Three drivers behind German clubs’ flirt with private equity groups: Execution needed in rare “window of opportunity”; Seifert’s last important move before exit and clubs preparing for 2021 nightmare

3 March 2021

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Photo: Alamy Chairman of SC Freiburg and President-elect of the German Football Association, DFB, Fritz Keller talks with Chairman of the German Football League Executive Board, DFL, Christian Seifert, during a news conference at the General Assembly of DFL in Berlin, Germany 2019.

Observers see the potential sale of international rights to private equity funds as a crucial closing act for Christian Seifert. His legacy could be damaged if he doesn’t succeed in opening German football up to foreign investors.

Earlier on, DFL tried to pitch a partnership to private equity funds but was turned down due to the controversial 50+1 rule. Now an opportunity has suddenly arisen and German clubs might need to act on it.

Most executives in German football remain sceptical that they will get fans back to stadiums in 2021, so they are preparing for another year with serious pressure on finances.

Private equity partnership could secure the continued building of a global business case around German football – and at the same time provide liquidity to aid clubs if necessary.

Processes with a number of bidders are ongoing, and a deal is expected to be closed in May. The most likely scenario is a deal with a single private equity fund.

Kasper Kronenberg and James Corbett kk@offthepitch.com

It is definitely a breakthrough – but the dialogue has been ongoing for a while.

So far, German football has been the odd man out in European football. In all the big leagues, wealthy owners have flown in, from the Middle East, from Russia, from China and from the US. Club after club has been taken over by foreign owners – but only one country among the big leagues has maintained the ownership structure that it roughly had 10, 20 and 30 years ago: Germany.

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