Important votes were taken regarding two important issues involving German professional fussball Thursday. The 34 clubs from Germany’s top two divisions that were eligible to vote as DFL members insured that the 50+1 rule will be retained, which means that the current model by which the ownership of Bundesliga clubs will continue. In another vote, Bundesliga clubs voted to continue using the controversial VAR to help make on-field refereeing decisions during matches next season, while the clubs in the 2nd division voted to begin the VAR process in 2018/2019.
Traditionalist fans of German football can feel relieved that a motion brought by FC St. Pauli Chief Executive Andreas Rettig won approval from Bundesliga clubs. Rettig essentially outflanked the DFL, who only wanted a broad discussion of the 50+1 rule and its future to occur during the Frankfurt meetings, by bringing the motion forward. The approval of Rettig’s motion restricts any discussion of the rule to revolve exclusively about ways to legally strengthen the rule, not discuss its relative merits concerning the quality of German fussball. The 50+1 rule mandates that each club must retain 50% of the shares in the club, plus one share, and is unique among European domestic leagues.
Although the rule is sacrosanct among most fans (over 3000 German fan clubs petitioned for continued approval of 50+1), there are those in the DFL administration, and some club executives, who believe that the rule makes German clubs less competitive in European tournaments by not being financial equals with their European counterparts. As German clubs continue doing more and more to grow their international fanbase, the fear is that if German clubs cannot do well going head-to-head with clubs from England, Spain, France and Italy who potentially have more money to spend, fans overseas will see the Bundesliga as an inferior product. DFL CEO Christian Siefert, among others, feels that the rule discourages investment in German fussball. Following the vote, he cautioned
I generally find this rule a little excessive. We’ll see if it’s possible to keep them (the clubs) compatible with their goals and whether that’s going to be legal
Thursday’s vote is surely a win for fans as the 50+1 rule is sanctioned once again. But the legality of the rule, if challenged in the German court system, is not a sure thing. And Rettig offered some a caution among his satisfaction with 50+1’s approval
Those who really like football can enjoy this result. I think that was a great sign from the meeting and we are not alone with our satisfaction. We must not put our hands in our laps now — we must get greater legal certainty
Although the VAR vote was unanimous among Bundesliga clubs (there was one abstention), the vote to approve the motion brought by FC St. Pauli was not. Several clubs voted against the motion, while even more clubs abstained from voting, indicating that while the 50+1 rule may be temporarily safe, we are likely far from finished with efforts to weaken or even eliminate the rule.
Official Press Statement Regarding the 50+1 Rule
At today’s meeting in Frankfurt/Main, a majority of the members of DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga e.V. voted in favour of a fundamental debate accompanied by the retention of the 50+1 rule. In establishing the prevailing opinion, 18 of the 34 clubs with voting rights approved a proposal by FC St. Pauli on a “process for improving legal certainty and further considerations concerning changes in conditions while retaining the 50+1 rule”. Four clubs voted against this formulation of the proposal, with nine abstentions. Three voting clubs in attendance refrained from participating in the vote.
The DFL Board will consult on the next steps in the agreed process in the near future and will inform the clubs, followed by a public announcement.
Official Press Statement Regarding VAR
The video assistant will be officially used at all Bundesliga matches starting from the 2018-19 season. The Bundesliga clubs passed a corresponding resolution with one abstention at the today’s meeting of the members of DFL e.V. in Frankfurt/Main. The costs will be split among the 18 clubs on a pro rata basis.
The end of the current 2017-18 season will mark the conclusion of a two-year test phase in the Bundesliga. Following offline tests in the 2016-17 season with no on-field impact, the video assistant was introduced online in the Bundesliga in the 2017-18 season.
The main reason for its introduction was the desire for additional fairness in the game. Up to and including the 26th matchday of the current season, there have been a total of 68 interventions by the video assistant, resulting in the prevention of 49 clearly incorrect decisions.
The decision in favour of the continued use of the technology in the Bundesliga was taken following the unanimous resolution of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) on 3 March 2018 to officially include the use of the video assistant in the global rules of the game. Implementation is at the discretion of the individual national associations and leagues.
Efforts are being taken to enable the option of a virtual offside line from the 2018-19 season. This requires FIFA/IFAB to adopt an approval procedure for providers of a valid solution by the start of the season. The Bundesliga has so far refrained from introducing this technology due to the lack of certification.
With a view to spectators, the options for improving the communication of decisions within the stadiums are being examined, whether in the form of text explanations or moving images on the stadium video screens or announcements by the referee team.
For Bundesliga 2, a majority of the clubs in attendance voted to introduce an offline phase for the video assistant from the 2018-19 season in the same way as for the Bundesliga in 2016-17. There was one vote against and one abstention. Based on the experience gained, the official introduction of the technology starting from this summer cannot be guaranteed with such a short lead time, particularly with a view to ensuring the necessary quality of referee training. The one-year concept phase will allow additional video assistants to begin their training, including those selected from the pool of Bundesliga, Bundesliga 2 and third-flight referees. As was the case for the Bundesliga test phase, the technology costs will be borne by DFL e.V. The 18 clubs will pass a final resolution on the official introduction of the video assistant for all Bundesliga 2 matches starting from the 2019-20 season.