Soccer 360 - - Bundesliga -

Cor­po­ra­tions own­ing football clubs isn’t new, even if Red Bull are tak­ing it fur­ther than any of their ri­vals have be­fore…

Red Bull Leipzig, and its Amer­i­can sib­ling the New York Red Bulls, are not, of course, the only teams named af­ter their cor­po­rate spon­sors. In the Netherlands, there is PSV Eind­hoven. Ranked among the na­tion’s big three, clubs along with iconic Ajax and Feyeno­ord, PSV Eind­hoven was founded in 1913 as a team for em­ploy­ees of

Dutch tech­nol­ogy con­glom­er­ate Philips. Last sea­son, the team, cur­rently led by for­mer player Mark van Bom­mel, fin­ished top of the Ere­di­visie and although their foray into this year’s Cham­pi­ons League was a frus­trat­ing en­ter­prise, they will be again dom­i­nant in do­mes­tic af­fairs.

Mean­while, Ger­many has been a hot­bed for com­pany-owned clubs, with some hos­til­ity. Wolfs­burg, owned by auto gi­ant Volk­swa­gen, Bayer Lev­erkusen, prop­erty of phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal con­cern Bayer, and Hof­fen­heim, owned and fi­nanced by mogul Di­et­mar Hopp, have been the tar­get of op­pro­brium from op­po­si­tion fans, the Press and even of­fi­cials from other clubs. They’re var­i­ously ac­cused of lack­ing ‘tra­di­tion,’ ‘his­tory’ or ‘real fans.’ Sup­port­ers of the clubs in ques­tion dis­miss the other side as sour grapes.

In neigh­bour­ing Aus­tria and Red Bull Salzburg — known as FC Salzburg in UEFA com­pe­ti­tion due to spon­sor­ship re­stric­tions — the op­po­si­tion to the cor­po­rate takeover was so strong that some sup­port­ers split and formed their own club, tak­ing the dis­carded SV Aus­tria Salzburg name.

Although the ‘new’ Aus­tria Salzburg play in the am­a­teur tiers at a sta­dium that seats around 1,600 peo­ple, a long way from the days when the club fin­ished top of the Aus­trian Bun­desliga, for these most die-hard of fans, that doesn’t mat­ter. They would rather fol­low a team with what they see as a true iden­tity, rather than one ‘con­trolled’ by a cor­po­rate gi­ant.

But the cor­po­rate model isn’t go­ing away any time soon, and has even been repli­cated in a fash­ion by Manch­ester City’s own­ers, the City Football Group, which con­trols clubs in Eng­land, North Amer­ica, Spain, Japan, Aus­tralia and Uruguay. It’s a model that clearly pays div­i­dends for those run­ning it, and any fan com­plaints are often qui­eted by tro­phies. This mar­riage of football and busi­ness is some­thing we might see far more often in coming years.

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