Finances mean dropping down divisions
12 December ~ In December 2006, Alemannia Aachen beat Bayern Munich 4-2 in front of a packed house at their beloved Tivoli Stadium. Six years later, already struggling in the lower reaches of the third division, they have started insolvency proceedings and will play next season in the regional leagues. The squad will be dismantled and sold in the winter break and those players that do stay will have to take pay cuts of up to 80 per cent, according to the club’s general manager Uwe Scherr. Effectively, Alemannia will play half a season of friendlies while they try to restructure.
Bayern signed Alemannia striker Jan Schlaudraff after that 4-2 victory, which convinced the club that they would be able to establish themselves at the top level. Alemannia seemed to be a club on the up after decades in the doldrums; without a title since winning the Regionalliga West in 1967, they had reached the German cup final in 2004 and embarked on a UEFA Cup tour of Europe the following season. One year later they returned to the top flight after a 35-year absence.
Relegation in 2007, after just a single season back in the Bundesliga, did nothing to blunt the board’s enthusiasm and Aachen fell into the same trap as many relegated clubs, banking on the retention of an expensive squad to secure swift promotion. The board was also convinced of the need to build a new stadium, boasting more seats and better VIP facilities than the old Tivoli, to help secure the long-term future of the club. Fans’ groups were closely involved in the planning of the stadium to help ensure that it retained some of the atmosphere that had made the old Tivoli so special but costs quickly spiralled out of control.
A fourth-place finish in the second division in 2009 seemed to herald a return to better times on the field and the new stadium was opened in time for the start of the following season. However, the first game in the New Tivoli was nothing short of disastrous, as Aachen opened their account with a crushing 5-0 defeat against St Pauli in front of nearly 33,000 spectators. That seemed to set the tone for the season, as Alemannia finished 13th and crowds dwindled. The city council had to cover debts incurred during the building of the new stadium, to ensure that the DFB (German FA) would not revoke their licence to play professional football.
Frequent changes of manager could not stop the downward spiral, which continued with relegation to the third division in 2012, and this time the burghers of Aachen refused to bail the club out again when bills went unpaid. Despite the impossible task that now awaits, trainer René van Eck has pledged to stay and help "pull the cart out of the mud" while midfielder Sascha Rösler has also said that he would consider staying to help out, as "earning big money was not the reason for coming here". Meanwhile, the board has to hope that the insolvency court will accept their plans for financial restructuring and they are reliant on the local population turning out in force to fill their new stadium, to help the club pay off its creditors. One fixture that will guarantee a full house is scheduled for January 2013: Bayern Munich have promised to send a side to Aachen for a benefit game to support their erstwhile rivals. John Van Laer