EINE EINLEITUNG (An Introduction): RASENBALLSPORT LEIPZIG (RB LEIPZIG)
RasenBallsport Leipzig (commonly known as RB Leipzig, or even Red Bull Leipzig) are a German professional football team plying their trade in the top tier of German Football, the Bundesliga. They are located in Leipzig, Germany, in the state of Saxony on the East side of Germany, only 1 of 2 teams from the East side of Germany playing in the Bundesliga, the other being Hertha Berlin. Founded only in 2009, RB Leipzig are a very new club, but have had much success already, having been promoted 4 times since then to make it into the Bundesliga, in which they made their debut in 16/17 season. The founding however of RB Leipzig has been very controversial within Germany, with many fans not liking this “franchise” owned style of club playing in the top tier of German football. Lets go into some detail about the founding, and the controversy that followed in years after.
DIE GRUNDÜNG : (The Founding)
RasenBallsport Leipzig (RB Leipzig) were founded on the 19th of May 2009. All seven founding members of the club were employees or agents of the Red Bull energy drink franchise. The chairman elected for the new club was Andreas Sadlo, and Joachim Krug was hired as the sporting director. Sadlo was a well-known footballing agent, working for the agency “Stars and Friends”. In order to avoid future objections from the German Football Association (DFB), Sadlo resigned as a player agent and took up the position of chairman. The DFB would not allow a player agent to be in involved of the operating affairs of any club, which is why Sadlo re-instated a new position. Krug had earlier been employed as a coach and manager of Rot Weiss Ahlen, by which at that time had become to be known as LR Ahlen, after being sponsored by the cosmetics company LR International.
RB Leipzig are one of 5 Red Bull franchise teams across the globe, with the others being the New York Red Bulls of the USA, Red Bull Salzburg of Austria, Red Bull Brasil of Brazil and Red Bull Ghana of Ghana. In contrast to the other 4 Red Bull teams, RB Leipzig technically don’t have Red Bull in their name at all, as the statutes of the DFB would not permit the use of a corporate name within a club. RB Leipzig were very shrewd to come up with a compromise of sorts to this rule, calling themselves RasenBallsport Leipzig, which literally translates to “Lawn Ball Sports”, and with RB being the initials of RasenBallsport Leipzig, and of Red Bull, they could still be recognised as having a corporate name, without actually having one!
RB Leipzig began a partnership with fifth division side SSV Markranstädt. This partnership meant that SSV Markranstädt would provide the initial core of RB Leipzig, to help the club obtain a license allowing them to play in German football. RB Leipzig acquired the playing rights for the Oberliga (5th division), the top three mens teams and the senior mens team of SSV Markranstädt. The first team was completely taken over.
The transfer of the playing right for the Oberliga had to be approved by the North Eastern German Football Association (NOFV). RB Leipzig would need at least four junior teams, and an A-team, to obtain the playing right. SSV Markranstädt had obtained its junior teams and RB Leipzig lacked any sort of youth set-up, so they then approached FC Saschen Leipzig. FC Saschen Leipzig were in crippling financial difficulties and could no longer support their youth department. The NOFV approved the playing right to the Oberliga on the 13th of June 2009, and gave RB Leipzig a deadline of one year to form a youth set-up. RB Leipzig then acquired the youth department from FC Saschen Leipzig, and the acquisition of the youth departments was urged by the Saxony Football Association (SFV) to prevent the migration of youth talent.
On its founding, RB Leipzig expected to be playing Bundesliga football within eight years, and a predicted 100 million euros was to be invested within the next ten. The hope was that RB Leipzig would win the Bundesliga in the long-run, and if so, being the first side from the East of Germany to win a German league title since Dresdner SC in 1944, and the first from Leipzig since VFB Leipzig in 1903, and the first to ever win a Bundesliga( the Bundesliga being founded in 1963).
DIE KONTROVERSE: (The Controversy)
The establishment of RB Leipzig has caused much controversy across Germany, mainly due to the restrictive membership policy and the involvement of Red Bull. This has been seen as contrary to common practice in Germany, where football clubs have generally relied on voluntary registered associations, with some clubs having very large fan member numbers, which enforces the 50+1 rule, which is a rule that allows fans to have a formal controlling stake within their chosen club. RB Leipzig has been criticized for allegedly being a marketing tool for the Red Bull franchise and allegedly taking the commercialization of German football to a new level not ever seen before. RB Leipzig has been rejected as a “marketing club”, a “commercial club” or a “plastic club”. The criticism has been rampant and widespread, with even some management staff of other clubs being critical of the whole thing.
