This season’s Bundesliga has been noteworthy for the number of protests fans in Germany are organizing in opposition to the prospect of outside investors. The German top flight is historically fan-oriented, as seen with the 50+1 rule that mandates clubs’ fans have a majority share of the club. In this way, the Bundesliga protects the fans’ voices. Now, fans are raising their voice against the Bundesliga’s plans to sign a new media rights deal with a private equity firm.

The Bundesliga is proposing the sale of 8% of its media rights for 20 years in a deal that could pocket the league over $1 billion. Twenty-four of the 26 clubs in the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga agreed to the proposal, but the clubs’ fans have not been open to the possibility. Most of the investment would go toward the ‘digitalization and internationalization’ of the Bundesliga. That includes an in-house streaming platform akin to MLS Season Pass.

Some of the proposed investment defends against the lost international rights sales from companies like ESPN, which currently holds the rights in the United States. For instance, $324 million of the $1 billion investment is compensation for no more TV rights deals. Also, investment allots $108 million to go toward establishing international tours and further international growth.

Fans fear outside investment will impact the competition’s structure and calendar. The sale takes away from what makes the Bundesliga unique among European soccer leagues. The Bundesliga wants to compete financially with other leagues. That risks the personality of the Bundesliga.

Blackstone backs out as Bundesliga bidder

There are three potential bidders known for 8% of the media rights to the Bundesliga. One of those is Blackstone, which is not considering withdrawing from the process because of the rampant fan backlash. Moreover, Blackstone’s Chairman has a controversy that raises concerns in the Bundesliga and its fans. Previously, he compared American President Barack Obama’s tax increases to Adolf Hitler’s invasion of Poland. That comment resurfaced about Blackstone’s now-ended bidding process.

If Blackstone does drop out, that would lead CVC Capital as the lone bidder. That has a major impact on the valuation and terms of the deal. In other words, the Bundesliga may not benefit from a bidding war between the two entities looking to acquire the media rights deals. CVC Capital could lessen the compensation to the Bundesliga and its clubs. Or, the percentage of media rights could be higher if the monetary figures remain the same.

A feeling that the soul of the sport is leaving

If any sale does happen, it is hard to say what the Bundesliga could look like with change. Schedule changes could be a possibility, which goes against the consistency of kickoffs the Bundesliga has shown over the years.

Protests will continue to be seen throughout Germany in opposition to this potential deal. Fans have been throwing tennis balls and fake money on the field which has halted play. Also, fans at one club put a bike lock on the net that required a lengthy delay to one game.