Borussia Dortmund opens New York office to boost presence in United States

Fri, Mar 1, 2024
Soccer News (AP)

Borussia Dortmund opens New York office to boost presence in United States

BERLIN (AP) - Undaunted by German soccer's rejection of an investor deal to bring in more money, Borussia Dortmund is looking to the United States to boost its revenues.

The Bundesliga club is increasing its presence in the U.S. by opening a branch office in New York, its first on the continent and third outside Germany after Shanghai and Singapore.

"It is important to have a long-term presence in these markets, with our own employees in place to communicate directly with locals," Dortmund managing director Carsten Cramer said. "Attending to the entire American market from Dortmund would not do justice to this important topic in the long term."

Dortmund's expansion in the U.S. was planned long before the German soccer league (DFL) abandoned a proposal to bring in an outside investor for a share of media rights income.

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Private equity investor CVC Capital Partners was the only remaining prospective buyer for a 20-year slice of broadcast and sponsorship revenue in return for an up-front payment, but the plan led to extensive protests from fans during games and the DFL finally abandoned the idea at a meeting on Feb. 21.

Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke, who is also chairman of the DFL's supervisory board, said in an online call with journalists this week that German soccer fans are not against expansion and new sources of revenue, but they do have a strong distrust of outside investors.

"Germans are very traditional, perhaps a little old-fashioned, and 'investor' is not the best word in Germany," said Watzke, who defended the proposed deal's terms. "It was no problem. We were clear in our contract with this investor, we had clear red lines, that nothing would happen that affected the fans. The problem was, the fans did not believe us."

Last weekend, even after the DFL announced the end of its proposed deal, Dortmund supporters again protested in favor of the league's 50-plus-1 rule designed to protect clubs against investors taking over a majority share.

Watzke said the 50-plus-1 rule, which ensures club members retain control of more than 50 percent of voting rights, is "very important" for all the clubs and that there were no plans to change it.

But he also suggested that the fans who were protesting are the vocal organized fans, and that a majority of supporters do not care one way or another.

Watzke said he was sure that a "clear majority" of clubs had been in favor of the deal "but my feeling changed because more and more clubs, under pressure of the organized fan scene - it's completely different to in Italy or Spain or England, where organized fans have no power - but in Germany, because of 50-plus-1, they are members of the clubs and they have more power. And I recognized that the majority was no longer there. And that's why I told my board, we must solve it."

Dortmund has already made four trips to the U.S. for friendly games and marketing events. The club has also run an international soccer academy headquartered in Texas since 2006.

American players like Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna have helped boost the club's brand. Pulisic now plays for AC Milan, while Reyna is on loan from Dortmund at Nottingham Forest.

"You can be sure he will come back in summer," Watzke said of Reyna.

Watzke sees further room for expansion in the U.S., including the establishment of a summer tournament for four Bundesliga teams.

"But for that we must get some money from the investors to make this tournament," he said. "Actually, it's a little bit of a problem because now we have no investor. But we will try to find other ways. For us it's very important that the Bundesliga must go more to the Americas, and not only Bayern (Munich) and Borussia Dortmund, but more teams, 100%, it's the way."

Closer to home, Dortmund needs to finish fourth in the Bundesliga to be sure of lucrative Champions League qualification for next season.

Edin Terzic's team has won only one of its last five games across all competitions and it next faces Union Berlin away on Saturday.

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CIARAN FAHEY Fahey is a Berlin-based reporter for The Associated Press, covering sports in Germany and beyond. twitter instagram mailto "
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