Soccer-German Bundesliga drops foreign investor search after fan protests - DFL

  • Football
  • Thursday, 22 Feb 2024

Soccer Football - UEFA Congress - Maison de la Mutualite, Paris, France - February 8, 2024 CEO of Borussia Dortmund Hans-Joachim Watzke during the UEFA Congress REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/ File photo

BERLIN (Reuters) -The German Football League (DFL), in charge of the country's top two divisions, on Wednesday stopped a process of finding a foreign investor for a stake in its broadcasting arm amid growing fan protests.

In December, Germany's first and second tier soccer clubs voted in favour of letting a financial investor take a stake of the DFL media arm in a deal valued at between 900 million and 1 billion euros.

But that triggered a months-long wave of protests from fans opposing the move which they saw as further commercialisation of football in the country.

They interrupted play during many matches by throwing tennis balls and candy, and unfurling banners.

"A successful continuation of the process looks impossible given the current developments," DFL board spokesman Hans-Joachim Watzke, who is also CEO of Borussia Dortmund, said in a statement.

"Even if the large majority is in favour of a strategic partnership. That is why the board unanimously decided... not to continue the process and not to conclude it."

Fans interrupted almost every Bundesliga game last weekend as they intensified the protests, with matches stopped several times and completed much later than scheduled.

Watzke said any new votes to try to restore it would only raise other issues surrounding the process and that was not the desired goal of the DFL.

He said the DFL would in the coming weeks invite clubs to talks to analyse the process.

The decision is a major blow for the DFL which had been looking to boost revenues. Leagues across Europe are increasingly eyeing external funding via broadcasting arrangements to increase income and their global reach.

The Bundesliga is ranked as Europe's second biggest soccer league by revenue after England's Premier League.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Ed Osmond)

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