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Fan protest at FC Bayern:

Not having an investor could have devastating consequences for the league

Photo: Martin Meissner / AP

The kings of German football have abdicated.

They all still have their titles and still receive their salaries.

But the makers of the German Football League (DFL) and its major football companies have decided that they no longer want to be what brought them the titles and salaries in the first place: managers.

A small group of fans has taken over power in the Bundesliga.

They used tennis balls to chase the big heads around presidential spokesman

Hans-Joachim Watzke

(64) out of the throne room.

This frightened them so much that they canceled the contract with a strategic partner that had been discussed and prepared for years.

This leaves the Bundesliga, the biggest, most expensive and (surprisingly) still most popular entertainment spectacle in the country, leaderless.

Club bosses who like to accuse their kicking employees of swollen jugulars of not standing up in difficult situations on the pitch are now doing exactly that on their own turf. You could call it pathetic.

And so the managers of CVC Capital Partners, who were the last to try for a deal with the DFL, are probably happy that they are spared having to work with such "executives".

Three times in a row, the league's top management has failed to open itself up to external capital and know-how.

Elsewhere in the economy, a change in leadership would now be necessary (at the very latest).

And in football?

Willingness to learn is zero

The domestic football leaders could have learned a lot from the professional investors: how to act strategically in a global market;

how to create and implement business plans;

how to recruit and manage the right professionals for this;

and how to present a decades-old entertainment product in a modern way so that perhaps the Tiktok generation also produces enough football fans to keep the industry attractive for its sponsors in the long term.

These learning processes in an industry that is still provincial and complacent in some areas might have been the most important effect of a partnership with a private equity giant - much more important than the one billion euros in fresh capital that would have flowed into the DFL.

But the league powers have decided against it.

They didn't want to finally be fundamentally questioned, as top executives outside the football bubble have to put up with.

So they missed the opportunity to learn and grow.

In the short term, the football bosses will have peace again.

At the weekend they can nestle in their VIP armchairs in their stadiums - without the risk of more tennis balls insubordinately interrupting their enjoyment of football.

There might be a bit of malice in the fan circles.

But they'll ride it out.

In the medium to long term, however, saying goodbye to a financial partner could have devastating consequences for German football.

Because continuing like this means that the Bundesliga remains boring.

Even if FC Bayern Munich, for once, does not become champions this year, the paralyzing dominance of the record champions can hardly be shaken - the Munich team's economic lead is too great.

And if the league remains boring, at some point its value for its media partners, its main donors, will decline.

The tender for the Bundesliga media rights for the period from 2025 to 2029, which begins after Easter, could already lead to an unpleasant awakening.

Secondly, the Bundesliga will fall behind in competition with the other major leagues in Europe.

The Premier League in Great Britain has long since passed.

And Spain's LaLiga (where CVC has already entered) is currently pumping up, fueled by the duopoly of the two world clubs Madrid and Barcelona, ​​which in turn are being challenged by other soccer companies that have welcomed new investors.

This will not only be noticeable at some point in the DFL's marketing revenue, but also in the performance of German clubs in the Champions League, the most lucrative football competition in the world.

It may be a coincidence that none of the four German starters could reach the quarter-finals this season - but the Bundesliga may have to get used to it.

Thirdly, the DFL has finally proven that it is ungovernable in its current form.

The interests of the 36 professional clubs are so far apart that a consensus with which everyone can live and do business no longer seems to be possible.

Individual club bosses and officials have been talking about dividing the DFL between the 1st and 2nd leagues for a long time - this has long been done in other countries.

It is quite possible that the DFL initiated its own end by fleeing from a small group of tennis ball-throwing fans.

And finally, those football managers across Europe who have been working more or less secretly for a long time on plans for a super league in which only the top European clubs play among themselves will probably have been happy.

Top domestic clubs such as Bayern, the listed Borussia from Dortmund, RB Leipzig and Bayer 04 Leverkusen can hardly afford to stay away from the financially strongest competition in their industry.

If some of them decide at some point to turn their backs on the small-minded and fearful Bundesliga, this process would have begun with the leadership failure of the German football bosses in 2024.

And the tennis ball throwers would get exactly what they least want.