German cartel office to probe DFL licensing in 50+1 rule case

Germany’s cartel office has said it still has no overall objections to the unique 50+1 ownership rule in German football after a recent ruling from the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

But the cartel office said it would not reach a final decision on whether the rule is conform with European antitrust law until after an examination of club licensing practices by the German Football League (DFL).

The 50+1 rule means that investors can not acquire a majority share in a club as 50% plus one of the shares have to be held by the club.

There are exemptions for Bundesliga and German Cup champions Bayer Leverkusen and Wolfsburg, who have long been financed by chemical industry company Bayer and car makers Volkswagen, respectively.

A DFL vote on 50+1 modifications has been postponed until a final cartel office ruling.

“The ECJ’s new case law does not fundamentally change our assessment of the basic 50+1 rule,” cartel office president Andreas Mundt said in a statement on Wednesday.

“It remains the case that the objective of a club is suitable to justify an exception to antitrust law. In this respect, we also consider the rule to be proportionate in principle.”

The ECJ had ruled in a dispute around a planned Super League that football federations can not make other competitions dependent on their approval and can not forbid clubs and players to take part in them. It also said this does not mean that a Super League will become reality.

Mundt said the ECJ has strict criteria for cartel law exemptions which warranted the look into the DFL licensing procedures.

The DFL had hoped for a final decision but named the latest cartel office statement “positive” in a statement.

“It is in the interest of the DFL that a legally secure assessment of 50+1 by the cartel office is possible and in line with European competition law,” the DFL said.

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