Police raid German soccer offices


COLOGNE, Germany -- German police searched the offices of the German Soccer Assn. (DFB) and the German Soccer League (DFL) on Tuesday as part of an investigation into the way the two sports bodies market top-league soccer to German sponsors.

Police raided the offices in Frankfurt, taking away stacks of documents related to sponsorship negotiations. They were sent by Germany's cartel office, which suspects the DFB and DFL may be colluding to prevent soccer clubs from competing with one another for corporate sponsors.

The raids come as the cartel office assesses a 3 billion euro ($4.5 billion) deal between the DFL and Leo Kirch's Sirus group to market the rights to Germany's Bundesliga soccer matches.

The DFL-Sirus deal is controversial because Kirch wants to produce all coverage of Bundesliga games in-house, marketing games and highlight footage as a finished product, something many -- including leading pay TV group Premiere -- oppose. Premiere has asked the cartel office to investigate the deal.

Sirus and the DFL plan to begin the bidding for rights to the 2009 Bundesliga season next month. Kirch has pledged to pay 500 million euros ($750 million) per season for the rights, 60 million euros ($90 million) more than the league currently receives.

The sponsorship investigation is a separate affair and is focusing on a joint working group on sponsorship set up by the DFL, which manages the Bundesliga, and the DFB, which represents about 26,000 amateur and professional soccer clubs across Germany.

Regulatory authorities suspect the purpose of the working group is to ensure that German soccer clubs do not compete with one another for big corporate sponsors. The DFB and DFL say the accusations are completely without merit.