The Europa League group stage draw took place on Friday afternoon, and when having a gander at who will face whom, one group immediately catches the eye: Group B. Why? Because it consists of two of Europe’s most hated clubs: RB Leipzig and Red Bull Salzburg, who have a well-known connection due to their affiliation with Red Bull. The question now being asked is “how are the two able to compete in European competitions together, let alone face one another, despite UEFA’s regulations?” In this small piece, it will be explained.
When RB Leipzig finished second in their maiden Bundesliga campaign, automatically qualifying for Champions League group stage, questions regarding their relationship with Red Bull Salzburg, who were crowned Ö. Bundesliga champions that season, were raised as according to UEFA Article 5.01 (integrity of the competition), “No participating club can (in)directly hold or deal in the securities or shares of any other club in the competition – no one can simultaneously be involved (in)directly with two clubs”.
With this in mind, on May 15, 2017, the UEFA general secretary referred the club’s case to the CFCB (Club Financial Control Body) due to his suspicion that the criteria of article 5 were not being met by the clubs. Nine days later, following a discussion between the CFCB investigatory chambers, the consensus was that the two would be prohibited from competing in the Champions League at the same time. With Red Bull Salzburg finishing one place above RB Leipzig in their respective leagues, they would be allowed into the competition.
The CFCB chief investigator stated that both Red Bull Salzburg and RB Leipzig “garner an unusually high level of income from Red Bull via sponsorship agreements” and that Salzburg rents its stadium and offices from a subsidiary of Red Bull. For Leipzig, it was mentioned that in addition to the finances received from sponsorship, the club had been given a considerable loan by Red Bull and that the energy drink manufacturer had too much influence in the club. In addition, the chief investigator highlighted the cooperation agreements, high amount of transfers between the clubs and the involvement of certain individual’s in both clubs.
In response to the decision, the clubs were given the opportunity to submit their written observations of the matter by no later than June 9, 2017, which the clubs complied with. After the submission, both clubs submitted additional documentation to the CFCB and requested that they are included in the case file. Such request was granted to comply with Article 20(2).
Having examined the evidence, it was determined that Red Bull does not have decisive influence over the relevant decision making of Red Bull Salzburg and the CFCB adjudicatory chamber believed that there is no need to consider RB Leipzig’s relationship with Red Bull.
To be able to have both teams compete in the 2017/18 edition of the competition, multiples changes were made:
- Cooperation agreements had been terminated.
- Salzburg removed the individuals who were reportedly involved with Red Bull and RB Leipzig – while the club’s chairman resigned from his post.
- Some loan agreements between Salzburg and Leipzig were made obsolete.
- The agreements between Salzburg and Red Bull were alternated – reducing the rights given to the latter.
- Red Bull’s membership in the general assembly had been terminated.