The German model, better but not completely perfect

By Walter Broeckx

In England any football club can be owned by one person. Fit or not a person can buy a club and do with it what he likes. There once was a fit and proper person test but that was just a kind of joke as we have seen a few people with less than perfect reputations harming clubs over the years.

In Germany the situation is very different. They have had, since 2009, a kind of financial fair play regulation working. Each club in the Bundesliga has to apply to the German Football federation for a licence to be able to be in the Bundesliga the next season. The DFB has access to all the accounts of the clubs and watch if no club risks becoming insolvent. There is even a system of fines and point deductions for clubs who dare to live outside the rules. Clubs who make a loss can be allowed to only buy a player when they first sell a player for at least the same amount.

And then we have of course the rule that no individual is allowed to own more than 49 % of any club in the Bundesliga. The only exceptions are a few clubs like VFL Wolfsburg and Bayer Leverkusen. The reason for this exception is that they originally were founded as factory teams. So the factory is still allowed to own them.

Now VFL Wolfsburg is being rather successful at the moment and they are owned by Volkswagen (from the cars with the same name). Second in the Bundesliga behind the untouchable Bayern Munich. Bayern Munich by the way who is owned for 9,1% by Audi another company from the Volkswagen Group. So one could say that the Volkswagen Group has a rather big impact on the Bundesliga and their current top two teams.

But compared to England the teams in the Bundesliga cannot be owned by a person like Abramovitch, El-Mansour or …. Kroenke.

What is the danger of being owned by one person compared to being owned by the own members of the club? Well we have a few good examples to show what can happen.

There is the case of Monaco who we met this season in the CL. Monaco is owned by Russian billionaire Dimitri Rybolowlew. At first he was pumping money in the team like mad when they had gone down to the Ligue 2 in France. And it paid off as they won promotion to the top league and since then qualify for the CL each season after coming back. But as fast as the money was spend it also dried up for a big part. Because Mrs.  Rybolowlew was a bit tired of her husband and they divorced. As a result she ran off with half of his money. For the nice sum of 3,5 billion Euro. Losing that much money was enough to be a bit more prudent with the spending but there was more.

But then Prince Albert II refused him citizenship of Monaco also and then he threatened to withdraw all his money from the club. If he really does this it would mean that Monaco would have to sell almost all their players and a downfall could be inevitable.

Now this scenario is very unlikely to happen in Germany as no individual person has so much power in one club. If Kroenke would leave Arsenal it would be of no matter really as he doesn’t inject money in to the club like the owners of Chelsea or Man City do.  We are self sustaining and we make our own money. The difference would be that we would just see another owner at the AGM.

Now if for some reason Abramovitch left Chelsea it would mean trouble for them. The same would be the case for Manchester City. They are completely dependant on the goodwill of one person.

Now apart from the two clubs mentioned who are owned by companies the other clubs are in the hands of their fans (more or less of course). And now the situation of Wolfsburg is suddenly changing a bit. From being completely supported by Volkswagen they now also face a bit of a financial trouble. Because being owned by a company is also not the safest thing to happen to a club.

In this scenario the club is not be dependant on the mood of the owner. Or his wife. But being owned by a factory could mean that the factory has to cut down their expenses and the club would feel the difference. Wolfsburg get some 80M a year it seems from Volkswagen but just imagine that VW suddenly lost a lot of money and they are looking for ways to cut the spending of the money. I think it would be easier to stop paying the club a lot of money than fire a few thousand people.

Or just imagine that the CEO of Wolfsburg didn’t like football at all? Far fetched you say? Well this is what is happening in the current Volkswagen company. There is a big battle between two top people. One wanting to continue the big financial support of Volkswagen to VFL Wolfsburg. The other one is not interested in football at all and he would consider stopping paying so much money to Wolfsburg or even just cut it out completely.

So that would mean the end of Wolfsburg buying players like De Bruyne and Schurle. Both bought from Chelsea by the way. If the scenario of the non-football lover became real this could mean, just like with Monaco, the end of Wolfsburg as the top club they are.  They also could then face a nightmare scenario going from the top to the bottom as they did in the past.

Of course money also rules in the Bundesliga and it is no wonder that the historically richest club of them all wins so many titles. But at least they don’t depend on the mood of one person that could ruin the hobby of thousands if not millions of people.

In a way the 50+1 rule from the Bundesliga wants to make sure that football remains as much as possible the sport of the common Hans and Heidi in German. And not the favourite play thing of Mr. Billionaire who uses this club for his own pleasure and according to his own mood and the swing in mood of his wife / partner / friend / whoever.  Make sure that it is not the Football manager game in real time and life for the billionaires that is what it should do. All over the world ordinary people suffer when there club suffers, are happy when their club wins. Lets make sure that those ordinary people don’t have to see their club hitting rock bottom and go bankrupt. Let us not lose the soul of football, one could say.  May I say a jolly good idea.

Now in Germany the fact that Volkswagen owns Wolfsburg is a concern for people who mean good with football in general. As I said if one of the two candidates to run Volkswagen gets elected it might bring bad news to VFL Wolfsburg and they could face a big drop of income. Meaning they have to sell their top earners and players and thus could get in to trouble. It will never happen…. I think that is what they said in Glasgow amongst Rangers supporters for a long while before it happened.

Now Volkswagen would probably never completely withdraw from Wolfsburg but imagine the Volkswagen board saying they would cut half of the money in order to save money…it would mean big trouble for their league position.

And that is why the Arsenal model of being self sustainable is oh so important for us fans in the long run. It probably is fun to see your club going from virtually bankrupt to win all these titles. But nothing lasts for ever in this world. And when that day comes the fall from the top can be a long one. And reaching the bottom of the pit can be painful then.

But despite the rumour of some Nigerian billionaire wanting to buy Arsenal and put the club on its head I don’t think it will happen any time soon. And thank god for that. I would dread the day if our club turned into the play thing of one person who will put all what we stand for upside down.

So I thank whoever made it possible to have this situation of calm and silent leadership in our club. Let the people who know their job, do their job. Let Wenger and his staff do their job. Let Gazidis and his staff do their job and let both of them bring slow and steady grow to our club. Let our clubs never fall in the hands of one individual who only sees things in short terms.

The German model makes this nightmare scenario very unlikely. But as Arsenal is not in Germany we have to be wary of what can happen if the wrong person gets their hands on our club.


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7 May 1883: Joe Shaw was born.  He became one of the most important men in the history of Arsenal spending virtually all his working life with Arsenal.  He is mainly known for being the man who took over from Herbert Chapman as manager who Chapman died, and led Arsenal to its second successive championship.

7 May 2003.  Arsenal 6 Southampton 1.  With hat tricks from Pennant and Pires the 49 match unbeaten run began.  The most wonderful anniversary in the history of Arsenal.



24 Replies to “The German model, better but not completely perfect”

  1. Recently in “Kicker”, Wolfsburg’s sporting director, Klaus Allofs, admitted the club could lose the services of De Brunye (one of the two players Wolfsburg bought from Chelsea).

    And there are a lot of other rumours flying around about him leaving. Maybe Wolfsburg’s demise might be good news for us.

  2. De Bruyne to Arsenal 😉 I wouldn’t mind that at all….
    Direct message to Kevin de Bruyne:
    Komaan Kevin kom naar Arsenal en bewijs het ongelijk van Mourinho! 🙂

    Translated: Come on Kevin, join Arsenal and prove Mourinho was wrong.

  3. I was there for the 6 – 1 start of the Invincible’s run and at OT when it ended and I presented the Invincible’s memorial trophy to, ever present, Kolo Toure. Memories.

  4. The German model is actually sliding…Sparing you the details, I understand that the ‘Lex Leverkusen and Wolfburg’ (majority ownership allowed in case of >20years prior engagement in club) loophole is now open to other clubs too. The first individual who has applied is the president of Hannover 96 who (joined by a pool of investors) will ‘takeover’ in 2018.

