RED BULL FAM­ILY

Soccer 360 - - Inside -

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.

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