RED BULL FAMILY
RED BULL’S FORAY INTO THE FOOTBALL WORLD HASN’T BEEN WITHOUT CONTROVERSY AS THE DRINKS GIANT TAKES OVER CLUBS AROUND THE WORLD. WHO BENEFITS FROM BEING PART OF THE FAMILY, MICHELLE OSEI BONSU ASKS…
“Red Bull gives you wings”. That slogan, which has been translated into dozens of languages worldwide is as well-known as any global corporation’s motto. However, conquering the world one energy drink at a time clearly was not enough for the Austrian entity, which was founded by Dietrich Mateschitz in 1987. So they turned to the sporting world, and what better way to get involved than football, arguably the world’s most popular sport? The project began in April 2005, when
Red Bull bought SV Austria Salzburg. The venture, though, didn’t go down well with the Salzburg supporters, particularly when the new ownership tried to re-write the club’s history and claim it was founded in 2005. SV Salzburg actually dated back to 1933, but didn’t win their first Austrian Bundesliga title until 1994, making waves by reaching the UEFA Cup Final that same year. But in the years leading up to the Red Bull takeover they fell on difficult times, leaving them ripe for the taking.
Since 2006, they have been the dominant force in Austrian football. Of their 12 titles, nine have come in the Red Bull years, along with all five of their Austrian Cups. In fact, Salzburg haven’t finished lower than second in the table since the Red Bull takeover, allowing them to be a fixture in European competition for more than a decade.
With a foothold in the company’s native Austria, Red Bull turned their attention towards the United States and the struggling New York/New Jersey Metro Stars. Not surprisingly, this was a much smoother operation, particularly when it came to fan reception. The METROSTARS had only been in existence since 1994 and the sport remained an up-and-coming thing in the United States. There were few die-hard fans who fought the takeover or went off to form their own protest club. But showing they had learned from past mistakes,
Red Bull didn’t try to change history and claim the MLS outfit was founded in 2006, keeping the 1994 origin for New York Red Bull.
The project continued in 2009, with the acquisition of fifth-tier German side SSV Markranstadt, who became RB Leipzig.
The objective was simple – to go from the amateur leagues to the Bundesliga in eight years. They achieved it in seven, when die Bullen secured top-flight promotion on May 8, 2016, thanks to a 2-0 win over Karlsruher. A year after that, Leipzig would make further history by qualifying for the Champions League as they finished as Bundesliga runners-up, betting the campaigns of established sides such as Hamburg, Schalke and Borussia Dortmund. Naturally, their arrival on the Bundesliga scene was not welcomed by most clubs, but that was no surprise. Older clubs such as Wolfsburg and Bayer Leverkusen, are still viewed with suspicion and hostility due to their corporate backers, and they are Bundesliga grandees, not upstarts.
In just a few years, Red Bull spread their
wings to from Austria, to the United States and back to Germany. Clearly, they have ambitions beyond Europe and North America, too. The corporation has also gone into Brazil and Ghana, establishing Red Bull Brasil and Red Bull Ghana in 2007 and 2008 respectively, although the Ghanaian venture folded in 2014.
With the club in Austria, Germany and the United States owned by the same entity, it makes the transfer of personnel theoretically much easier. But who does that benefit? Like Salzburg, New
York Red Bulls have been solid in their domestic League since the huge injection of corporate funds and associated restructuring. Leipzig, by contrast, are a newly-formed club younger than the majority of people who actually support it. But just recently, the Red Bulls have lost Coach Jesse Marsch to their Bundesliga cousins, who decided to quit his position to become an assistant at Leipzig. Marsch’s move may have kept him in the Red Bull family, as opposed to joining, for example, a rival MLS club such as New York FC, but it’s unusual for a No 1 to leave for a job as a No 2 — even more curious when Marsch’s tenure at the Red Bulls was the most successful in franchise history since the club was renamed.
After taking over from fan favourite Mike Petke, who was regarded as a huge success himself, Marsch went even further — in his three-and-a-half seasons at Red Bull Arena, he clinched one Supporters’ Shield an a
runners-up spot in the US Open Cup while twice topping the Eastern Conference.
So, given this, why would he opt to abruptly leave in July 2018 – just days before the Hudson River Derby, a newlyfounded rivalry with New York City FC
– to serve as second-in-command to Ralf Rangnick, whose side finished in sixth in the Bundesliga last term?
It wasn’t the first time Marsch had come close to a move abroad. As early as January 2017, two years into his stint in New York, reports surfaced that he could take the bench at a European club. That club just happened to be Red Bull Salzburg, though nothing came of the gossip and both parties quickly quashed the rumour.
But with Red Bulls younger Tyler Adams following Marsch in swapping New York Red Bull for RB Leipzig, it’s one-way traffic for the moment, and to the Bundesliga representative’s benefit. That’s not to say this couldn’t turn into a fully equal relationship as MLS continues to grow and develop, with a rising German starlet choosing to cross the Atlantic Ocean in the opposite direction, but that seems a long way away, if it ever happens at all.
What is more likely is the moves such as those of Marsch and Adams become increasingly common. From a Red Bull position, it does benefit Leipzig at the expense of the American arm of the family, but it’s still keeping talent in-house, part of the network. And that’s exactly how the project was envisioned when it began.
ABOVE:Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz saw football as a way to expand his empireTOP: A controversial takeover of Austria Salzburg was the first stepTOP(opposite page): RB Leipzig upset the established order in German football by surging through the Leagues
LEFT: Struggling New York/NewJersey Metro Stars were soon rebranded to NewYork Red Bull
Jesse Marsch MLS Coach of the yearin 2015
Timo Werner has been a confident staple in the production of Leipzig.