Hannover 96 supporters went to new lengths to show their frustrations with German soccer’s plans to sell 8% of the media rights. Protests have been common throughout the German soccer divisions over recent weeks. Yet, most of the time, fans throw fake money or tennis balls on the field. This also features banners in the stands that outwardly state the supporters’ issue with the plans to sell media rights to outside investors.

Hannover, which is currently in the second tier of the German soccer pyramid, had officials shred a bike lock off the goal. Connected between the net and the post, the bike lock prevented the beginning of the game on Friday evening. Hannover went on to win the game in a dramatic 4-3 final. That leaves Hannover just three points behind Hamburg in the 2. Bundesliga table.

However, the protest had another level to it beyond simply delaying the game. As the removers of the bike lock did not figure out the code, they used an angle grinder to remove the lock. Meanwhile, a tifo in the away end read “The solution is 50+01.”

On the bike lock, putting in the code 50+01 would have opened the bike lock. The 50+01 is a message to the 50+1 rule in the Bundesliga. This mandates that each club in Germany has fans own 50% of the club plus one vote. This means that the supporters’ groups have the final say regarding anything that happens. However, the sale of media rights has led to some discourse between certain clubs and their fan groups.

Hannover bike lock symbolizes the 50+1 rule in Germany

Club ownership is responsive and coherent with the fan groups. However, the first part of the tifo took direct aim at the club’s chairman, Martin Kind. The message said, “Investors and Martin Kind are our problem,” before the aforementioned statement that 50+01 is the solution. These investors include CVC Capital, which may now be alone in the bidding for the Bundesliga media rights.

Blackstone, another private equity firm that expressed interest in the media rights sale from the Bundesliga, is backing out. The group is weary of the backlash and criticism from fans, so it exited the race for the 8% of the rights. Bundesliga supporters will see the exit of one of the private equity firms as a victory, but there is a potential issue. If a deal does happen with a foreign investment group, there is no bidding war the Bundesliga could take advantage of. Therefore, CVC Capital may lower the amount of money it puts into the Bundesliga while still receiving 8% of the media rights.

Continued prospect of a sale

Even if fans are frustrated with the progression of a potential sale, there is no sign of discussions stopping. Twenty-four of the 36 clubs in the top two divisions in Germany had their chairmen agree to search for a sale of the media rights. There is a breakdown of how the funds would separate between the clubs. Yet, the rumors of a 20-year deal worth $1.1 billion remain a major point of contention.