German fans protest plans to sell off ‘ownership’ stakes to private equity

February 12 – Fans groups in Germany stepped up their protests at the weekend against the league’s plans to sell a stake of revenue to an outside investor.

Most German clubs are majority-controlled by their fans and supporters fear the deal would dilute their influence. Protests have escalated since clubs in the top two divisions voted in December to proceed with talks with two prospective buyers, both private equity investors.

Fans groups see the trend as the beginning of the end of German football’s 50+1 rule, which prevents an outside investor from securing a majority of votes in each club.

Stuttgart’s game with Mainz was interrupted when fans threw objects, including tennis balls onto the field, causing repeated stoppages, and a total of 13 minutes were added on to the first half.

‘Are you kidding us? New open vote now’, read one large Stuttgart banner Sunday, repeating a key demand from fans that the process is re-run without a secret ballot so fans know how their clubs’ executives vote.

Kickoff was delayed by another protest during Leverkusen’s crucial win over Bayern Munich on Saturday while the game between Union Berlin and Wolfsburg had stoppages adding up to a half hour.

At one second-division game on Friday, fans attached bicycle locks to a goalpost to delay the game.

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