Bundesliga: German fans collapse billion-euro deal. GETTY IMAGES

Protests by fans at German stadiums put the brakes on the billion-euro deal the Bundesliga had on the table. Matches were repeatedly disrupted. The 50+1 rule was the key to their defeat.

The German Football League (DFL) on Wednesday rejected a billion-euro deal with investors as a direct result of fan opposition. "The deal is dead," Hans-Joachim Watzke, spokesman for the DFL's executive committee, said in a statement on behalf of the DFL board. 

"Given the current developments, a successful continuation of the process no longer seems possible," Watzke added. The protests have been carried out by supporters of different teams in Germany, without distinction of league or division. 

They have disrupted matches in protest at an agreement between football clubs and a group of investors. Chocolate coins, tennis balls, bicycle locks on goalposts, remote-controlled cars with smoke... anything to disrupt the games.

In December, German clubs voted by an overwhelming two-thirds majority in favour of a plan to "secure long-term and sustainable success". 

Under the terms of the agreement, the league would receive an immediate investment - reportedly close to €1 billion - in exchange for eight per cent of future TV rights. The investment is intended to boost efforts to market and promote the Bundesliga on a global scale. 

Powerful fan clubs in Germany argue that the investment process was not transparent and ignored the wishes of supporters. German football is characterised by a strong emphasis on fan participation and control, epitomised by the "50+1" rule. This rule limits the influence that external investors can have on a club, ensuring that the interests of the fans remain at the heart of decision-making.

Goalkeeper Philipp Schulze of Halle kicks tennis balls. GETTY IMAGES
Goalkeeper Philipp Schulze of Halle kicks tennis balls. GETTY IMAGES

"Groups of fans are causing major clashes that are increasingly jeopardising the course of the game... and thus the integrity of the competition," said Watzke, who is also the CEO of Borussia Dortmund. 

Given the circumstances, he noted that the successful conclusion of the deal "cannot be guaranteed." He also mentioned that the decision to end the deal with the investors was taken by consensus.