Football Tribe SEA Editor
Indonesian football social media was shocked to the core throughout this week, as on Monday, an inconspicuous Instagram account made itself known to the public. The account was that of Red Bull Depok, a newly formed football team based in the city of Depok, who are set to play in the third tier Liga 3 West Java for the 2020 season. The team attracted significant attention due the Red Bull branding in their name – as we all know, Austrian energy drink company Red Bull GmBH has established a number of football teams around the world, mostly by the means of taking over an existing team and rebranding them to their philosophies. Red Bull’s extensive footballing portfolio includes Red Bull Salzburg of Austria, New York Red Bulls of the United States, RB Leipzig of Germany, the now defunct Red Bull Ghana of Ghana, and their newest addition, Red Bull Bragantino of Brazil.
While initially being not taken seriously by the public, Red Bull Depok soon showed that they mean business after announcing a kit sponsorship deal with local apparel maker QJ Apparel. They even posted a draft of their home jersey on their Instagram account, before proceeding to make their own Twitter and Facebook accounts. Combined with the fact that Depok’s two stadiums – the Merpati Stadium and the Mahakam Stadium – were freshly renovated for the 2020 season as well as posts on the club’s social media suggesting that they have already had a management team being formed and players being selected for the club’s first team squad, it seems that Red Bull Depok are quite serious in fielding a team for the upcoming 2020 Liga 3 season, should both the Indonesian government and the Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI) decide to resume footballing activities that have been ground to a halt thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, Red Bull Depok’s ambitions were without controversies. The PSSI Depok city association have yet to acknowledge Red Bull Depok’s existence, so are the PSSI West Java provincial association. The two PSSI associations have only acknowledged three football clubs within the Depok region – the city government-backed Depok United, the fan-owned Persikad 1999 Depok, and Persipu FC – with all three teams playing in the Liga 3 West Java. In fact, it was not until Red Bull Depok’s Instagram account went viral that the two associations began to establish contact with the newly formed team. Red Bull Depok themselves have also acknowledge this possible controversy, and they’ve stated that they are in discussions with the Depok city government on whether the team are allowed to play once the Indonesian football season resumes or not.
But the biggest controversy is the elephant in the room itself – the Red Bull brand in the team’s name. Without the blessing and permission of Red Bull GmBH, the people behind Red Bull Depok could potentially land themselves in legal hot water over copyright laws and laws regarding brand usage. Suspicion behind Red Bull Depok illegally using Red Bull’s branding became more apparent after a number of netizens have asked the official social media platforms of Red Bull in Indonesia about the team. Red Bull’s official representative in Indonesia responded to the questions that they have yet to hear about the newly established team. This was again, acknowledged by Red Bull Depok themselves. The team felt that the Indonesian representative of Red Bull was a mere distributor of the energy drink within the archipelago, so the Red Bull Depok higher ups felt that it was more appropriate to communicate their intentions of using the Red Bull brand directly to the energy drink company’s headquarters in Austria. However COVID-19 has slowed communications down quite significantly, thus leaving the Red Bull Depok management unable to announce their links with the Red Bull brand just yet.
With the registration window for new Liga 3 teams being closed long before Red Bull Depok was formed, the team has been holding discussions to takeover an existing team within the West Java region of the league in order to compete in the 2020 season. Taking over teams isn’t something that is new to the Red Bull footballing portfolio – Red Bull Salzburg came into existence at the cost of Austria Salzburg, the New York Red Bulls couldn’t exist without the takeover of New York/New Jersey MetroStars, while SSV Makranstadt gave rise to RB Leipzig. Red Bull Depok are planning to announce their launch on the 28th of April through online platforms due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and should they’re given the green light in both their takeover attempt and their brand usage discussion with Red Bull GmBH, we should see the birth of Red Bull’s first foray into Indonesian football, and by extension, Asian football in general. Will they succeed like Red Bull’s previous teams and march their way all the way to Liga 1? Only time will tell.