East German football gets the kick it needs

Tiny club chosen by drinks giant Red Bull to take on dominance of the west

The drab, once communist eastern town is a nonentity in the German football world, its team seemingly welded to the country's fifth division. However Markranstädt is preparing for a radical upturn in its fortunes thanks to the soft drinks giant Red Bull and a huge cash injection.

The Austrian firm has announced plans to bankroll the club with an estimated €100m (£86m) investment over the next decade. Its aim is to catapult the side into Germany's premier league, the Bundesliga, by 2017 and lift east German football out of the doldrums where it has been stuck for almost two decades. Last season the only east German club in the Bundesliga, Energie Cottbus, was relegated; the rest are rich west German clubs.

"It is great news," SSV Markran-städt's business manager Micheal Unvericht, said yesterday. "Since the reunification, the east has been a complete desert as far as soccer is concerned. This is a chance to change all that." Under the deal, the club will form the nucleus of a new side RB Leipzig – echoing the initials of the drinks concern. Players will wear the same red and white Red Bull jerseys worn by the company's other clubs, the American New York Red Bulls and Austrian team, FC Red Bull Salzburg.

Not all of the local fans are happy about the plan. News of the takeover led to Red Bull's adverts being torn and smeared with graffiti at Markranstädt's small stadium last week. The pitch was also damaged with weed killer. The club said the attack on the premises appeared to have been a one-off, and a recent survey by a local newspaper found 70 per cent of the local population welcomed the company's involvement.

Red Bull has made no effort to hide the fact that the deal is an attempt to emulate the small west German town of Hoffenheim near Frankfurt. Its club, 1899 Hoffenheim, has shot into the German first division after receiving huge amounts of cash to spend on new players from multimillionaire businessman Dietmar Hopp.

Red Bull spent three years searching for a club that could be used to breathe new sporting life into the eastern half of the country. Markranstädt was chosen because of its proximity to the traditional football stronghold of Leipzig and because of the city's elaborate "World Cup stadium" that was redeveloped for the 2006 tournament which Germany hosted.

Most observers say the club has been made an offer it couldn't refuse. Matthias Gärtner, a spokesman for Germany's Fan Alliance, described the town as, "football loving but at rock bottom". He added: "The devil himself could show up and if he happened to have a few million in his pocket, he'd be welcomed with open arms."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions