History of RB Leipzig
Before investing in Leipzig, Red Bull GmbH, led by co-owner Dietrich Mateschitz, searched three and a half years for a suitable location for an investment in German football. Besides Leipzig, the company also considered a location in West Germany and explored cities such as Hamburg, Munich and Düsseldorf.
The company made its first attempt to enter the German football scene in 2006. By advice from Franz Beckenbauer, a personal friend of Dietrich Mateschitz, the company decided to invest in Leipzig. The local football club FC Sachsen Leipzig, successor to the former East German champion BSG Chemie Leipzig, had for years been in financial difficulties. Red Bull GmbH drew up plans to invest up to 50 million euros in the club. The company planned a takeover, with a change of team colours and of club name. Involved in the arrangements was film entrepreneur Michael Kölmel, sponsor of FC Sachsen Leipzig and owner of the Zentralstadion. By 2006, FC Sachsen Leipzig played in the Oberliga, by then the fourth tier in the German football league system. Playing in the fourth tier, the club had to undergo the German Football Association (DFB) licensing procedure. Red Bull GmbH and the club were close to a deal, but the plans were vetoed by the DFB, who rejected the proposed new club name and feared too much influence from the company. After months of fan protests, which deteriorated into violence, the company officially abandoned the plans.
Red Bull GmbH then turned to West Germany. The company made contact with cult club FC St. Pauli, known for its left leaning supporters, and met representatives of the club to discuss a sponsor deal. The supporters of FC St. Pauli had only a short time before participated in protests against the company’s takeover of SV Austria Salzburg. Once it became clear to the Hamburg side that the company had plans far beyond conventional sponsoring, it immediately ended the contact, and the question never even made it to the club management. The company then took contact with TSV 1860 Munich. Negotiations began behind closed doors, but the club was not interested in an investment and ended the contact.
In 2007, Red Bull GmbH made plans to invest in Fortuna Düsseldorf, a traditional club with more than 100 years of history. The plans became public, it was known that the company wanted to acquire more than 50 percent of the shares and rumors spread that the company wanted to rename the club “Red Bull Düsseldorf” or similar. The plans were immediately met with wild protests from club supporters. As with FC Sachsen Leipzig, the plans also ran into legal difficulties. The statutes of the DFB did not allow a change of club name for advertising purposes or an external investor to obtain a majority of votes. Eventually, the plans were clearly rejected by club members. The company turned back to East Germany.
Leipzig was considered a most favorable place for an investment. The potential for establishing a new club in Leipzig seemed huge. The city had a rich history in football, being the meeting place for the founding of the DFB and the home of the first German national football champion, VfB Leipzig. During the GDR, local teams such as 1. FC Lokomotive Leipzig and its rival, BSG Chemie Leipzig, played at the highest level of the East German football league system, even on international level. The current state of football was, however, poor. No team from the city had played in the Bundesliga since 1994, and no team had played in a professional league since 1998. The two best teams would soon both play in the Oberliga, and local football was plagued by fan violence. The city hungered for top level football. Leipzig had a population of around 500,000 inhabitants. The city thus had a considerable economic strength and fan potential. At the same time, there were no Bundesliga clubs within a wide area from the city, which further strengthened the possibility to attract sponsors and fans.
In Leipzig, exemplary infrastructure could also be found. The city had a large airport, motorway connections and most importantly: a large modern football stadium. The Zentralstadion was a former 2006 FIFA World Cup venue and the second largest football stadium in the east of Germany, after the Olympiastadion in Berlin.
An investment in a club playing in one of the top divisions in Germany would have been a costly affair. From previous experiences, the company knew that the existing traditions of such club would be a disadvantage. It also knew that an investment in a club playing in one of the top divisions would meet legal difficulties. Such investment would thus be risky. Instead, the company found that a new established club, designed for the company, would be the better option for an investment. In the beginning of 2009, Red Bull GmbH contacted the Saxony Football Association (SFV), to find out about the procedure to establish a new club in Saxony.
