The affair Volkswagen find themselves in could have consequences for the Bundesliga as the car manufacturer is involved in many ways with Germany’s Number 1 sport.
Volkswagen have cheated and were caught. This is a good thing. However, it is the tax payer who will carry the burden, as usual while the managers will have their bonuses and pensions saved from harm. Beyond this Volkswagen is one of the biggest financiers of football in Germany. The car maker is the main sponsor of the DFB-Cup. It is however questionable that the German FA have so far not commented on the developments around VW.
Wolfsburg, Ingolstadt and Bayern: powered by VW and Audi
This is a lesser issues than the involvement with clubs directly. Since the 1950s Volkswagen has heavily sponsored the football team of VfL Wolfsburg who since 2001 are 100% in possession of Volkswagen. Many foreign observers praise the Bundesliga for the 50+1 rule; Volkswagen have effectively circumvented this rule and the DFL, the German Football League have created a ‘lex Wolfsburg’ which allows them to play in the top division, just like Leverkusen since the 1980s.
Moreover, there are a dozen or so other companies that are sponsoring ‘The Wolves’ which are subsidies or subcontractors or suppliers for Volkswagen. Many football fans let alone ordinary will ever have heard of these companies. It is questionable whether their support for a football team is voluntary or coerced by their mother company, VW.
Besides the direct involvement of Volkswagen at Wolfsburg, the company holds shares of FC Ingolstadt via its direct subsidiary Audi. This is no surprise as Audi have their headquarters in Ingolstadt. Through Audi Volkswagen hold 19,9% of FC Ingolstadt. However, Ingolstadt is not the only club outside Wolfsburg VW take pride in sponsoring. No other than FC Bayern Munich is also linked with Audi and thus VW as Audi possesses 8,33% of Bayern’s shares.
Taken the various share holdings of VW, either directly or via Audi, makes one conclusion inevitable: Volkswagen is involved in football financially but is also represented with a conflict of interest. Consider the scenario at the end of the season: Wolfsburg need 3 points to qualify for the Champions League and play Ingolstadt who themselves need a point or better even 3 to stay up. This is no easy question to answer. Whether it will be Volkswagen representing itself in Europe or Audi being able to showcase in the Bundesliga.
The Bundesliga is almost entirely in the pockets of Volkswagen as the bus manufacturer MAN is sponsoring Dortmund, Mönchengladbach and Hamburg. VW is also sponsoring Schalke, Bremen and RB Leipzig; the latter and Stuttgart are also sponsored by Porsche, another subsidiary company. In total there are 16 teams of both top divisions of German football that are either directly or indirectly sponsored by Volkswagen and thus dependent on the financial clout of the second largest car manufacturer in the world.
However, with this grave affair Volkswagen are going to lose a considerable market share and thus revenue. How this will affect the Bundesliga is to this date unclear but there will be consequences that is for sure. Of course clubs could act themselves and end their involvement with any company connected with or to Volkswagen. Since there is a lot of money involved this seems unlikely, however.
Germany is proud of its car manufacturing industry and certainly this extends to football and the involvement of Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche to support top class professional football. To this date no one seems to have asked questions as to the involvement of VW and its subsidiaries in football. This will now change, hopefully. German football tends to point to England and France where single persons or families with the necessary money buy clubs such as Man United, Chelsea, Liverpool or PSG but it forgotten or ignored that with Volkswagen one single company holds shares in three clubs and additionally sponsors others and thus creates a conflict of interest. This simply cannot happen in England of France as no person or family is permitted to possess more than club or even shares. German football but not only football likes to point the fingers at others and likes to act as a teacher; sometimes Germany needs more humility.