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German football clubs accept investor plan by narrow majority

German football clubs voted in a plan to secure private equity investment on Monday in return for a share of TV rights over the next two decades.

In total, 24 of the 36 clubs in the top two divisions of German football voted in favour of the plan at an assembly in Frankfurt, enough to give the proposal the necessary two-thirds majority.

One fewer vote would have seen the process fail. Ten of the clubs voted against the plan while two abstained in the secret ballot. 

A similar proposal which sought to sell off a higher percentage of the TV revenue for a larger fee failed to get the necessary majority when put to a vote in May. 

The German Football League (DFL) which proposed the vote said it would “secure the long-term and sustainable success” of the clubs and the top two divisions. 

“The aim is for the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 to continue to be competitive in sporting and commercial terms, and remain financially stable while maintaining the balance between social integration and economic growth.”

In particular, the DFL said the money, estimated to be close to one billion euros ($1.08 billion), would be used for marketing and internationalisation, including the establishment of a streaming platform. 

Further funds will be used to provide additional short-term compensation for the clubs and to establish a fund to encourage clubs to travel abroad for advertising purposes. 

The proposal was however opposed by some clubs and fan groups. Prior to the vote, Champions League club Union Berlin said the vote was “taking place at the wrong time” and should be postponed. 

Fan alliance Unser Kurve complained that the process was rushed and lacked “sensible, transparent and in-depth discussion”, while it lacked the input of club members.

The DFL has promised the deal will not lead to a change in kick-off times or taking competitive fixtures abroad. 

German football has a notable commitment to fan control and involvement by restricting the degree of influence an external investor can have over a club. 

Clubs must be compliant with the 50+1 rule, which requires clubs have at least 50 percent plus one vote ownership of the club, thereby ensuring members have control over major club decisions. 

Two German clubs, Wolfsburg and Bayer Leverkusen, owned by Volkswagen and Bayer pharmaceuticals respectively, have been granted exceptions to this rule as this ownership pre-dated the creation of the Bundesliga. 

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