A new established club would need teams and a playing right. If it did not acquire a playing right from another club, it would have to start in the Kreisklasse. The company searched for a club playing in the Oberliga, since 2008 the fifth tier in the German football league system and therefore no longer subject to the DFB licensing system. By proposal from Michael Kölmel, the company found SSV Markranstädt, a small club from a village thirteen kilometers west of Leipzig. The club was positive to enter a partnership with a global company. Its Chairman Holger Nussbaum wanted to secure the club’s long term finances and designed a plan to engage Red Bull GmbH. Holger Nussbaum presented his plan for Michael Kölmel, who saw his chance and decided to join. Assisted by Michael Kölmel, Red Bull GmbH began negotiations with SSV Markranstädt. Only five weeks after the first contact, SSV Markranstädt had agreed to sell its playing right for the Oberliga to Red Bull GmbH. The cost has not been disclosed, but SSV Markranstädt is believed to have received a compensation of 350,000 euro.
RasenBallsport Leipzig e.V. was founded on 19 May 2009. All seven founding members were either employees or agents of Red Bull GmbH. Andreas Sadlo was elected chairman, and Joachim Krug was hired as sporting director. Andreas Sadlo was a well known football player agent, working for the agency “Stars & Friends”. In order to avoid future objections from the German Football Association (DFB), he resigned as player agent, before taking position as chairman. The statutes of the DFB would not allow a player agent to be involved in the operating affairs of a club. Joachim Krug had earlier been employed as coach and manager by Rot Weiss Ahlen, which by that time was known as LR Ahlen and sponsored by cosmetics manufacturer LR International.
RB Leipzig became the fifth football commitment in the Red Bull sporting portfolio, following FC Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, the New York Red Bulls in the United States, Red Bull Brasil in Brazil and Red Bull Ghana in Ghana. In contrast to previous clubs, RB Leipzig did not bear the corporate name. The statutes of the DFB would not permit the corporate name to be included in the club name. Instead, the club adopted the unusual name “RasenBallsport”, literally meaning “Lawn Ball Sports”. But through the use of the initials “RB”, which corresponds to the initials of the company, the corporate identity could still be recognized.
RB Leipzig began with a partnership with fifth division side SSV Markranstädt. The partnership meant that SSV Markranstädt would provide the initial core of RB Leipzig, as the basis for its leap into German football. RB Leipzig acquired the playing right for the Oberliga, the top three men’s teams and a senior men’s team from SSV Markranstädt. The first team was completely taken over, with its training staff and its head coach Tino Vogel, the son of the former East German football legend Eberhard Vogel.
The transfer of the playing right for the Oberliga had to be approved by the North East German Football Association (NOFV). RB Leipzig would need at least four junior teams, including an A-junior team, to finally obtain the playing right. SSV Markranstädt had retained its junior department and RB Leipzig lacked junior teams. Red Bull GmbH therefore approached FC Sachsen Leipzig. The club was again in financial difficulties and could no longer finance its youth department. The NOFV approved the transfer of the playing right on 13 June 2009 and RB Leipzig was given one year to complete its number of junior teams. The club then acquired four junior teams from FC Sachsen Leipzig. The acquisition was urged by the Saxony Football Association (SFV), in order to prevent a migration of talents.
RB Leipzig would play its inaugural season in the Oberliga at the Stadion am Bad in Markranstädt. The stadium held 5,000 seats and was the traditional home ground of SSV Markranstädt. The plans were however that the first team would quickly move to the far larger Zentralstadion, hopefully in 2010, after an advance to the Regionalliga. The stadium was owned by Michael Kölmel. He was known to Red Bull GmbH for years and had assisted the establishment of RB Leipzig as an negotiation partner. Michael Kölmel had previously also been involved in local football himself, as a sponsor of FC Sachsen Leipzig. He was eager to find a strong tenant for the stadium, which last saw FC Sachsen Leipzig play in the Regionalliga behind closed doors. Negotiations between Red Bull GmbH and Michael Kölmel began directly at the club’s founding. Red Bull GmbH reserved the naming right to the stadium in June 2009, meaning that the name could not be sold to anyone else.
On its founding, RB Leipzig aimed to play first division Bundesliga football within eight years. Following the model previously elaborated by Red Bull GmbH in Austria and the US, the club was set to emerge and quickly rise through the divisions. It was predicted that Red Bull GmbH would invest 100 million euro in the club over a period of ten years, and Dietrich Mateschitz openly spoke of the possibility of winning the German championship in the long run. The last team from Leipzig to do so was VfB Leipzig in 1903.