Updated February 26th, 2024 at 09:11 IST

Fans continue Bundesliga protests against outside investors; Frankfurt game briefly interrupted

The German football league was shown to be mistaken on Sunday if it believed that the supporters' demonstrations against foreign investment had come to an end.

Dortmund supporters display banners before the German Bundesliga soccer match between Borussia Dortmund and TSG Hoffenheim | Image: AP

If the German soccer league thought it had ended fans’ protests against outside investors, it was proven wrong on Sunday.

Both Borussia Dortmund and Eintracht Frankfurt supporters displayed banners during their teams’ respective games in support of German soccer’s 50-plus-1 rule that limits how much influence an outside investor can wield over a club. The rule states that club members need to retain control of voting rights – at least 50% and one vote.


“50-plus-1 is the foundation of our sport. Football lives through its fans!” the Dortmund supporters said on banners during their team’s 3-2 loss to visiting Hoffenheim.

The Frankfurt fans briefly interrupted their side’s match against Wolfsburg by throwing small plastic balls onto the field behind one of the goals early in the second half. At least one small plastic pig was also thrown, landing beside one of the goal posts.


The fans also held a giant banner criticizing Volkswagen-backed Wolfsburg with an expletive, saying the “investor club” should be excluded from the German soccer federation because it does not adhere to the 50-plus-1 rule.


The game was held up for around six minutes while the items were removed before play resumed with Wolfsburg leading 2-1. Omar Marmoush went on to score in stoppage time to salvage a 2-2 draw for Frankfurt.

Sunday’s protests came despite the German soccer league’s midweek decision to scrap its controversial plan to sell a share in clubs’ future media rights income to an outside investor for an upfront payment.


Frankfurt’s supporters were objecting to Wolfsburg’s status in contrast to their own, where fans have a majority say in how the club is run.

The multi-sport club VfL Wolfsburg was founded in 1945, only seven years after the city of Wolfsburg was itself founded for Volkswagen factory workers. Wolfsburg is still backed by the German auto manufacturer, one of only two exceptions to the 50-plus-1 rule.


Bayer Leverkusen is the other exception, as it was founded for Bayer factory workers. The pharmaceutical giant still owns the club. Both Wolfsburg and Leverkusen are granted exemptions from 50-plus-1 because they’ve had the same backers for more than 20 years.

Hoffenheim was another exception, but backer Dietmar Hopp transferred most of his voting rights back to the club last year to bring it in line with the rule.


Leipzig, which was founded by Red Bull in 2009, dealt with the 50-plus-1 rule by limiting membership to a select few members associated with the energy drinks manufacturer.

The rule was strengthened last year when it was cleared by the Bundeskartellamt (Federal Cartel Office), but it remains a sticking point for supporters and club officials whose interests often divulge.


American investment group 777 Partners took over Hertha Berlin as its majority shareholder last year, but club members still retain the majority of voting rights.

The league’s latest plan to bring in an outside investor for a share of media rights income led to extensive protests across Germany’s top two divisions over the last two weekends. No further protests were expected after it abandoned the idea on Wednesday.


Union Berlin fans were among those to celebrate the league’s decision on Saturday, and Dortmund’s fans followed suit on Sunday by displaying a banner that said, “Game, set and match – the winner is football.”


Published February 26th, 2024 at 09:11 IST