Mark Fallon is a student of DCU and and has previosuly studied at ESB Reutlingen, Germany.
Last October, I spoke about the Red Bull Sports Marketing model and mentioned the rise of RB Leipzig - a team bought by the Austrian energy drinks company in 2009 when they were languishing in the 5th tier of German football. Red Bull investors aspired that the Saxony based club to be in the Bundesliga within 8 years. On the 8th May 2016, they were officially promoted to the Bundesliga - a year ahead of target. A day earlier, there were scarcely believable scenes in the King Power stadium in Leicester as Captain Wes Morgan was presented with the Premier League trophy for 2016 - a fact that is made all the more startlingly when the transfer bill and salaries of the Leicester’s is compared with that of their premier league counterparts. Again, upon promotion to the Premier League in 2014 - their Thai chairman aspired for the club to be a top 5 team within three years - less than two years later - they are the number 1 team in England.
Leicester went toe-to-toe with European superpowers and money rich clubs and blew them away with a work ethic, team ethic and tactical simplicity that excited the traditionalists and saw Leicester become every football fan’s - ‘second team’. RB Leipzig have grabbed the attention of the traditionalists also - but for the wrong reasons and there have often been the subject of boycotts and strikes as German football fans seek a club run by the fans (50+1 - the fans have voting rights in the running of the club). Such is the reluctance of the German Football Federation to allow for involvement of corporate parties in football - Red Bull had to tone down their logo in their stadium and also the RB - stands for Rasen Ball not Red Bull. Both Leicester and Leipzig are challenging the superpowers of the Manchester clubs and Chelsea and Bayern Munich or Dortmund in their respective countries.
The economic and social background to both clubs allow for this - yes, they have been heavily invested in by billionaire investors and have invested heavily in infrastructures and players - like the Manchester City’s and Bayern Munich’s of this world. What they have not done however is wasted money and spent extortionate amounts of money on players who ultimately, so far at least, have delivered performances that match their value.
In comparing value of player, we will take a look at Leicester v Manchester City, two teams who attracted investors from Asia and while the Manchester, are comparably bigger - they could learn a thing from their English rivals - let’s compare Raheem Sterling v Riyad Mahrez or NGolo Kante v Yaya Toure.
RB Leipzig, fit a German stereotype of investing in facilities and long-term benefits - they built an academy worth and have plans to expand on their current stadium. They are the only big football team in their region and that should attract more supporters and sponsors also. The question that can be asked is what is stopping RB Leipzig becoming like an Anzhi or a Malaga - two teams who invested heavily recently in return for success in football and both teams fell by the wayside rapidly when investors got fed-up with no short-term success per money invested. The reason why many believe this fate won’t be suffered by the Leipzig outfit is simple - the Red Bull Sport’s Marketing Model doesn’t allow for this and also the profile of their players v Malaga and Anzhi.
While both teams have a long way to go before proving themselves to be giants in domestic and European football - both provide us with two valuable economic lessons - the importance of seeking value for money and to plan long-term.