July 30, 2018 / 10:23 AM / 15 days ago

Rummenigge revives call for Bundesliga to scrap ownership rule

BERLIN (Reuters) - Bayern Munich Chief Executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has reiterated his call for the Bundesliga to scrap the so-called 50 plus one rule which effectively bars big investors from taking over clubs.

Soccer Football - DFB Cup Final - Bayern Munich vs Eintracht Frankfurt - Berlin, Germany - May 19, 2018. Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge attends a reception after the match. Picture taken May 19, 2018. Alexander Hassenstein/Pool via Reuters

The rule bars commercial investors from having more than a 49 percent stake in a club, stopping them from taking over clubs and forcing changes against the wishes of supporters.

Speaking at a news conference in Miami after the Bundesliga champions finished a pre-season tour, Rummenigge said that Germany was not a “desert island” and the rule was preventing Bundesliga clubs from competing in Europe.

“Our behaviour in this matter is the cause of condescending smiles here in the United States,” he said.

“Everyone is worried and fearful that we will lose competitiveness if we open up the market. The opposite is true, Germany would benefit from it. Either we go down this path as well or we will wind up paying a price for not doing so.”

Rummenigge added: “We have to stop promoting populism in this republic, which we are pushing to an absurd level in almost all Bundesliga clubs but especially in associations. Germany is not a desert island.”

The most recent attempt to overturn the rule failed in March when a majority of the 36 first and second division clubs voted in favour of a motion from FC St Pauli to retain it.

The rule is credited with keeping ticket prices down and stadiums full, giving Germany one of the healthiest fan cultures in European football.

Investors who have held an interest in a club for at least 20 years can, however, ask for an exemption as were granted in the cases of Bayer Leverkusen and VfL Wolfsburg.

Another exception is Hoffenheim, where software billionaire Dietmar Hopp was allowed to take majority control in 2014 after investing consistently over two decades.

However, German clubs have struggled in European competitions recently and no Bundesliga side has reached an European final since 2013.

Germany’s group stage exit at the World Cup in Russia has added to the sense that change may be needed.

Rummenigge said Bayern supported a suggestion from Eintracht Frankfurt that would allow each club to decide for itself whether it wants to continue to adhere to the rule.

Writing by Brian Homewood; editing by Sudipto Ganguly

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