Is Red Bull's Football Revolution Coming to England?
With Red Bull reportedly looking to add an English football club to their impressive portfolio of sports teams, Sports Gazette looks at their controversial journey so far in the beautiful game.
Energy drink giant Red Bull’s successful foray into the world of football has stepped up a level with the unprecedented success of their newest acquisition, RB Leipzig.
After 10 games of the Bundesliga season, newly-promoted Leipzig are unbeaten and sit pretty in second place, level on points with leaders Bayern Munich.
However, their impressive start to life in the Bundesliga has courted much controversy in Germany, with many people unhappy at the commercial nature of the club’s success.
If rumours are to be believed, the Austrian company’s attention is now turning to England, with the conglomerate looking to add an English team to their growing football portfolio.
Here’s a look at Red Bull’s often-controversial football revolution so far, and the possible destinations for their rumoured English expansion.
Red Bull Salzburg
Red Bull’s involvement in football began close to home for the company, completing a takeover of SV Austria Salzburg in 2005.
The drinks giant didn’t waste any time in carrying out a complete overhaul of the club by rebranding as Red Bull Salzburg and bringing in a whole new management and staff.
The club’s traditional kits of violet and white were scrapped, replaced by the red and white now so widely associated with Red Bull sides.
However, the most extreme measure taken by the new owners was to declare ‘this is a new club with no history’. The club’s website was also changed to state that they were formed that year, but the Austrian FA ordered this to be removed.
Red Bull’s brutally swift and comprehensive takeover led to major uproar amongst large groups of the club’s fans.
This gave rise to a group of fans known as the ‘violets’, who looked to maintain the club’s traditions in the face of Red Bull’s overhaul.
Protests led to negotiations between the new owners and the ‘violets’, but no compromise could be reached and the talks broke down.
Since then the ‘violets’ have walked out on the club and reformed SV Austria Salzburg, who now play in the third division of Austrian football.
Since the Red Bull takeover, the club have become a dominant force in Austrian football. They have won the Austrian Bundesliga seven times and the Austrian Cup four times, alongside regular appearances in the Europe League.
New York Red Bulls
A year after taking over Salzburg, Red Bull moved much further afield for their second venture into football as they acquired the New York MetroStars.
As seen in Salzburg, the club underwent a total rebranding as they became the New York Red Bulls.
While there was mixed reaction to the changes imposed, the clubs fans were used to corporate branding – the club’s old name derived from previous owners, MetroMedia.
Some fans did turn their backs on the club, but Red Bull had learned their lesson from the tumultuous Salzburg takeover and made sure that supporters groups were given a voice in the new era, a move that was welcomed by many.
There was also the small fact that Red Bull’s purchase of the club included an agreement to finance 50% of the new stadium, with the Red Bull Arena now considered to be one of the best football stadiums in the US.
Since becoming the Red Bulls, the club have won the Supporters’ Shield twice. This is awarded to the highest placed team in the MLS during the regular season. Their regular season success is however yet to translate into the playoffs, with their best result being runners-up in 2008.
The club have seen many high profile names come to play at the Red Bull Arena, including Thierry Henry, Youri Djorkaeff, Juninho, Juan Pablo Angel and Tim Cahill.
This season the club topped the Eastern Conference above local rivals New York City, but again they flopped during the playoffs, beaten in the first round by the Montreal Impact.
Red Bull’s latest addition to their portfolio of football teams has recently come to be their most successful one.
In 2009, after years of unsuccessfully attempting to enter the German football market, Red Bull bought fifth-division side SSV Markransdadt, rebranding them as RB Leipzig (they were unable to include the name ‘Red Bull’ due to German FA regulations).
Setting out with the aim of playing in the Bundesliga within eight years, Red Bull’s endless stream of funding helped the club achieve this target a year early.
Leipzig’s incredible start to their first ever Bundesliga season marks the first time in six years that a team has been level with Bayern at this point. It is the longest a promoted side has remained unbeaten at the start of a Bundesliga season.
Their rise from lower league obscurity to the top of German football has understandably turned heads, and while the club do have their admirers, much of this attention has been overwhelmingly negative.
In a country where members are required to hold a controlling stake in clubs, the influence of external investors such as Red Bull is derided, and RB Leipzig have quickly become ‘the most hated team in Germany.’
Opposing supporters have regularly boycotted their games, and fans of Dynamo Dresden hurled a severed bull’s head onto the pitch during a first-round DFB Cup match this season.
Whether Leipzig can keep up their form and challenge for the title is yet to be seen, but it looks like fans are going to have to get used to their presence at the top of German football.
Next stop: England?
Several media outlets are now reporting that Red Bull have turned their attention towards England as they look to bring their football revolution to our shores.
Leeds, Brentford, Charlton and Swindon have all been mentioned as possible destinations for Red Bull’s next project.
A Red Bull takeover, accompanied by their world-renowned marketing machine and bottomless pockets, would be welcomed at many clubs across the country.
However it is safe to say that the kind of rebranding that has been seen at all of their previous clubs would encounter major resistance from English fans.
While this would be a major blow to Red Bull’s marketing strength at their new club, the company would still be able to create a brand around a club in the most lucrative football economy in the world, surely too good an opportunity to pass up.
Any expansion of Red Bull’s football revolution to England would be subject to much scrutiny from fans and administrators alike, and with its somewhat checkered history it will no doubt be an interesting spectacle for everyone watching.