Is corporatism ruining sports these days?

Red Bull, possibly the most famous brand of energy drink, is a familiar name in the world of sports.

From Formula 1 to Football to Gliding and even esports such as Dota2 and CSGO, the brand’s reach is visible in every corner of the competitive world.

“So what?” you may ask. “After all, Red Bull is a large sponsor with the ability to bring new attention and resources to any sports scene they enter. What’s the big deal here?”

While this is absolutely true, Red Bull has done immense work for the structure and organisation of the teams they run and always aim to be competitive, the problem starts when their activities begin to affect the competitive integrity of the sport or start disrespecting its traditions.

The most blatant example is, of course, their Bundesliga side, RB Leipzig.

The team has been at the centre of controversy since their promotion to the top German league, due to the way they avoided adhering to the traditional ‘50+1’ rule.

The rule dictates that every club (except for a couple of historical exceptions) must be majority owned by its supporters.

RB Leipzig has exploited two loopholes within the regulations, which allows Red Bull executives to be the only ones to have voting rights in the club.

Red Bull ownership of multiple European Football Clubs could also spark a conflict of interest if competing on opposite sides in European competitions such as the Europa or Champions League.

Conflict of interest seems to be a common trend for Red Bull. Their Formula 1 line-up consists of two of the 10 teams present in the world championship, with Scuderia AlphaTauri (previously Toro Rosso) acting as a ‘junior’ team to Red Bull Racing.

The teams in F1 each get a vote in important matters, such as amending a rule, meaning Red Bull has control over one entire fifth of the votes, and thus will have significantly more influence than other teams.

Another issue to consider is the competitive integrity of the sport. For example, the Austrian company could easily influence the outcome of a race in favour of one of the two teams.

The presence of big sponsors such as Red Bull in sports is always welcome and provides an injection of revenue that many sporting teams need to thrive. As well as this, the value they bring to the scene just with exposure alone is incredible.

Nevertheless, it remains harmful to teams and sport as a whole when these companies try to run their teams like corporations.

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Marco Rizzo