenigge calls for end to 50+1 rule to enable Bundesliga clubs to be more competitive

Karl-Heinz Rummennigge

July 31 – It’s regarded as the bastion of commercial fair play in an increasingly money-driven world. But Bayern Munich Chief Executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge says the time has come to scrap Germany’s so-called 50-plus-one structure which effectively bars wealthy overseas investors, many with no previous football experience,  from seizing control of clubs.

The 50+1 rule states that a German football club must retain 50% of the shares in its professional team, plus one share,  thus preventing profit-driven owners from acquiring a majority stake  and forcing changes against the wishes of supporters.

The rule is credited with keeping ticket prices down and stadiums full, giving Germany one of the healthiest fan cultures in European football. But Rummenigge says it is making German sides less competitive in terms of the winning European trophies.

“Everyone is worried and fearful that we will lose competitiveness if we open up the market. (But) the opposite is true, Germany would benefit from it,” Rummennige told a news conference. “Either we go down this path as well or we will wind up paying a price for not doing so.”

“We have to stop promoting populism in this republic, which we are pushing to an absurd level in almost all Bundesliga clubs but especially in associations. Germany is not a desert island.”

The most recent attempt to overturn the rule failed in March when the majority of the 36 Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 clubs voted for the retention of the system approving a motion tabled by FC St. Pauli.

The ownership system is unique in Europe though investors who have held an interest in a club for at least 20 years can ask for an exemption as was granted in the cases of Bayer Leverkusen and VfL Wolfsburg. Another exception is Hoffenheim, where software billionaire Dietmar Hopp was allowed to take majority control in 2014 after investing consistently over two decades.

German clubs have struggled in European competitions recently and no Bundesliga side has reached a European final since 2013. Rummenigge said Bayern supported a suggestion from Eintracht Frankfurt that would allow each club to decide for itself whether it wants to continue to adhere to the rule.

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