“The commitment pays off. Thanks to our commitment we sell more cars in the regions, whether it is Munich, Gelsenkirchen or Bremen,” Martin Winterkorn, former Chairman of the Vorstand Volkswagen AG, said in June in defense to his huge investments in German football.
The engagement between German football and VW started in 2007. after Winterkorn became the CEO of VW and started heavy investment in Vfl Wolsburg, who are 100% owned by the car manufacturer. Two years later, Wolfsburg made the biggest succes in its history by winning Bundesliga for the first time.
The 68 year old former VW CEO is also a member of Bayern Munich’s supervisory board, where Audi, a Volkswagen subsidiary, hold about 9 percent of the club’s shares.
Almost half of clubs from 1st and 2nd Bundesliga get money from VW. Vfl Wolfsburg itself recieves more than €90M per year. In addition to the 100% ownership of Vfl Wolfsburg, VW group owns 20 percent of FC ingolstadt and 8.33 percent of Bayern Munich. There is no league match in which VW is not involved.
Investments in football are made with emotions
During one of his first public appearances after emission affair in the US, the new Volkswagen CEO Matthias Müller told that company would have to be more careful about costs and evaluate all planned investments again. What is not absolutely necessary, will be deleted or moved.
Panic spread across German Football community.
Winterkorn was a football enthusiasts and it is quite clear that large investment decisions he sometimes made weren’t rational, but is there anything rational in football? Mathias Muller is a completely different type of manager. However, huge investent cuts, even in this situation, will definitely not happen.
Stepping out of German football and letting the competition in would be the same disaster as the emission affair, because football is and will be the main marketing communication channel for Volkswagen Group.
Football is emotional and they try to show emotions in each advertisement. Football is a perfect fit for their brand and they will definitely not give up and abandon Bundesliga stadiums.
“50+1 rule” is key of Bundesliga rise
In order to obtain a license to compete in the Bundesliga, a club must hold a majority of its own voting rights. The rule 50+1 is designed to ensure that the club’s members retain overall control, protecting clubs from the influence of external investors.
As we can see in England, fans don’t like external investors controlling their clubs and that will never happen in Germany although the pressure is mounting.
In the cases where a person or company has substantially funded a club for a continuous period of 20 years, it is possible for that person or company to own a controlling stake in the club.. This exception most notably applies to Bayer 04 Leverkusen (owned by Bayer), VfL Wolfsburg (owned by automobile manufacturer Volkswagen) and TSG Hoffenheim (owned by Sap founder Dietmar Hopp).
An interesting thing is that if you ask true football fans in Germany, they will agree that the atmosphere at these three places is below Bundesliga standard and that it is not unusual to see empty seats on their stadiums.
It is all about the fans
In Germany the fan is king. The Bundesliga has the lowest ticket prices and the highest average attendance of Europe’s five major leagues. Through 50+1 rule fans are strongly engaged with their clubs and also see their sponsors and investors in a completely different way.
Where there are fans, there will always be a huge number of sponsors. There is no doubt, VW will continue to “drive” Bundesliga!