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Interview with Dr. Dieter Gudel, RB Leipzig General Manager

rb leipzig Interview with Dr. Dieter Gudel, RB Leipzig General Manager

The Berlin Wall has long since been torn down, friends and family reunited. Germany is a country unified and has been for some time now. While the west and east of this land are connected now and equal, the east is still lagging behind in at least one important cultural aspect … football. While reunification has brought plenty of economic development, tons of new construction and improving infrastructure to eastern Germany, most of the football money is still being funneled to the western areas. Though football equality was not part of the 1990 treaty, a blossoming club in Leipzig could be the potential jewel of East German football and just the model that other nearby cities could follow to achieve football prominence.

Leipzig itself is known for being an area that has produced some great music. Bach worked in Leipzig for over 25 years, to name one prominent figure. However, the area also has an interesting soccer history. For starters, the German Football Association was founded here in 1900. The city also boasts the distinction of supporting the country’s first domestic champion in 1903, under the guise of VfB Leipzig. The club is actually still around, now called 1. FC Lokomotive Leipzig.

Despite a rich history in the sport, Leipzig, like virtually all of the eastern portion of Germany, is behind the curve. There are no current East German teams competing in Bundesliga 1. In fact, there are only 9 eastern clubs distributed throughout the top three tiers. Hertha BSC potentially the most recognizable to foreigners. Not a big surprise considering these clubs were being run via a completely different monetary mechanism just over 20 years ago. The way clubs did business practically changed overnight, as the switch from Communism to Capitalism was made. One encouraging sign is that 8 of Germany’s 30+ elite sports schools now fall under the umbrella of the east.

Enter Red Bull … a soccer super – power in the making. The energy drink company has 4 soccer teams sprawled over 3 continents and has already ventured into a 4th continent soccer-wise. There is a Red Bull soccer academy in Ghana. While Red Bull is greatly influential and owns a generous portion of the club RB Leipzig, it doesn’t have quite as much control over this new franchise, compared with their other projects. The German Football Association has restrictions that state a club must own at least 51% of it’s shares. This leaves only 49% for Red Bull. In addition, the Leipzig club cannot have “Red Bull” in their name, hence the name “RB Leipzig” (RasenBall [Lawn Ball] Sport Leipzig). Despite these nuances, Red Bull is strongly associated with the club and their logo is on the club apparel.

The club now has aims to reach the top level of German football within 10 years, via the support of Red Bull. To some this may seem a lofty goal. Last season, the club finished at the top of their division in the 5th tier, achieving promotion to the 4th level. However, while still playing at an improved level, the slope of improvement this year, isn’t quite as steep. The club sits in 4th and is well out of the top spot. Despite the influx of revenue from the energy drink superpower, RB Leipzig is falling in line with the rest of the region. That is, their roster features a strong amount of local talent. This not only helps to alleviate salary concerns, but also helps to develop local support. The club plays at Red Bull Arena, a site which hosted group matches at the 2006 World Cup.

During a recent trip to the city of Leipzig, I attended a league match and had an opportunity to speak with Dr. Dieter Gudel, the club’s General Manager. Here is our conversation about RB Leipzig and East German football in general.

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9 Responses to Interview with Dr. Dieter Gudel, RB Leipzig General Manager

  1. Indeed, the so called 50+1 rule is aiming at preventing clubs from being taken over by big groups. But it is only valid for the first three tiers that are controlled by the German football association DFB. Since RB Leipzig is at the moment in the fourth division (where the northeastern association is in charge) this issue should be discussed at the earliest in one year.

    What’s more, the club is under total control of Red Bull. It is impossible to become an official club member. The seven members (the basic condition to be called a club in Germany) are without exception employees of the Red Bull group.

  2. Beijing says:

    “In fact, there are only 9 east­ern clubs dis­trib­uted through­out the top three tiers. Hertha BSC poten­tially the most rec­og­niz­able to for­eign­ers.”

    Hertha BSC is not an East German club. Never was and never will be :)

  3. bradlovesthebundesliga says:

    So back in the day they just take flight and or team bus through East Germany to games in the West?

  4. Chris Riordan says:

    Brad,

    I think he was referencing the fact that the citizens of Leipzig would have to travel some distance to see top or upper level football. And that the aim is to get there quickly with a local, RB sponsored team, therefore alleviating the need for such travel.

    I think he was referencing the fact that the citizens of Leipzig have to travel

  5. Beijing says:

    “So back in the day they just take flight and or team bus through East Germany to games in the West?”

    Would think so.

  6. Clayton says:

    Awesome interview…I had already been following this story as a fan of German football and of what Red Bull is doing in the sport. It’s exactly what I would do if I owned a company with a 200 million dollar marketing budget. I wish more coverage of German football was available in English. I think it is the most interesting league in Europe due to the parity and style of play. Additionally, I think its sustainable business model will elevate it to the best league in Europe once the FFP rules are enforced. I can’t help but think the only reason the Bundesliga is not more popular in the US is that coverage of it is hard to find. Any sites that you can recommend?

  7. bradlovesthebundesliga says:

    I cannot believe I just spent a half hour writing something that didn’t post and is now lost forever damn!
    Well then I am a bit spent on writing so just one site you must see: http://www.atdhenet.tv
    Every game evry week including Bundeliga 2., German Cup(first time I have ever seen it is on this site) and some National Team games.
    Americans can’t learn about the Bundesliga better than by seeing all the teams play at one time or another and Goltv only has 2 games a week and blasted
    ESPN only cares about the Prem and the Champions League. So thankful for
    http://www.atdhenet.tv. !!!!!!!

  8. soccer tips says:

    Red bull – where else than sports. I mean, the drink is supposedly energetic, but it’s nothing more than water packed with glucose and caffeine. Still, an energy drink with “soul” has larger marketing value than a cup of coffee. If Red Bull does what they promise, the club would really be better off.

  9. derherold says:

    “So back in the day they just take flight and or team bus through East Germany to games in the West?”

    Yes, that´s right.

    But not only Hertha BSC. There were in the 70s and 80s several clubs in berlin in Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga like Tennis B. Berlin, Wacker 04, BW 90 Berlin and all of them had to travel through the former GDR.
    The same was necessary for cup competition, pre season friendlies, national youth championships and for other sports as for example basketball or ice hockey.

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