RB Leipzig have been promoted to the Bundesliga. A second place behind SC Freiburg saw the team reach their goal of football at the top tier of the German pyramid. Yet they are booed and demonstrated against almost everywhere they go. “Nobody likes you, go away” sings the opposition fans. Why all this fuss around this, seemingly, quite alright club from Germany’s fourteenth largest city?
We take the trip back in time to 2009. SSV Markranstädt has just finished the season in a nice fifth place in the Oberliga Süd, the fifth level of German football. A few weeks later their license to play in the division is sold to energy drink company Red Bull for a sum presumed to be around €350,000. Markranstädt were placed down a division and RB Leipzig were formed.
Despite Red Bull’s big involvement in the club the RB in the club’s name doesn’t stand for Red Bull, but RasenBall Sport, which literally translates to LawnBall Sport. The team is branded as RB Leipzig so the name can be associated with Red Bull without breaking the German FA’s (DFB) laws. Creative, right?
A move to Zentralstadion in Leipzig which had been in little use since the World Cup in 2006 and changing its name to Red Bull Arena happened the year after the formation, in 2010. They also won promotion to the Regionalliga Nord that season.
Here they stayed for a while despite high finishes. The Regionalliga was eventually conquered in 2013 and in the 3. Liga they managed a second place followed by promotion yet again the following year.
That takes us to the 2. Bundesliga and here RB Leipzig have recided until last season. This season they will ply their trade versus the likes of Bayern München, Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04.
That was the history lecture, now it’s time to look a little closer at why no one likes RB Leipzig.
First of all and last but not least the hate (for that is really the only word one can use to describe what almost all of football-Germany feels) towards RB Leipzig is centered on Red Bull and the way Leipzig climbed the divisions. Through loads of money from the energy drink manufacturer.
Tradition is very important in German football, as in most other countries, and there has been quite a bit of fuss around Bayer Leverkusen, Wolfsburg and Hoffenheim, who all have big owners behind them, throughout the years. But no one seems as cynical about the fact that it’s more of a commercial “stunt”, if you will, rather than a football club. They have multiple football clubs spread across the continents, the two biggest ones, Red Bull Salzburg and New York Red Bulls are highly successful in their respective countries and they’re both Red Bull through and through. From the sponsor on their shirt, to the logo and the club and stadium name. The only reason Leipzig is any different is because of the laws of the DFB. It is the only reason Red Bull Leipzig is not the name of the club on the way to the top.
Another reason people don’t like RBL is their quite obvious and slightly unconventional dealing with Red Bull Salzburg. Players go from one of the clubs to the other like it is a gigantic revolving door. Since the 2011-12 season there has been 19 transfers between RB Leipzig, Red Bull Salzburg and Salzburg’s farmer side, FC Liefering according to Transfermarkt. Not one penny had been spent until this summer were Naby Keïta and Benno Schmitz arrived from Salzburg for €15 million and €800,000 respectively. There had not been spent a single Euro on transfers between the clubs, all deals were either loans or free transfers.
RB Leipzig is a club built and formed exclusively for commercial and sporting success. But is that really so bad?
They want upwards and onwards. They want to play in the Champions League and they want to challenge Bayern München and the others at the top of German Football. And it has to be fine to dream and at the same time have means to actually do something about it? If more clubs can challenge dominant Bayern at the top then that should only be a good thing with regards to the entertainment value and the Bundesliga as a product. If they actually manage to stabilize themselves and how long time it will take before they’re regularly in the mix for the title is another matter entirely. I don’t think it will take a long time at all.
I think we will see RB Leipzig in the Champions League within five years, maybe even three and that is totally fine on my part.
They’ll still be hated, they’ll still be booed on, but in time they will also be accepted. As Bayer Leverkusen, Wolfsburg and Hoffenheim before them. You still have people badmouthing them but one has accepted that they have come to stay. One must, and will, also do that with RB Leipzig, because they are also here to stay. Other teams have thrown money around on anyone who can touch a ball with their feet. Chelsea, Manchester City, PSG, Real Madrid, the list goes on, but we’ll stop there.
My point is that all these club are accepted and even some of the best teams in the world. Maybe RB Leipzig will be mentioned in the same sentence in 10 to 20 years.
Leipzig prepares for an assault on the German top flight and Germany is preparing for RB Leipzig. They are here to stay.