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Did you know that the RB of Leipzig’s name doesn’t stand for Red Bull?

RB Leipzig, Real Madrid‘s next opponent, are a unique case in football. In 2009, Red Bull bought the licence of SSV Markranstadt from the German fifth division and re-founded it with the goal of bringing it into the Bundesliga.

In seven seasons they moved up four divisions, fulfilling their first goal… but they had a problem. The name of the energy drink could not appear directly anywhere.

The 50+1 rule of the German football association prevents a company or an individual from being the sole owner of a team, as the majority of shareholders must be voting members.

Leipzig therefore had to adapt when they were promoted to the 2. Bundesliga, forced to meet the requirements of the federation in order to be granted a licence to compete.

Its name was changed from Red Bull Leipzig to RasenBallsport (grass ball sport) in order to keep the brand initials. In addition, it was legally constituted as a membership club, although all persons entitled to vote are directly and indirectly linked to Red Bull.

Only clubs with a historical link to a company (Bayer Leverkusen, with the medical company, or Wolfsburg, with Volkswagen) could remain so after the 50+1 rule came into force in 1998.

Leipzig did, in practice, comply, although fans and teams in Germany protested against them as a “commercial and marketing” outfit that brought about the “commercialisation of sport”, leading to them being termed the “most hated club” in Germany.

Indeed, a group of Union Berlin fans dressed in mourning the first time they faced them in the German second tier.

RB Leipzig’s meteoric rise

Despite the criticism, RB Leipzig have grown into a top team in the Bundesliga.

Since their promotion in 2016 they have never finished lower than sixth (2018), occupying the top four positions in all other seasons (they were runners-up in 2017 and 2021).

They have played in the Champions League five times, reaching the semi-finals in 2020.

Last season, after two lost finals (2019 and 2021), they won the German Cup, the first title in their history.

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