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Bundesliga drops PE talks following fan protests

Talks by the Deutsche Fussball Liga (DFL) over potential private equity investment in the top two divisions of German football have been called off following mass protests by fans across the country, according to a report by the Financial Times.

The bid to bring in outside cash via the sale of a stake of up to €1bn in a new company that would control the Bundesliga’s broadcast and commercial rights, initially attracted interest from several large PE firms, although some including Blackstone withdrew from the bidding protest after the strength of fan opposition became clear.

This is the third time that DFL has tried and failed in its efforts to bring in outside capital in a bid to match the financial clout of other major European leagues including England’s Premier League and Spain’s La Liga.

Fans have disrupted several matches in recent weeks by throwing chocolate coins, sweets and tennis balls onto the pitch, while last week’s game between Hansa Rostock and Hamburg was delayed while stewards chased remote control cars loaded with flares around the stadium.

At an extraordinary meeting in Frankfurt on Wednesday, clubs subsequently voted not to proceed with the investment negotiations.

In a statement, Hans-Joachim Watzke, chair of the DFL steering committee, said fan opposition to private investment “threatened to undermine the integrity of the competition”, and meant the league could not guarantee that any contract signed with an investor would be “sustainable”.

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