Soccer-Bundesliga's 50+1 rule not a problem for German anti-trust office

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FILE PHOTO: Andreas Mundt following a news conference in which the anti-trust watchdog presented its findings of the investigation into Facebook's data collection practices in Bonn

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's federal competition authority on Monday said the Bundesliga's so-called 50+1 ownership rule that bars big investors from taking over clubs was not in breach of anti-trust laws.

The Bundeskartellamt's preliminary evaluation of the league's ownership rule comes after the German Football League had requested it for reasons of legal clarity.

But it said while the rule was not in breach of anti-trust laws, efforts should be made for implementation across the league.

"Competition law does not stand in the way of the sport policy objectives pursued by the 50+1 rule," Andreas Mundt, Bundeskartellamt president, said in a statement.

"However, DFL must ensure that the rule is consistently applied and enforced for all clubs."

Mundt said the 50+1 ownership rule was drafted to develop club identification and a balanced in the competition, adding they were "legitimate goals".

The rule, dating back from 1999, means clubs – and, by extension, its fans - hold a majority of voting rights, protecting against what the DFL has called potential "reckless owners."

Under DFL rules football clubs are not allowed to play in the Bundesliga if commercial investors have more than a 49% stake, meaning private investors cannot take over control.

There are some exceptions, such as factory-owned clubs Bayer Leverkusen and VfL Wolfsburg.

Under current rules investors with an interest in the club for 20 years or more can apply for an exemption from the 50+1 rule.

The Bundeskartellamt said it would next seek reactions from the interested parties.

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Christian Radnedge)