Franchising is everywhere, so beware

3 05 2013

Sometimes you’re so wrapped up in how an idea affects you  – the negative effects of corporate football for example –  that you forget about the people in other places that are also affected by the idea. Yesterday I was reminded by wonderful “The Beaten Generation” (TGB) blog that football franchising, and it’s related activities, is an international trend.

My re-education began with a post about a fight back in Austria;

Austria Salzburg’s dream alive as another Red Bull duel looms

SECOND-placed Austria Salzburg kicked off against FC Dornbirn on Saturday afternoon four points and 30 minutes behind FC Liefering, but as their players trudged in at the break a goal down and seven points behind the leaders, some fans wondered if they’d ever get going at all. “We were down, out of everything, it was over,” Harry from Fanclub Absolut told me on Sunday, reflecting on a remarkable sequence of second half events which saw them crush that deficit to just two points.

“All of a sudden,” Harry continued, “our announcer shouted through the PA, ‘Altach have equalized at Liefering!’ at the top of his voice. Not even 10 seconds later, Austria equalized. The place was magic. Next thing was the end in Liefering; we knew they had drawn and out of the blue our chance started to live again. The terrace was buzzing and people felt that the team needed us, today, more than ever. We pushed them, everyone, people in the stands were not sitting anymore. Our team ran like animals and five minutes later, Vujic scored and it all simply boiled over.”

After the top two drew in October, I wrote on FC Liefering’s controversial involvement with Red Bull and how it threatened to derail Austria Salzburg’s route back to the Bundesliga. But what Marko Vujic’s Tardelli-esque celebration on Saturday tells us is that going into Wednesday’s return fixture, the on-field momentum at least is with the good guys in violet and white.

On Tuesday the Austrian FA (ÖFB) decide which of the sides vying for promotion from the regional third tier would be granted licenses to play in Bundesliga 2 next season. The Fairnessimfussball initiative has articulated the myriad sporting and ethical concerns about Red Bull’s involvement with FC Liefering (plus FC Pasching and FC Anif, two more clubs under Red Bull’s wing) and the implications of their potential promotion into the national league system.

Owners are prevented from operating more than one club in either Bundesliga 1 or 2, and Red Bull already have the one they bastardised when buying and rebranding Austria Salzburg in 2005. The drinks firm say their relationship with FC Liefering is a “cooperation” and not an ownership, but it’s a cooperation which extends to FC Liefering wearing Red Bull Salzburg’s colours and playing at Red Bull Salzburg’s ground.

The day after Tuesday’s verdict, it’s where an extraordinary crowd of 10,000 are expected to see the Regionalliga West’s top two slug it out with more than mere promotion and local bragging rights at stake. For eight years now, the fans of Austria Salzburg have exerted the same unbreakable pride, tradition and passion Red Bull thought they could buy in 2005. Red Bull were wrong, and whatever the outcome of Tuesday’s ÖFB meeting, Austria Salzburg aim to make them pay.”

I was intrigued by this FC Liefering so I clicked the link. This is what I found.

Purple reigns over club-crazy Red Bull

FOUR promotions into their epic journey back to the Bundesliga, Austria Salzburg face new competition for a fifth – from none other than Red Bull, whose rebranding of their club prompted fans to reform it in Austria’s footballing basement in 2005.

Saturday’s 3rd division topspiele der woche saw second-placed FC Liefering enter Salzburg’s violet quarter to face the side they trail by a single point. From their red & white colours to the familiar styling of their club badge, FC Liefering are Red Bull in all but name; a monstrous club, a patchwork of body parts from pilfered graves – all because one team’s seemingly not enough for the drinks firm’s Dr Frankenstein, Dieter Mateschitz.

The story goes a little something like this. A few years ago, Bundesliga reserve sides were prevented from playing any higher than the 3rd tier: the Regionalligas East, West and Central. This was much to the annoyance of Red Bull, whose reserves had remained in Regionalliga West having won it in 2011. So they paid off cash-strapped USK Anif and changed its name to FC Liefering, then handed FC Liefering Red Bull Salzburg’s reserve squad, then formed a new club called FC Anif and gave it Red Bull Salzburg’s reserves’ league spot.

Confused? Well there’s another team, FC Pasching, under Red Bull’s evil wing now too, so there. The upshot of all this is that Red Bull have control of three 3rd division clubs – FC Anif and FC Liefering in Regionalliga West, plus FC Pasching in Regionalliga Central – and claim none of them are reserve sides, therefore all should be able to be promoted.

Furthermore, because promotion from the Regionalligas is clinched via a sequence of play offs, it’s conceivable that FC Liefering and FC Pasching could contend a bizarre end-of-season decider between two Red Bull teams. The Salzburg FA say they’re powerless to prevent this, but the Austrian FA surely face an administrative headache if such a situation were to arise.

On Saturday, a nervy tussle between Regionalliga West’s top two ended all square, with all the action saved for a fantic last 15 minutes which featured both goals and a red card for Red Bull in front of a rapturous Maxglan full house. With three games to go before der winterpause, Austria Salzburg remain undefeated in their latest exhilarating tilt at what could turn out to be their most impressive feat yet.”

In case you’re unfamiliar with red bull’s takeover of Austria Salzburg here’s the When Saturday Comes article  that TBG linked to.

“The comprehensive corporate makeover of Austria Salzburg has brought in big money and big promises but has alienated supporters, as Paul Joyce reports

The Austrian Bundesliga has always been highly commercialised. Club names can be altered at the behest of new investors – hence FC Superfund in Pasching, or SCU Seidl Software of Untersiebenbrunn. With players plastered from head to arse in sponsors’ logos like motor-racing drivers, it’s fitting that Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz followed his acquisition of a Formula 1 team with that of SV Austria Salzburg in April.