Protests against RB Leipzig have been of common place over the years, with many Leipzig based clubs not liking the idea of the “commercialization” of football in Leipzig. Protests included using graffiti to vandalise Red Bull marketing signs across Leipzig, and have even gone as far as spraying the RB Leipzig pitch with weed killer. The protests though in general were non-violent in nature, and they were very moderate afterwards, as Leipzig was now becoming a capital of football in East Germany, with 1. FC Lokomotive Leipzig chairman Steffen Kubald even describing the first game between the two as the “match of the season”, and calling RB Leipzig “The Bayern Munich of the Oberliga”. The protests, unfortunately for RB Leipzig, were far more widespread than just Leipzig, and at times got violent.
Following their promotion to the 2.Bundesliga( Germanys second tier) in the 14/15 season, supporter clubs from ten clubs within the 2.Bundesliga created a group called “Nein Zu RB” (No to RB). This group over the years had gained a huge following on its web page, and in March 2015, had 182 supporter groups from 29 clubs following it.Protests were usually present during away games, the most famous one being in the 14/15 season where they played away to 1. FC Union Berlin in the 2.Bundesliga, where the Berlin fans symbolically wore black ponchos and were completely silent for the first fifteen minutes of the game. It was a frightening sight and went viral on Youtube soon after. However, these protests were non-violent. Protests first became violent in July of 2009 where they had to cancel three friendly matches for security reasons. In their first away match against FC Carl Zeiss Jena, there were riots in the streets, and a blockade to the entrance of the stadium. The RB Leipzig bus carrying the players was attacked with bottles, with police having to use pepper spray to counter-act the violence. During the warm-up to the game, the RB Leipzig players were insulted, spat at and pelted with beer-cups, and had to leave with a police escort after the game. Truly disgusting scenes, but it only got worse. The worst came in 2013 at an away game to Hallescher FC, where the RB Leipzig player bus was attacked, and fire-crackers being thrown at the police trying to stop the Hallescher FC fans from attacking the RB Leipzig fans after the game, resulting in four policemen being injured. Also in 2015, before the night of an away game against Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe hooligans stormed into the lobby at the hotel where the RB Leipzig players were staying.
DIE SCHEINHEILIGE NATUR DE ANGRIFFE: (The Hypocritical Nature Of The Attacks)
There was a huge hypocritical nature to all these protests and attacks against RB Leipzig as a club and their players, summed up best by RB Leipzig sporting director Ralf Rangnick where he stated that there was very little difference between FC Bayern Munichs partnership with Audi and Adidas, adding huge revenue to FC Bayern Munich, although he said that with FC Bayern Munich, the success came before the sponsors, but he still had a valid point. He also mentioned company owned VFL Wolfsburg and Bayer 04 Leverkusen where he stated that their clubs were basically run the exact same way as his, and that VFL Wolfsburgs success in winning the 2009 Bundesliga was mostly down to the fact that Volkswagen had invested so much in the side. Also general manager of RB Leipzig Ulrich Wolter stated that co-founder of Red Bull Dietrich Mataschitz was not an oligarch or Sheikh who buys a “toy” club, but a man who has a plan for long term sustainable success for RB Leipzig, bringing a huge contribution to youth and professional football. Wolter also said that it was only normal for a brand like Red Bull to want to make its brand more known.
DIE POSITIVEN: (The Positives)
There are a huge number of positives to RB Leipzigs founding that many fans and other clubs, coaches etc had overlooked in favour of their own egos and traditions. RB Leipzig firstly had helped clubs such as FC Saschen Leipzig out of debt by purchasing their youth department, saving them from the possibility of liquidation. RB Leipzig had also grown football attention to East Germany exponentially, with it helping to actually develop the football culture even more in East Germany and Leipzig itself, instead of declining it. If RB Leipzig were not formed for example, no one would pay any attention to football within East Germany, but with RB Leipzig now being a household name, it has completely changed. RB Leipzig also have an illustrious youth department and training facilities at their disposal, which helps feed the German youth national teams with many exciting young talents, such as Elias Abouchabaka just to name one, and there should be plenty more to come through the ranks. RB Leipzigs controversial rise has also garnered attention from all across the globe over the last near-decade, which has increased the interest within German club football, especially when they got promoted to the Bundesliga in the 16/17 season, and with increased interest, there becomes more fans, which garners more TV revenue. Also with RB Leipzigs meteoric rise, with them now being a UEFA Europa League side to this day, this has attracted more incredible talents to the Bundesliga such as Dayot Upamecano, Emil Forsberg, Bruma, Yussuf Poulsen, Mathues Cunha and Marcel Sabitzer but to name a few, and give players such as Timo Werner the platform to perform, with him now being the starting striker for Germanys national team.