Red Bull's top man in the Netherlands - Jan Smilde - offered a new twist on an old story this week: the familiar tale of Red Bull stalking a soccer team to takeover was given fresh impetus by the fact it was started by a senior employee of the soccer world's favorite corporate bogeyman.
That would be my wish. That’s very interesting for us. Our philosophy is to own it all. So the club, the name and the stadium. We are looking for a club that could use our help. We look like a smaller club that we give wings.
Smilde's words predictably caused a stir: any mention of Red Bull interest in a soccer team always does. These rumors range from long-running and largely credible (like Papa Red Bull's reported fascination with Leeds United) to short-lived and fanciful (like Swindon Town's canny promotional stunt). And the majority fall between those two extremes. They arise with regularity - Australia's A-League was one of the more recent reported RB Global Soccer targets - and are rarely substantiated. Very often, regardless of whether they appear to be legitimate or not, they are slapped down firmly by Red Bull itself.
In this case, the stamping out of the story was mostly done by the Dutch soccer establishment. Per Metro XL, the Dutch FA - KNVB - simply won't allow Red Bull into its leagues - not as an owner of a club, anyway. KNVB spokesman Koen Adriaanse explained:
The Dutch rules are clear: It is not possible for a party like Red Bull shareholder in a Dutch professional football at the time that Red Bull is also connected directly or indirectly as a shareholder, director and or commissioner to another professional football club that is a member of an association affiliated to UEFA. This is RB Leipzig in Germany and Red Bull Salzburg is the case in Austria.
KNVB appeared to get out quickly to silence the story, perhaps because it quickly threatened to gather substance. Dutch media reported political party Trots Haarlem had wasted no time in contacting Red Bull to solicit assistance with its pledge to bring pro soccer back to a city whose club - HFC Haarlem - went bust in 2010. The party continues to hype the idea of a Red Bull club in Haarlem on its website.
And, as close RB Global Soccer watcher RB Live points out, the Managing Director of Red Bull Netherlands can harbor whatever dreams he pleases about his company's soccer activities - but they are not run by the drinks-selling arm of the corporation. The head of Red Bull Global Soccer, Oliver Mintzlaff, has consistently denied rumors of any expansion to the current portfolio of teams, which currently comprises RBs Leipzig, Salzburg, New York, and Brasil.
One would not expect Red Bull to be forthcoming about incomplete plans for adding to its soccer operations, of course. But expansion into Europe seems one of the least appropriate moves RB Global Soccer could make right now: the group believes it will have no trouble with UEFA regulations that prohibit clubs with common ownership competing in the same UEFA competition, but that hypothesis has yet to be tested. If and when RBs Leipzig and Salzburg qualify for the same European club tournament (which might happen as a soon as next season, if the teams maintain their current trajectories in their respective leagues), then we will find out if RB's Euro clubs are genuinely compliant with UEFA's rules. Until then, it might be prudent for Red Bull to refrain from further cluttering the European soccer landscape with more branded clubs.