The 50+1 Rule: What It Means

Since talk of the European Super League began, the 50+1 rule in football is something that has been spoken about regularly. But what is it and what could the introduction of this German rule mean for the Premier League?

How does it work?

The 50+1 rule means that the majority of voting rights are owned by the members, a.k.a. the fans. Essentially, the fans have a 51% voting share of the club, meaning their vote determines all decisions.

Instead of the type of investors that we typically see take over Premier League clubs, the majority decision lies with its members. The commercial investors are still able to make suggestions, however it becomes impossible to make any decisions without the backing of the club’s fans.

Benefits of the 50+1 rule

There are many benefits of the 50+1 rule:

  • The fans have the power
    This model gives fans control over the futures of their clubs, as opposed to being at the mercy of owners. Fans are able to make decisions that impact their club, whether it is on ticketing prices or any other aspect of the club.
  • Members make the decisions
    The members have more voting powers than the commercial investors, chairman or supervisory board. This means members can vote people out and vote somebody else in if they feel that poor decisions are being made.
  • Accountability
    With this model, the people that run the club tend to be locals, ex-footballers, or people in that city. This means they usually care about the local area and the future of the club. This also brings increased accountability for their actions and makes them think more carefully about the decisions that are made.

Disadvantages of the 50+1 rule

As with any business model, there are also some disadvantages:

  • Lack of investors
    Not many investors are happy to invest large sums of money without having full control of their investment. This means that it can be difficult to attract large investors and bring significant amounts of money into clubs.
  • There are loopholes
    As with most systems, there are loopholes to be exploited. RB Leipzig have made it so costly to become a member that they have essentially ended up bankrolling the members, meaning they vote in favour of the owners’ decisions. Because of this, other clubs have struggled to compete with them in the Bundesliga, which has infuriated fans.

How did we get here?

Back in the day, factory owners would fund and run a club for their workers, investing their own money for the good of their employees.

We have since reached a point where viewership has meant that commercial opportunities are enormous. Investors have seen this opportunity and bought clubs with the goal of turning them into what can only be described as a more profitable business.

However, these investors are unaware of of the values of football and the passion of fans. This is more than a brand or a company to the fans and it’s something that we’re not willing to watch be destroyed. We’ve seen recently with the European Super League proposal what can happen when the business side is pushed too far, yet it remains a tricky point of conversation.

As an example, how many times on Twitter have you seen fans asking to get a rich investor in to solve a club’s problems? It’s a common occurrence, however only the richest can afford to buy a Premier League club and they aren’t going to do it out of the kindness of their heart. It’s a method of growing commercial revenue in their eyes and it opens the door to decisions being made that put profit before the fans.

What are the other options?

There is the potential to design some sort of fan representative system. This could see a fan representative, or panel, advise owners of clubs, as well as having a vote on any major decisions. This option would work as a middle ground, helping to protect from another Super League scenario, while keeping the same ownership system in the game.

What are your views on the 50+1 rule? Tweet us @hollseey

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