Red Bull: Assessing the Impact of the Multi-Club Model

Red Bull are one of the most popular multi-club franchises in European and world soccer, encompassing clubs such as RB Leipzig and Red Bull Salzburg.

Their achievements have been impressive, but critics argue that the corporate approach undermines football tradition and prioritizes profit over fan culture.

Nevertheless, Red Bull has a track record of establishing stable and successful clubs across the globe. Read on as we take a closer look at whether their model has been successful.

2018 MLS - NYRB vs. D.C. United at Red Bull Arena.
(Credit AFOX88 via Section 104, Row 17, Seat 5 - 2018 MLS - NYRB vs. D.C. United at Red Bull Arena.

Taking Over Soccer

Red Bull began their soccer journey in 2005 with the acquisition of Austria Salzburg before rebranding as FC Red Bull Salzburg.

The Austrian club have claimed a whopping 23 major trophies since then, including 14 league titles.

Salzburg won the Austrian league title ten times in a row between 2013 and 2022. They also won the Austrian Cup four times in a row on two occasions between 2013 and 2022.

Co-creators Dietrich Mateschitz and Chaleo Yoovidhya extended their reach by acquiring clubs such as the New York Red Bulls in the United States and Red Bull Bragantino in Brazil.

These acquisitions created a global network united by shared ownership and a distinct set of business principles. The Red Bulls have enjoyed success in the US, winning the supporter’s shield three times.

Australian midfielder Tim Cahill played a crucial role in their title-winning campaign of 2012/13, notching 12 goals and five assists.

Cahill’s presence on the team contributed to the Red Bulls becoming a popular choice on most Aussie betting sites. Even after his exit in 2015, the Red Bulls retained a sizeable fanbase in Australia.

While they have been underwhelming in recent seasons, many Aussie punters still use this list of online betting sites in Australia to place wagers on Cahill’s former team.

Red Bull also looked for routes into German soccer and decided to invest in Leipzig, which subsequently became the focal point of their global network.

Leipzig kicked off their journey in the fifth division, and they made their way into the German top flight in 2016 thanks to Red Bull’s massive investment.

However, critics questioned their application of the 50+1 rule, which dictates that a top-flight club must be majority-owned by fan members.

Leipzig responded by registering a handful of fan members, of which most were members of the Red Bull management team. Nevertheless, Red Bull had their crown jewel up and running and haven’t looked back since.

How it Started for Red Bull in Germany

When Red Bull chief Mateschitz first floated the idea of bankrolling a German club in 2006, it was met with a resounding ‘no’.

Initial plans to invest in FC Sachsen Leipzig were shot down by the German Football Association (DFB). Fan protests erupted as Red Bull explored takeover possibilities at various clubs, forcing them to return back to the idea of owning a Leipzig-based club.

Leipzig’s football history is complicated, to say the least. Numerous clubs have risen and fallen since the DFB’s founding in the city in 1900.

FC Lokomotive Leipzig enjoyed pre-unification success, even reaching the 1987 European Cup Winners’ Cup final. But their relegation from the Bundesliga in 1994 (as VfB Leipzig) left the city without a top-flight representative.

Red Bull stepped in and purchased the playing license for fifth-tier SSV Markranstadt in 2009, which also sparked immediate outrage in Germany.

However, it was not uncharted territory for the company, given they faced similar fan backlash after their 2005 acquisition and rebranding of SV Austria Salzburg.

They took a different approach in Germany, opting to build a team from scratch by starting in the bottom tier as Leipzig.

By the time the club secured promotion to the Bundesliga in 2016, Leipzig’s top-flight drought had stretched to over two decades.

Leipzig Lead the Way for Red Bull but Questions Remain Over the Multi-Club Model

Four promotions saw Leipzig reach the Bundesliga within eight years of their formation. However, it was far from a smooth ride.

Mateschitz’s haphazard managerial roller coaster made it more difficult for Leipzig to emerge from the fourth tier. That was until the arrival of Ralf Rangnick, who was appointed sporting director of both Leipzig and Salzburg.

Successive promotions followed With the German mastermind pulling the strings, although he had to step into the dugout himself in 2015 to guide the club into the Bundesliga.

Leipzig finished as runners-up in their debut Bundesliga season under Ralph Hasenhuttl’s leadership and have since established themselves as one of the top clubs in Germany.

Salzburg has also enjoyed plenty of success, and the development pathway between the European sister clubs has been impressive.

However, you would be hard-pressed to argue that the Red Bulls’ US and Brazilian projects have quite hit the same heights.

Both clubs appear to be after-thoughts in the Red Bull network, effectively leaving the network looking rather top-heavy in the way it operates.

Join the newsletter

Learn more about the Sports History Network

    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at any time.

    Leave a Comment