Bowing to Fan Revolt, German Soccer Rejects $1 Billion Investment

Germany’s soccer fans had thrown everything they could at the problem, often in a quite literal sense: At various points over the last few weeks, they protested the specter of a private equity giant’s taking a stake in the country’s domestic league by raining tennis balls, chocolate coins and even marbles onto fields across the country.

The demonstrations forced games to be delayed, embarrassed the authorities and may have helped to persuade one of the world’s largest financial firms not to pursue a deal. But it was thanks to an escalation in technology that ultimate victory was secured: Once the remote-controlled cars were deployed, belching smoke and disrupting yet another game, the league caved.

The end came in an emergency board meeting, where the league’s constituent clubs voted to abandon talks with CVC Capital Partners, a private equity firm registered in Luxembourg, over a deal that would have provided teams with a $1 billion cash injection in exchange for a portion of the league’s broadcasting revenues over the next two decades.

“Given current developments, a successful continuation of the process no longer appears possible,” Hans-Joachim Watzke, the chairman of the league’s supervisory board, said Wednesday.

The vote was a comprehensive — if increasingly rare — victory for the interests of fans at a time when sports has shown itself unable to resist the overtures of deep-pocketed investors. That supporters of a few dozen German soccer clubs appeared to have won the argument through a mix of fury and wit somehow made their triumph seem even more remarkable.

CVC Partners has in recent years struck deals similar to the German proposal with a number of teams and competitions. The firm already has stakes in La Liga, the elite soccer league in Spain, and Ligue 1, its equivalent in France, as well as the WTA Tour and the prestigious Six Nations rugby competition.

Back to top button