In the wake of one of the most contentious weeks in the history of football, the game we all know and love has been under a microscope of scrutiny. Owners, in particular, have been under the spotlight, with waves of fans calling for restrictions, wage caps and regulations to be put in place to ensure something like Saturdays proposed European Super League never happens again. One suggestion is for clubs to adopt the German 50+1 model.
In Germany, fans have more say in the operations of their clubs than any other top nation. Their 50+1 model, which ensures decisions cannot be made without fans approval, is something fans in England are advocating for. It is now more relevant than ever.
The German 50+1 Model: Bringing Fans Into the Fold
German 50+1 Model Explained
If the last week has shown us anything, it is that football fans, when banded together, can make a difference in the game. The ridiculous approval of an elitist European Super League was immediately met with worldwide apathy and, as we saw at Stamford Bridge on Monday, fans used their voices to ensure the plan was scrapped before it got a chance to get off the ground.
The German 50+1 model of fan-run football clubs is practically universally endorsed by fans. Germany is often looked upon as the football nation protecting the traditions and culture of football. They give their fans a voice. Thanks to the model, football oligarchs like Joel Glazer or Roman Abramovich, who look to maximise profit ahead of fan enjoyment, would be unlikely to run a Bundesliga club.
The system ensures that foreign investors cannot make up more than 49% of the clubs ownership. Therefore, fans of clubs like Köln or Eintracht Frankfurt will have the majority of votes in the decisions that go through the club.
The benefits of the system are clear for all to see. Ticket prices for Bundesliga games are incredibly low in comparison to sides in the Premier League or La Liga. In 2020, a season ticket at Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich could be bought for £130 – less than half the price that it cost for the cheapest Premier League season ticket. An adult match day ticket to watch RB Leipzig play was £13. Germany also boasts the highest average attendances in world football. Evidently, fans in Germany are excited about going to games and, more poignantly, fans can afford to go and watch their teams play.
If not for the 50+1 model, clubs like Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund would surely be enacting the sort of financial strain on their supporters that we see across the rest of Europe’s big leagues. Worse yet, without the model we may well have seen those clubs join forces with the other ‘big clubs’ in the Super League.
Could England Ever Move Towards the German Model?
While it would bring a smile to the faces of fans with an emotional stake in their club, sadly we will probably never see England follow the German example. Football’s oligarchs now have too much sway in their clubs to move away from it.
In a week in which we have seen loyal fans described as ‘legacy fans’ the out-of-touch owners evidently have little clue about the game, or what their supporters want. The reaction from fans in England when the Super League was announced will certainly have frightened owners even more against offering fans a say in the running of their clubs.
The Super league announcement is not the only indication of footballing elites turning their backs on fans and the tradition of football. UEFA recently announced a new format to their storied Champions League competition. The committee confirmed on April 16 that two places in the new 36 team format will go to the club with the highest coefficient. This would disregard meritocracy, instead opting to reward a club just for their status in European football. While not as drastic as Florentino Perez’s Super League, it is the sort of move that destroys the fabric of the game we all love.
The uproar following the Super League announcement was certainly encouraging. Government intervention was threatened and if the government did get involved then change could be afoot. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and opposition leader Kier Starmer have both called for changes to be made.
Another promising sign was the resignation of Manchester United director Ed Woodward. The former banker announced his United exit during the midst of fan fury; a crazy evening in which it became clearer with each passing minute that the Super League nightmare was over. His departure, it has since been claimed, was because he disapproved of the idea. Nobody at United is buying it. Fans will hope they can go one further now and oust the Glazers from their seat of power.
A 50+1 system would give the people that love and support their clubs a say in how their team can move forward. It would be an opportunity for fans in England to connect with their club in a way that they never have before. Sadly, though, clubs in England may now have gone too far in their quest for profits. Their may be no going back now, and fans may continue to suffer most.