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DFL scraps plan for external TV rights investment

Xinhua | Updated: 2024-02-22 11:27
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Football fans display a banner reading 'No to investors in the DFL (German Football Association)' as the German first division Bundesliga football match between FC Augsburg and RB Leipzig is briefly interrupted in Augsburg, southern Germany on Feb 10, 2024. [Photo/Agencies]

BERLIN -- The German football league association (DFL) has abandoned plans to sell a stake in its media rights business following supporter protests.

After weeks of fan protests leading to game interruptions, the DFL said that plans to sell eight percent of its international media rights to an external investor for one billion euros over two decades has been called off.

The revenues were said to be used to set up an internationally accessible streaming platform to increase the German league's international attractiveness.

DFL board member and Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke said German football was in the middle of a "crucial test" regarding its future.

The official said "a proper competition isn't possible" under the current circumstances.

Watzke said a deep gap is dividing not only the DFL and several clubs, but also coaches, players, officials, staff and fans within most clubs.

German football features a so-called "50+1" rule, which decrees that club members must hold at least 50 percent of the voting rights in any Bundesliga side, preventing clubs from opening themselves up to significant outside investment.

After a first vote had failed, a second vote in December narrowly went in favor of the deal. Hannover CEO Martin Kind is suspected to have voted for the deal despite being instructed by his club to reject the deal.

Kind is supporting the fraction in German football intending to skip the "50+1" rule.

The vote last year led to widespread fan protests, with nearly every match being interrupted by fans throwing tennis balls and other items onto the pitch to express their discontent.

Further forms of protest have emerged, including the use of remote-controlled toy cars and drones.

Supporters of the deal fear German football is losing ground in international markets as other European sides generate higher sales and income by opening their doors to outside investors.

The Bundesliga currently generates around 200 million euros a year from its international TV rights - a figure dwarfed by the 1.9 billion euros that England's Premier League pulls in.

Most clubs, Watzke said, are aware that German football must implement strategies to secure its future. "Now we have to make a complete restart and talk things over to find ways that find acceptance."

Watzke called for intense talks with all clubs, saying, "We have to accept to be in international competition and secure German leagues to maintain their competitiveness."

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