  5. off topic. But as I wrote the article I feel entitled to do so 😉

    As we are planning to come over to the Emirates for the live screening of the FA cup final, we would possibly stay in London for the night with the kickoff being late and that way we could joy in the celebrations on the evening and the next day around the Emirates.
    But does anyone have any tips for a small/cheap/big/hotel nearby the Emirates?
    Or could we risk sleeping in our cars? 🙂

  6. That seems interesting JG. Or should I say that seems they are going in to a slippery slope ….

  7. Slippery indeed. I should add that the revised rules have a sort of stability brake. The owner (of the entity that owns the club) is not entitled to sell his shares but can only transfer these back to the club (for free). Yet this does not prevent the withdraw of funding scenario, which, however, has always been a reality even under the previous statues (i.e. whenever a previous minority owner closed the tab). While I am strongly against the sugar daddy model (anti-competitive), I believe that stability seems to be less a matter of rules, but depends on the individual. Difficult.

  8. Walter issues a timely warning to those football clubs in our land who rely on the whims of “sugar daddies” for their very existence.
    These human beings are mortal and before their demise, much can happen to the source of their dubious riches.
    Arsenal’s self sustainability must be protected at all costs.
    Our two main shareholders must each maintain a steadying influence on the progress of Arsenal FC. In the case of Usmanov, behind the scenes.
    I still feel he should have a place on the Board
    , purely on account of his considerable

  9. Just shows that THERE IS NO PERFECT WAY at all. If there was i think we would all stagnate and die out.

    How big are those screens at the screening of the FA cup at our home? They look pretty small on the pic at Emirates.

    I would have thought that we could have a complete live holograph of the game covering the whole pitch by now. We have the technology, why is it not widely available yet?

  10. Just watching our Hull match again. Why do the camera people keep the camera pointed to the manager/coach for so long? This annoys me, and some managers/coaches too. Then they point it at some “celebrity” in the crowd all the while missing the most important part, the GAME.

  11. The screen at Wenger Stadium for the FA Cup Final is specially brought in and sits in the middle of the pitch. Two others sit ate the ends so that three sets of supporters can see the match. These are huge screens. I hope our fans behave & don’t run onto the pitch at the end. It is not the Arsenal Way.

  12. Walter

    I had read somewhere that “tripadvisor” was the best of the travel type websites. I am sure you could find similar statements for all the other travel sites. In any event, I asked it for hotels in holloway london england. It suggested 4 restaurants in holloway. Which doesn’t help you.

  13. @para – so we all get a chance to have a giggle at Wenger and his coat, whilst the commentator inevitably makes a hilarious remark about it!

  14. I normal stay with my brother I could ask could he fit us all in.

  15. How is Volkswagen putting 80m in to Wolfsburg any different than the money put in to the sugar daddy clubs in regards to FFP.

  16. Walter, for somewhere to just ‘put ya nut down’ easy hotels (easyjet) has a place on old street (£35 a night i think) which is one bus ride and 3 miles approx away.

  17. Off topic but answering to your question, you can go to the site Trivago and fill in your requirements: date of arrival, duration of stay, area where you want to find a hotel… and you’ll get plenty. You can even ask the robot to find you a place to stay as near as possible near the Emirates. And on top the robot will direct you to the booking site offering the best deal for the hotel and the period you pick. After all, all you need is a bed and preferably a shower. I stay in London after the West Brom game and Trivago found me a place near Finsbury Park, above a pub. I’ll share the experience.

  18. I wonder if the search results depend on where you are searching from. So, if Walter does look, the best answer I get (from western Canada) is journey’s kings cross hostel $44 (regular 103) 1.6 miles. I suspect Walter’s search would be in Euro or Pounds. That was check-in on Saturday, checkout on Sunday.

  19. In the news today, was a headline about Shearer being disappointed in the open letter Colocinni sent to fans. I didn’t read the article, but I imagine it might be that Colocinni’s spelling or grammar being better than his.

  20. Sorry, this isn’t an article.

    Tomorrow (Sat May 9), the Ladies are off to Bristol Academy for a game. Stoke Gifford Stadium at 18:30. This is the last game until July (12th).

    No news at I found a link via Google News to the Vavel article, and a link at faWSL from a general Google search. has an article on the mix of youth and experience at Arsenal. has a pre-game story for tomorrow’s game.

    Not about Arsenal, but the BBC has a story, about how someone at West Ham twisted Julian Dick’s arm, to get him to take over as manager of the West Ham Ladies team. Julian is not being paid, and neither are the ladies. There is interview snippets in the article from Julian, and from some of his players.

  21. Not looking good for Toral’s Brendtford. They lost 2-1 to Middlesbrough, and Toral never got off the bench.

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