Werder Bremen will face a different type of opponent in the coming weeks when the Bundesliga club takes on the Federal Constitutional Court over a ban which keeps betting firm sponsor bwin.com off their shirts.
When Werder Bremen thrashed VfL Bochum 0-6 at the Ruhrstadion two weeks ago, the team's shirts featured the slogan "we win." This wasn't a prediction brought on by a visit to a fortune teller or an arrogant statement before a match against the currently most woeful side in the Bundesliga, but a sly dig at Germany's highest court which had enforced a ban on Bremen's sponsor, online betting firm bwin.com.
Whether Bremen will win their next challenge, one in court rather than on the soccer field, is another matter. Battering bottom-of-the-league Bochum is one thing, taking on the Federal Constitutional Court is another.
But that is exactly what Bremen intends to do. The Bundesliga leaders have filed a complaint to the court in an attempt to overturn the ban and have bwin returned to the chests of Klose, Frings and Co. The northern city state of Bremen banned the promotion of commercial betting firms in July and Werder have been restricted in their advertising since.
"Until we have new regulations, Werder Bremen should be allowed to promote private betting firms," the club said on its Web site, adding that it had filed the complaint on Oct. 13.
States crack down on commercial betting
The Austrian internet betting firm, whose German unit is the nation's biggest commercial bookmaker and which also sponsors second-tier club 1860 Munich, is increasingly embattled, with bans on commercial betting imposed on it by three federal states as Germany's regions seek to maintain their lucrative monopoly over the market.
On Monday, bwin.com said it would cut its budget for German soccer sponsorship next year due to the attempts by the regional governments to completely outlaw commercial sports betting. The company said in a statement that this would not affect its current deal with Werder Bremen
Banned in France, probed in Italy
Bwin was dealt a similar blow in France this month when AS Monaco, one of a number of teams outside Germany that the company sponsors, was forced to remove advertising boards for the firm from around the side of the Ligue 1 team's pitch.
The French Professional Football League (LFP) has banned its clubs from advertising any form of gambling and online betting.
The LFP ban came after the two joint chief executives of bwin.com Interactive Entertainment were placed under investigation earlier in October for alleged violation of French gaming laws. Gambling is a state monopoly in France and online betting firms are banned from seeking clients on French territory.
Bwin is just one of the online commercial betting firms which are facing opposition throughout Europe as countries look to protect their own national gambling interests.
Competition law infringements investigated
The practice of banning online commercial betting firms is under investigation by the European Commission, which believes that nations which restrict their gambling markets are infringing on competition regulations.
The commission has recently sought information from France and Italy on sports and online betting and from Austria on the casino industry. In April, it opened proceedings against a half-dozen nations, including Germany and the Netherlands.