Football column – French fries instead of big city clubs: That’s why traditional clubs are falling

Apart from Germany’s soccer metropolis Munich, the other megacities of Berlin, Cologne and Hamburg have been chasing music for decades. Apparently, the bigger the city, the bigger the problems. The football column.

It has been 38 years since Thomas Schaaf and Friedhelm Funkel first met. The then 22-year-old full-back Schaaf beat Bayer Uerdingen with Werder Bremen with the seven-year-old midfielder Funkel 3-0.

The successful professional career was followed by an even more successful career as a coach for both of them from the 90s, but this seemed to have ended at the latest at the beginning of last year when Funkel “never” wanted to work as a coach after being kicked out of Fortuna Düsseldorf.

But the veteran had Horst Heldt change his mind a few weeks ago to step in again as a firefighter until the end of the season at the relegation candidate 1. FC Köln. Schaaf has even less time to rescue, after the dismissal of Florian Kohfeldt last Sunday, he may only have the last Bundesliga game on this Saturday to save Werder from falling into the second division.

“Because I am so connected to the club and have such a history. That’s why I accepted,” explained the previous technical director, who was Bremen’s chief coach for 14 years and won a championship and three DFB trophies during this time.

Relegation battle: Bielefeld the laughing third?

In 1983, in the first duel between Schaaf and Funkel, Kramer was just eleven years old and the world was a different one, including in football. Cup winner was 1. FC Köln, champion and European Cup winner of the national champion was Hamburger SV. The billy goats have not won anything since then, but have been relegated six times. And HSV, which won the trophy again in 1987, but didn’t win anything after that, has been trying in vain and ever more desperately to return to the Bundesliga for three years.

In the meantime, even the malicious comments about the continued failure of the Hanseatic League can hardly be heard, the sad picture of the falling Bundesliga dinosaur almost only generates pity. In contrast, Hertha BSC has become the most popular target for scorn and ridicule in the past two years.

At that time, investor Lars Windhorst joined the capital city club and declared his commitment with enthusiasm for the “Big City Club”. Since then, 374 million from Windhorst’s Tennor Holding have been transferred to the clammy old lady, but Hertha wore out three coaches and played twice against relegation until shortly before the end of the season. It was only Pal Dardai who returned, after Windhorst’s entry, also because the game philosophy was supposedly too unattractive and contemporary, that the team was able to stay up.

“It is not meant to be evil, but this big city story back then – it remains a bit negative for us for a lifetime,” said the Hungarian, now noticeably annoyed. In the club, too, you roll your eyes at the big city word as well as with the classification of the “sleeping giant”, which ex-sports director Dieter Hoeneß once used to emphasize the huge potential of the club and the city. Although that’s not even wrong in principle.

“The fact is that the term ‘Big City Club’ describes that Hertha is the football club in Germany’s largest city,” said Windhorst, for example. The problem, however, is that size alone is not a criterion for success – and that is all the more true in German football.

“It’s a drama. If we had these teams in the Bundesliga permanently, they would be even more popular and attractive,” said Uli Hoeneß two years ago. The blame for this does not lie with the evil forces: “This is often a management problem.”

The economist Henning Zülch from the HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management put it even more drastically. “Sooner or later the traditional clubs get problems because they cannot cope with their structures. In some areas they are still run like chips stalls,” he said world.

Big cities = big problems

In the big cities in particular, the traditional clubs are under the magnifying glass of the enthusiastic public and the numerous media, whose local tabloid media often not only fuel the unrest, but also try to massively influence club politics. “Where it gets complicated: when fans and the tabloids have a say and have a say in government, a classic feature of traditional companies,” commented the Southgerman newspaper.

Anyone who gets involved in this game has usually already lost – many of those responsible in the named locations can sing many a bitter song about that. Because a recurring characteristic of the many crashes are permanent leadership changes in the board, management and on the coaching bench, but this scapegoat policy has almost never brought back success.

It is therefore hardly surprising that smaller clubs such as Mainz, Augsburg or Freiburg have been able to establish themselves in the Bundesliga. Less interest, but more peace and quiet for continuous work, even in times of crisis.

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