Traditional Bundesliga ownership model ‘obsolete’, says RB Leipzig sporting director Ralf Rangnick | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 12.12.2016
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Traditional Bundesliga ownership model ‘obsolete’, says RB Leipzig sporting director Ralf Rangnick

RB Leipzig may have lost their first league game, but they are still enjoying a superb first season in the top flight. Ralf Rangnick reveals his views on club ownership, building tradition, and Leipzig's faith in youth.

The traditional notion of club ownership in the Bundesliga is obsolete, according to Leipzig's  sporting director, Ralf Rangnick.

Leipzig's controversial business model, which relies heavily on investment from Austrian energy-drink giant Red Bull, has seen them circumvent the 50+1 rule that ensures that a club's membership maintain the majority of its voting rights.

While fulfilling the rule, Leipzig has been accused of being a 'franchise club' - but Rangnick believes the concept of majority fan-owned clubs in Germany is outdated.

"I think the number of members of the club is obsolete and irrelevant. For me, that concept is old fashioned," Rangnick said at a recent media event in Leipzig.

"Borussia Dortmund has 150,000 members but for the strategic decisions the club makes, they have no influence."

"I'm more interested in the number of supporters we have for home and away games. Do you think Porsche, Mercedes or DHL would ask their stakeholders what they should do next ahead of every decision they make? The same holds true in football - it's about the right people on the board making the right decisions for the club."

Frosty welcome

Leipzig, who lost their first game of the season on Saturday in a surprise 1-0 defeat at struggling Ingolstadt, have had a frosty welcome from opposing fans since gaining promotion to the Bundesliga, but Rangnick believes acceptance will come eventually.

"The club was only founded in 2009, so it's the youngest club in Germany. So of course other clubs don't like us," he conceded.

"Every club has their own supporters and when a new club like ours comes along they see the new club as a threat, as an enemy. We're writing our own history right now and in 10, 20 or 30 years time, that story will become history. We cannot blame ourselves for only being seven years old. Some clubs make the mistake that their only legacy is that they are 100 years old. I have worked for some big traditional clubs like Schalke and Stuttgart, but this is no guarantee that you will perform at the highest level."

Deutschland Leipzig Fans in 2. Bundesliga , RB Leipzig - SV Sandhausen (picture-alliance/dpa/J. Woitas)

Many opposing supporters may be hostile, but RB Leipzig regularly draw north of 40,000 to their home games

And when asked what tradition in football means to him, Rangnick was clear in his answer: "If you only celebrate the ashes, then nothing."

Winning the Bundesliga not out of the question

Leipzig spent two weeks at the top of the Bundesliga until their defeat at Ingolstadt, and that result, coupled with Bayern Munich's 5-0 win over Wolfsburg ensured that normal order was restored at the top of the table, with the defending champions going top on goal difference.

"If you ask me if I want to win the Bundesliga, of course I'll say yes. If you ask me if I think it's realistic, I'll say no. But I would not say that it's impossible. In a normal world, Bayern will win the title. In an abnormal world, somebody else can win the title - and if they do, then we wouldn't say no."

Despite the hostility of many opposing supporters, Leipzig's brand of attacking, attractive football has won them plenty of new fans. They have an impressive academy and a sensible transfer policy that ensures the club are predominantly interested in young talent where players are signing only their first or second contracts, a strategy that Rangnick introduced at Leipzig - and sister club Salzburg - after a five-hour conversation with Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz in 2012.

"Our players have by far the least Bundesliga experience of any team, but everyone is completely hungry, they want to improve and they want to win," Rangnick said.

"Our youngest team has the same philosophy as the senior team. You can see that we follow one path. And if you look at the seven players we brought in for the current season, six are between 19 and 23. This is the profile we are building at the club."

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