We need to talk about Leipzig ⋆ An Old International

We need to talk about Leipzig

RB Leipzig are top of the league and some people are not happy. However, scapegoats are easy to find.

Last weekend the Bundesliga experienced something unusual. For the first time in what must feel like an era, Bayern are no longer top of the league. That’s the part most people would rejoice in. The fact that the club that have replaced Bayern at the top is not the usual suspects Dortmund, although they have beaten Bayern 1-0 Saturday night however, will have ordinary football fans fuming with anger. It was none other than RB Leipzig that are now where Bayern feel most comfortable. The reason for the discomfort has two letters: RB. It is nothing but a synonym for the feared takeover of German football by foreigners and even worse, seeing these dominating the holy grail of German tradition: the Bundesliga.

RB Leipzig are something new in German football. It is a club 100% dependent on one company. This fact alone should have rang any alarm bells that are in place. It hasn’t. Even after the example of RB Salzburg just a few years earlier. The warning signs were there but were largely ignored. Ever since they made their first appearance they were confronted with outrage and rejection. This is somewhat understandable, given the nature and structure of the club.

This is not a normal club that accepts any Johny England football fan as members; €800 per year, plus an admin fee of €100 when signing on. No wonder that only a handful of croonies of Dietrich Matteschitz, the owner of Red Bull, are full members of the club. It is therefore understandable and right that football fans across Germany are voicing their anger and frustration. However, their anger should be directed at the DFB. It was them at the end of the day that waved RB through provided their club logo would not be instantly recognizable with the trademark of the soft drink. Additionally the DFB demanded that the club’s structures be adapted according to the rules of the DFB. Once this was done, no one blinked an eye in the headquarters in Frankfurt. If any one has a problem with RB, please direct it at the DFB, not at Leipzig. It was them who let all this happen, who created a lex RB, just like they have passed a lex Wolfsburg before and a lex Leverkusen even before that.

Let’s be clear: this club is very different from any other club in Germany and nothing but a marketing tool for the Austrian soft drink manufacturer. Problematic is the best word to describe the possibility of a potential meeting between RB Salzburg and Leipzig in a European competition. This is not only a conflict of interest but a distortion of competition. The existence of RB Salzburg and RB Leipzig are indicative that the governing bodies of the game are firemen rushing to the wrong fire, repeatedly.

Besides this, they do a superb job on the football pitch and in their academy. Their budget is not bloated – despite having immense funding possibilities available – and there are no super stars playing in their colours (yet). Instead, there are overwhelmingly younger players on the books of RB that would put some of the established clubs to shame who have sacrificed their youth in the pursuit of Champions League success and now face a relegation battle. It should be lauded that the club have an expensive academy. Not all of them will make it in the first team, of course. Yet, the club plays something of a lighthouse role in the East of Germany and the surrounding clubs of Leipzig, Halle, Magdeburg, Berlin and further afield can only benefit from it.

The last time the city of Leipzig was host to the German football champion is longer ago than many of us can remember. It was little BSG Chemie Leipzig who gave a resolute two fingered salute to the Socialist Unity Party (SED) and the sports establishment who decreed that the best players must be delegated to Lok Leipzig by winning the Oberliga title against the odds in 1965. Their local rival Lokomotive Leipzig may have played Ajax Amsterdam in the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1987 but the league title was and always will be BSG Chemie’s. Sure, RB will one day end this draught and maybe even represent the city in the Champions League. All the while, the discussion about Leipzig’s place at the top of the league will continue. However, the direction aims at the wrong people. As so often the most obvious is the easiest scapegoat.

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