How far will the Red Bull Revolution go?

By Chris Freestone

Germany, or at least part of Germany, has stopped to watch. The Bull throws his athletic, muscular frame between the enemy and the ball, touches the ball out of reach, and with explosive power and elegance that belies such a powerful beast, he ghosts past two more and stabs the ball goalwards. He may have been isolated, but luck is on the Bull’s side as an opposition defender inadvertently nods the airborne ball inside the near post and past the hapless goalkeeper, undoing ninety-five minutes of hard work. The lone Bull wheels away in victory, joining the awaiting herd of Bulls as they charge towards the sudden explosion of raucous applause emanating from the sea of white and red. The roar of the eleven on the field can be heard above the wall of noise coming from the stands as if in tribute to the scarlet Bulls adoring their shirts. Glory will be returning to Leipzig this fine day.

RB Leipzig would go on to add another, from the penalty spot in the second half of extra time, ensuring the overall victory and promotion to the third tier of German Football for the latest addition to Red Bull’s football project. RB Leipzig, along with FC Red Bull Salzburg, New York Red Bulls, Red Bull Brasil and Red Bull Ghana make up Red Bull’s portfolio of football teams, giving Red Bull a foothold in some of the biggest football markets across the world. Red Bull, the energy drink manufacturer founded in 1987, have a massive presence in the sports industry, having founded popular sporting events such as Flugtag and Red Bull X-Fighters (and many, many more extreme sporting events all over the world), in addition to owning numerous sports teams including EC Red Bull Salzburg (an Austrian Ice Hockey team) and the very successful Formula 1 team Red Bull Racing (and its sister team Toro Rosso). Having ‘conquered’ the extreme sports world, football seemed to be the logical next step; the immense following and truly global reach of the beautiful game provided the moguls at Red Bull with the perfect backdrop to take their business empire to the next level.

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Defending the idea of the Foreign Owner

By Darshan Joshi

The plain truth is that we made this possible. It is no revelation that money and status are the drivers of ambition, or that money goes where money grows. The brutal truth is that we are powerless to stop this. Accepting change can be painful, as us fans yearn for the ‘better’ days of yesteryear where we didn’t hear at regular intervals of interest repayments and stock exchange floatation on the back pages of our newspapers.

However, there in lies the issue that lacerates deep at the philosophical core of football – the sport holds different meanings to fans, to players, to investors and to politicians. This disconnect of perceptions cannot be understated because power, of fame or influence, and money go hand in hand. Football clubs are no longer run as democracies.

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How to be cool

By Max Grieve

Here at AFR, we think we know what it takes to be cool – and you want in, don’t you? You want the rush of the relative joy of being cool, and know how it feels to have all kinds of goodness coursing through your veins. We won’t keep you from learning how to be cool like us – it isn’t fair, and it’s not cool, either. 

Real Oviedo are in trouble, and that’s certainly not cool. Twelve years after being relegated from La Liga, the club now find themselves in Spain’s third division, and dangerously close to collapse. The current economic climate has only served to amplify Oviedo’s financial difficulties – not cool – and the situation has seemingly reached its climax. Fail to act now, and Real Oviedo will simply disappear.

That’s where you come in. We’d argue that nothing’s cooler than helping, and part-owning a Spanish football club. For €11.50, you can buy one share in Real Oviedo. It’s not much, and you won’t make any money from it, but you’ll have helped to save a football club that serves a community and a region, and has a fascinating place in Spanish football history. And we think that’s pretty cool.

If you’d like to purchase shares in Real Oviedo, head on over to ‘DNI’ means identity card number. You can enter your passport number or leave it blank. ‘Nombre y apellido’ means name and surname – this you must enter. Keep your receipt. That is your proof of share purchase. If paying via PayPal, you can switch the language by selecting your current country from the options at the top of the page.

We’ll update this page with any further information as it is released.

Soothing Europe’s debt woes: oil millions and inflated wages

By Darshan Joshi

Football is ofttimes accused of self-serving megalomania. These accusations aren’t necessarily baseless – while FIFA and it’s regional tributaries do give back, they do so somewhat disproportionately to their behemoth fiscal inflows (see here). It can be argued though, that once in a while, football contributes to economic improvement in a side effect capacity. World Cups and European Championships tend to, like the Olympics, engage workforces in bruising multi-year structural endeavours; upheavals of transportation systems and the erections of stadiums spring to mind, followed by bouts of anticipatory and in-tournament tourism.

