In the event you hadn’t heard, nascent club Red Bull Leipzig has spent the last six tumultuous years ruffling almost every German feather in existence. In 2009, Red Bull bought a nowhere fifth-division club and undertook a full re-brand: jerseys, name, crest, stadium. With the stated aim of being in the Bundesliga first tier and playing in the Champions League by 2020, this was a club with unbridled ambition. In 2011, former Schalke manager Ralf Rangnick was installed as the sporting director and given a transfer budget well in excess of $100 million.
The uniquely fan-driven German ownership model is entirely at odds with how Bundesliga clubs operate. No single investor can assume majority voting rights in a German club registered on the stock market, which gives fans the right to veto higher ticket prices. That, among other reasons, is a major driver for the league’s famously low fees at the gates.
RB Leipzig has managed to delicately skip around these rules. It isn’t currently listed as a stock company, and while their membership scheme exists, it’s prohibitive. At the beginning of the 2014-15 season, the club charged €800 per year to be a member (Bayern Munich, by comparison, charges €60). Further, they reserved the power to reject any application for any reason. That could explain why a year ago, six years into RB Leipzig’s project, they’d still only garnered 11 members, most of them Red Bull employees.
The primary reason RB Leipzig irks Germans so much is not necessarily because they flaunt the letter of the law, but because they’ve done so in a way that allows them to sidestep it entirely and still join the Bundesliga. The club did its nefarious promotion-at-all-costs research, which would allow it to join the Bundesliga despite ignoring the spirit of the rules that it put in place to engender fan involvement.