People have their favorite sports that they love to watch. In the US we have our traditional sports of baseball, football, ice hockey and basketball, but we also have our state-of-the-art type of sports as well, like bungee jumping, skateboarding, karate, etc. In Germany we have handball, basketball and especially soccer. Why especially? Like in other European countries, we take to soccer like church-goers take to the Bible. We watch the German Bundesliga games every Saturday and Sunday and for many, they become emotionally attached to their favorite teams. Yet the events that have occurred in the last two weeks have raised the question of whether German soccer has become a dysfunctional sport, where the relationship between the fans and the soccer teams have become as frigid as the Winters of 2009/10 and 2010/11 respectively, where money is the determining factor to keeping an elite team in the elite league, and cities that deserve to be in the Upper House have been denied and others with financial and management issues should be relegated to a local soccer team to be cleansed of their troubles. Professional players are emigrating to other countries and the most disturbing development is the fan behavior at the soccer games, which has reached the point where a potential disaster is in the making, waiting to strike at a moment’s notice without any way of averting it.
The Flensburg Files will present a series on The Problem with German Soccer, which will focus on the following topics that will be presented during the summer months with some solutions on the part of the author, based on information collected both written and orally. Here are some topics that will be presented that will provide the audience with an opportunity to look at the problems facing soccer in Germany and its potential to spread to other places where the sport has established a fan base, like the US and Canada, as well as those in southern and eastern Asia and parts of Africa, just to name a few:
The Fan Problem: In light of the recent events this past season in places, like Rostock, Düsseldorf, Karlsruhe and Frankfurt, fan rowdiness has taken new forms to a point where the teams are having difficulty controlling them and the German Soccer League (DFL)’s attempts of sanctioning them have proven futile. This segment will feature the gravity of the situation and present some solutions to make soccer a fun and safe sport to watch.
The Financial Problem: In order to host games in the upper leagues, teams have to have sufficient liquidity in order to compete. Yet in recent years, teams are having problems coming up with financial support in order to even survive. Using the examples of Hansa Rostock and TuS Koblenz this segment will focus on the problems facing these teams and how they are struggling to survive.
The Management Problem: Tied in together with the financial difficulties the soccer teams face, this segment will focus on ways teams can effectively manage themselves without having to change personnel.
The East-West Problem: It is amazing that after 22 years we still have this issue even in sports. Here, we will focus on the difficulties of the soccer teams in eastern Germany (the former GDR) keeping up with the western counterparts.
And lastly, we’ll look at cities of the past and present whose soccer teams have risen and fallen from the top. This has been divided up into three segments: The shooting stars, The fallen stars, and The Has-beens- meaning the teams that used to be powerhouses in the past but have since been a memory.
The goal is to address these problems to the public and encourage ways to support German soccer in a positive way and make this a sport for people to watch and have fun. This includes encouraging good sportsmanship and stressing the importance of solidarity in the sport. After all, German soccer is a very popular sport that many people around the world watch and it would be a shame to see its reputation tarnished due to its destructive patterns that we have seen in recent times, some of which has a recipe for disaster if they persist without any concrete measures to stop them.
Dortmund grabs a double. For the first time ever in the history of German soccer, the soccer team Borussia Dortmund won a double championship. It had won the German Erstliga Title two weeks before thanks to some key victories over Bayern Munich, Mönchengladbach and Schalke, just to name a few. On 13 May, it completely swept the series against Bayern Munich in the German Cup (German: DFB Pokal) but in a fashionable way: a 5-2 spanking over the team which had won seven out of the last 15 cups and won the regular season title nine times since 1997. Congratulations to Jürgen Klopp and his team for accomplishing a monumental task.
Podolski goes to Arsenal (London). One of the key players of the 2010 German soccer team as well as the German team FC Cologne, Lukas Podolski signed an unlimited contract at an undisclosed amount to play for Chelsea in the British Premier League beginning next season. The move was perfect timing as Cologne finished second to last in the standings and therefore must play in the second league in the 2012/13 season. Arsenal London has won 13 Premier League Titles (including the last one in 2003/04) and holds the record for being in the Top 5 standings of the Premere League, it has just finished its 16th straight season near the top. Podolski started his career at Cologne before going to Bayern Munich in 2006 and played for three seasons before returning to Cologne.
Hansa Rostock saved from bankruptcy. Once the darling of soccer in eastern Germany and the last team to win the soccer title and the national cup for the now defunct East Germany (GDR) in 1991, Hansa Rostock used to plague many traditional soccer teams until it faced financial trouble and was forced to relegate in the second and third leagues. On 9 May, the Rostock City Council voted unanimously for a financial package to provide partial debt relief for the beleaguered soccer team, whose debt had soared to 8.5 million Euros. At the same time, a financial shot of 750,000 was given to the team to play in the Third League in the coming season as the team finished dead last in the Second League. Had the city council voted against the measure, the team would have been forced to file for bankruptcy, which would have resulted in an automatic relegation into the fourth or fifth league. Worst case would have been the team being liquidated, which would not have been the first time it had happened. Saxony Leipzig, which had played mostly in the fifth league since its inception in 1991, was liquidated last year as it was unable to support itself financially. In addition, Bayern Munich, one of Rostock’s archrivals in the Erstliga, will travel to the city to face the team in a benefit soccer game sometime in 2013.
Relegation Games end with a bang! Sanctions being considered. In the first three tiers of the German Bundesliga, there is a relegation game where the team finishing third to last in an upper league takes on the team finishing in third place in the league lower than that. The concept has worked wonders since 2010 but this year’s relegation games have come at a price. For the first time in 15 years, Jahn Regensburg (which played in the third league) and Fortuna Düsseldorf (which played in the second league) are being promoted to the second and first leagues after downing Karlsruhe SC and Hertha BSC Berlin respectively. However both games were overshadowed by violence, fireworks, and in the game between Berlin and Düsseldorf, fans running onto the field with two minutes left in the game forcing the referees to stop match for 20 minutes. The DFB is investigating each incident and sanctions are pending. The two incidents are part of a list of other incidents which has plagued the 2011/12 season and has forced the DFB to look into tougher guidelines for fan behavior in general. More on that in the next article on the problem with German soccer.