Mateschitz, whose stake in the energy drink manufacturer has been estimated at $2 billion, aims to establish the 1994 UEFA Cup finalists as a major European force “within three to five years”. Enticing Franz Beckenbauer to Salzburg as an advisor has facilitated the construction of a squad containing former Arsenal goalkeeper Alex Manninger and such experienced internationals as Thomas Linke, Alex Zickler and Vratislav Lokvenc. With a budget of €30 million, last year’s relegation candidates have become this season’s title favourites.

Yet Mateschitz’s brazenness in treating the re-named “Red Bull Salzburg” as a mere marketing instrument for his company has alienated fans. Austria Salzburg’s illustrious history has been airbrushed from the website of the club, which now has a new crest and appears to have been founded in 2005.

More insensitive still was the jettisoning of the violet and white colours in which Salzburg have played since 1933 in favour of red and white (home) and blue (away). Dismissing supporters’ criticism as “kindergarten stuff”, Mateschitz stated: “The red bull can’t be violet, or else we couldn’t call it Red Bull.” In news that may interest his other club, Bayern Munich, Beckenbauer chimed in: “Whether you play in purple, blue or green is irrelevant; the only thing that matters is the team being successful.” New manager Kurt Jara said that any fans who wanted to play in violet should form their own club.

In June, Salzburg fans wearing violet and white were refused entry to a pre-season friendly against Hajduk Split with the words: “The club doesn’t want this.” Although Red Bull blamed local stewards for the incident, they were subsequently identified as being from Salzburg’s own stadium.

In an attempt to create a dialogue with Mateschitz, the pro-violet campaign group Initiative Violett-Weiß urged fans to refrain from anti-Red Bull protests or pitch invasions – as happened at another pre-season match in Mondsee – that could allow the club to portray them as hooligans. Critical fans instead pursued a policy of silent non-support during the first home match of the season against SV Mattersburg on July 20. Not that they had much choice; having already halved the standing capacity of the south stand in which the Salzburg ultras congregated, Red Bull prohibited home fans from taking drums, flags and banners into their Euro 2008 stadium in Wals-Siezenheim.

If the tacky Red Bull graffiti made the ground resemble a skateboard park, the matchday experience itself was like watching a beach volleyball game hosted by Manuel from Fawlty Towers. After a laser show and David Coulthard’s celebrity kick-off, the game was accompanied by verbal and musical exhortations from the stadium announcers. Inspired by the Pamplona bull run, Red Bull “fan animators” dressed in white with red scarves and waist-sashes cajoled the crowd into waving their white bullfighting handkerchiefs – seemingly oblivious to the fact that this gesture indicates disdain in Spanish football.

In the goalless first period, the pro-violet support boycott was so effective that the stadium announcers had to remind their customers that this was meant to be a home match. Yet four unanswered second-half goals for Red Bull were greeted ecstatically by the majority of a capacity crowd of 18,500, many of whom wore the red and white shirts issued free to season-ticket holders. The Initiative Violett-Weiß received much more solidarity from the travelling Mattersburg crew, whose “Stop Mad Cow Disease!” banner was removed by Red Bull stewards.

Mateschitz would, however, be well-advised to consider which sector of his new toy’s fanbase is more likely to travel to away games or to stand by the team once the initial euphoria has subsided. He might also remember that the millions invested in rivals Austria Vienna by the Austro-Canadian industrialist Frank Stronach have not been matched by sporting success, with Stronach’s constant interventions in the club’s affairs causing internal turmoil.

At the Mattersburg match, however, Red Bull’s only compromise to the south stand traditonalists was to issue them with violet-lensed cardboard spectacles.”

The line “many of whom wore the red and white shirts issued free to season-ticket holders” features a marketing ploy the owners of Cardiff  will be familiar with. Another line that will sound familiar to British ears is; “Whether you play in purple, blue or green is irrelevant; the only thing that matters is the team being successful.”

Wikipedia’s banality can render anything “normal”;

“The Red Bull Juniors are playing in the Regionalliga West, which is one of the three 3rd level leagues in Austria. In December 2011 the club signed a cooperation with FC Pasching (Regionalliga Mitte) and USK Anif (Regionalliga West) The coach of the Juniors, Gerald Baumgartner, left Salzburg and became new coach of FC Pasching. Also players went to Pasching and Anif. After the 2011/12 season the new coach Peter Hyballa left the club and became new head coach of SK Sturm Graz.

From the 2012/13 season the Juniors play as FC Liefering in the Regionalliga West. They are the farm team of FC Red Bull Salzburg. Because they play under the licence of USK Anif, they are eligible for to promotion to the First League.”

Those banal words not only normalize red bull’s circumvention of the rules they also make the circumvention appear worse by making it look matter of fact. Thankfully TBG and the other people that understand football see right through corporate behaviour;

Red bull seem intent on taking over football; they have opened football franchises on 4 continents. Like everyone involved in corporate football they have to showcase their vision. Firstly, a video about how “the lucky, chosen ones” can go to their academy in Brazil

Secondly, an introduction to Leipzig

Red bull think that they’re a cool, rad and hip company; just look at the officially approved corporate graffiti in Salzburg’s ground!!!!


But the truly sad thing about self-described “hip companies” –  red bull, nike, apple et al – is that they mistake the single-minded pursuit of profit for hipness.

Judging by the photos I found on Salzburg Austria’s twitter feed they lost Wednesday’s match with the latest bastard child of red bull. This result means that we’ve all lost.



2 responses

6 01 2014
So why exactly are you against That Modern Football? Part 22 | XXXXXXXXX Jet Set

[…] Read this to find out why. […]

3 05 2013
Paul Wood

do you know what this blog is a bloody good read. keep it coming the jet set

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