Hotels pay taxes, as do the sole proprietors and brewers whose quarterly earnings are handsomely bloated by FIFA and/or UEFA action. Of course, these are merely the side effects of football’s competitive brainchildren. If domestic fiscal policy is aided by the right to host these events, football’s pockets are aided and then given a soothing massage by the gold-plated hands of a platitude of hulking multinationals.

On a microcosmic footballing level, we have clubs and players, also ofttimes accused of self-serving megalomania (at least there is a consistency in this sport). Many of these are privately owned, usually by a variety of tycoon (oil tycoons, sport tycoons, cyberspace tycoons, Wall Street tycoons, even chicken-farm tycoons – let’s call them the 1%). Once more, the reasons behind the neoteric ‘let’s-buy-a-football-club’ revolution are of the rapacious sort. There is money in football, and lots of it.

There is no money in Europe, though. Economies are shadowed by the doom of grotesque debt-to-GDP ratios, high unemployment, rising taxes and rousing interest rates. The future is murky.

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Acropolis Now

By Max Grieve

Angela Merkel frowned, probably. Here was Giorgos Karagounis, a Greek man with a Greek name, taking the plaudits for something that they had both done; though not together. The Germans have kept the Greek economy alive - just - but it was Karagounis who bailed out the Greeks against Russia on Saturday.

Whoever Germany’s quarter-final opponent was going to be, there would always be darker clouds hanging over the match. Many had thought that Germany would face Poland, which would have had commentators the world over reaching for their 20th century history tomes, flicking through the pages that covered the Second World War. Alternatively, a meeting with the Russians might have awaited the Germans on the 22nd of June, on the anniversary of Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany. Such has been Germany’s role in the shaping of modern Europe, it would come as little surprise for them to face any side at these European Championships and have it deemed as a grudge match of sorts. 

What few expected was that the animosity that they shared with their quarter-final opponent would be derived from something far more recent than a rivalry from the World Wars. Rather, we are presented with a match with an immediate political, and indeed economic, history. The meeting between Greece and Germany will, in all likelihood, mean little else to the Germans than another inconvenience to their divine demolition of the European international football scene. They are amongst the favourites, if indeed they don’t stand alone at the top of such an esteemed pile. Greece, meanwhile, reside at the other end of the spectrum – yet here we are.

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Will Argentina’s inflation bubble burst around Copa América?

By Eric Beard, writing from Boston

Though Brazil will develop into the decade’s epicenter of South American sport thanks to the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Rio de Janeiro summer olympics, this summer the spotlight will be on Argentina at Copa América 2011, the continent’s prestigious quadrennial international tournament. Los Albicelestes did not live up to their expectations in South Africa 2010, however, this time around Argentina are on home turf and do not want to disappoint. Lionel Messi said, “2010 was a good year for me personally, but the World Cup didn’t go the way I wanted… Now I have the aim for Argentina to win the Copa America next year, as we’ll contest it at home.”

But beyond the battles on the pitch there is another fight going on in Argentina. CONMEBOL and the Argentine planners of Copa América have to accommodate for the tournament amidst the nation’s double-digit rate of inflation. 10 percent inflation would be disastrous in the economy of your average developed nation, yet the Argentine economy currently has an estimated inflation rate of 26 percent and it is predicted to rise to 30 percent over this next year.

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Is Roberto Mancini Manchester City’s Boy Who Lived?

By Eric Beard, writing from Boston

We’re all guilty. No matter how noble we may try to seem in 140 character splices, we’ve all done it. Whether it is in FIFA 11 or Football Manager, we’ve all disregarded allegiances to our lifelong clubs and have succumbed to the lure of taking the reins at what is now the richest club in world football. However, most of us have also never actually turned City into a sustainable success. Maybe it was the £100m transfer fee for Messi or the £300k-a-week wages for Didier, but in reality managing a club with an indefinite amount of money is never quite as easy as it seems in theory.

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Cyclical nature of football on show at Liverpool

By Darshan Joshi, writing from Sydney

When considering the favourites for the Premier League title, season after season, it is habitual to stick Liverpool in with the others. After all, they are the joint most successful club in English football history (along with their darling rivals Manchester United), with a majestic haul of 58 major trophies amassed in their history. However, their position amongst the elite of European football is in severe danger of being revoked. Largely trophyless in the last few years, and without a domestic league title to their name in just over two decades, Liverpool are victims of their own inability to avoid falling foul to the recessionary periods of a footballing cycle.

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