On Friday night, Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich defeated FSV Mainz to go joint top of the Bundesliga with newly promoted side- Red Bull Leipzig. Bayern’s stint at the top lasted a mere day however as Leipzig retook the lead with a 2-1 victory over Schalke.
The two sides could not run more parallel to each other while being sharing such fundamental differences.
One is an established club with years of history, trophies and all the respect that comes with it- the other- a new club, born under the new ideals of modern football, bankrolled to the top.
But how did this come to be? How does a club established just seven years ago find itself in the same company as the hallmark of German football that is Bayern München?
Bending die Regeln:
The journey for RB Leipzig began back in 2009, when corporate giant, Red Bull bought the club licence of a fifth division team called SSV Markrantädt.
This licence allowed them to change its name, crest kit and bankrolled the construction of a new 44,000 capacity stadium and a rumoured €100 million transfer budget as an added bonus.
The stadium name? As creative as it comes- The Red Bull Arena.
However, there was one issue surrounding this corporate takeover. Under German football law, clubs are not allowed to be named after their sponsor and ‘Red Bull Leipzig’ soon became Rasenballsport Leipzig but are most commonly referred to as RB Leipzig (Just in case you forget who owns them)
The trouble did not stop there for the marketing officials at Red Bull. Under further German football laws (Nervtötend Regeln), clubs must have a 50+1 vote in all club decisions. Only investors who are involved in the club for more than 20 years can apply for an exception in this.
The aim of this is to prevent the commercialisation of the game. For example, this rule means that the 139,000 Borussia Dortmund paying members can block any attempts by the club’s sponsors to up ticket prices.
RB Leipzig cannot escape these pesky rules- but they can bend them just enough so that it’s legal, but also enough to make them irrelevant.
In Dortmund to become a member, it cost €62 a year for an adult- for ‘gold’ membership in Leipzig the cost is €1000 per year- and that still only makes you a supporting member, which does not allow you to vote.
In total, RB Leipzig has 17 members who can vote- most of whom are, have been employees or associates with Red Bull.
The German football structure now has been revered as the ‘blueprint’ for which England should follow when it comes to youth development.
After a disastrous Euro 2000, the entire German infrastructure was overhauled and replaced at the cost of millions to the German FA.
The system now in place, which incorporates all 36 Bundesliga teams across both divisions into a centrally regulated academy- ensures clubs do not try to develop players too young, provides the proper coaching and promotes home-grown talent.
The youngest Germany team in their history has proven the success of this system.
Leipzig has bought into this as well- but once again, in their own unique way. RB have implemented a policy where they won’t buy a player over the age of 24.
The club have also invested deeply in youth infrastructure of the club, but while this may help in the development of players, this is not the ultimate goal, according to UEFA and Bundesliga commentator, Roby Daly.
“Their objective at the moment is; bright, young talent, the likes of Timo Werner, who they signed from Stuttgart, one of the best young strikers in Germany. Nabi Keita who plays like a more offensive minded Ingolo Kante if you like, and then selling them on for a profit.” Daly told Action Replay Extra time.
“I think that is RB’s ultimate mindset. And, they’ll just keep developing young players and they have guys coming through their own academy. Look, this is a club that up until 18 months ago, had Joshua Kimmich who is the best young player in German football at the moment.
“And Bayern bought him off Leipzig when they were in the second tier. So that gives you the idea of how Leipzig are going to play the transfer market for the immediate future and certainly for the next five years”
None of this sits well with the loyal fanbase surrounding the Bundesliga. With several protests already this year- including a severed bull’s head being thrown onto the pitch during a cup game- Leipzig have been labelled ‘the most hated club in Germany’.
Despite the reputation the club has, the players have been showing they are the brightest young talent in Germany with their performances this year which sees them top of the Bundesliga.
They’ve scored 29 goals in the league while only conceding 11. Their goal difference of +18 only bettered by their title rivals Bayern Munich.
And, for the locals of the small, East-German town of Leipzig- supporting the most hated club in Germany is a small price to pay to sit in the company of Bayern.
“They see it as their local community, and even if the club is new, I’m sure they don’t care” Daly commented.