Nürnberg: Honoring Max Morlock v. Selling Stadium Naming Rights

A group of 1. FC Nürnberg fans are still fighting to get their stadium re-named.

Take a trip around Germany and you’ll find out that many stadiums have sponsors in their name. There are harmless sounding names like the ”Imtech Arena”, or the ”Signal Iduna Park”. Some teams have simply just taken a look at the money they were going to make, not taking into consideration what the name would imply, or what it would sound like. The best examples for that policy are probably the ”Trolli Arena” in Fürth (formerly known as Playmobile-Stadion), the Glücksgas-Stadion in Dresden and the Schauinsland-Reisen-Arena in Duisburg.

The stadium in Nürnberg has for the last six seasons been one of those places, being called easyCredit-Stadion, much to the dismay of many Club faithful.

Going against the flow

Selling the rights to the stadium name has been a long-term trend in German football. Even clubs in the fourth tier of German football have been subdued by this trend, re-naming their stadiums. Most professional football clubs in Germany have decided to take away the ethos of the original stadium name, in exchange for healthy check from the sponsor purchasing the name. Stadiums that haven’t been re-named in the last two decades, like the ”Weserstadion” in Bremen and the ”Olympiastadion” in Berlin, are in a clear minority.

These new and also ever-changing stadium names have been a thorn in the eye of many football fans in Germany. The initiative ”Max Morlock Stadion jetzt!”(Max Morlock Stadium now) came as a counter reaction to the name easyCredit-Stadion in 2006. The Nürnberg ultra scene was deeply unhappy about the new name, because the name itself sounded horrible. Furthermore, the name not being attached to the club’s history itself was also against the wishes of the Nürnberg ultras.

The fans themselves would like to honor one of the club’s biggest heroes. Max Morlock played in over 900 games for Der Club, scoring the staggering amount of roughly 700 goals. His excellent technique, and his fighting spirit made forward Morlock a popular player.  The Nürnberg born hero played for the team between 1940 and 1964. Morlock managed to play a total of 21 games in the first ever Bundesliga season, scoring 8 goals at the advanced age of 38. Football fans who have read their share about World Cup history will also remember Morlock’s goal against Hungary in the 1954 final in Bern. It was Morlock’s goal that signaled the start to ”Das Wunder von Bern”. Morlock is without any doubts one of the all time greats of German football.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fr9Emwh7aEc&feature=related
If you haven’t watch the highlights of the 1954 World Cup final, and Morlock’s goal, take a look at the highlights of the final.

In a vote carried out in 2006 a majority of fans voted to re-name the stadium after their long time hero. The city of Nürnberg decided to go with the name of a sponsor instead.

The fans constant dismay, and opposition to the stadium name has now yielded a small success. The company paying for the stadium name, Teambank AG, has decided to cut their ties with the club, leaving the stadium name up for grabs.

Finding a new sponsor in this hostile environment is certainly not an easy task. 1. FC Nürnberg’s head of finances, a man with the fantastic sounding name Rolf Woy, told 11 Freunde:

There is crap being tossed at the stadium’s name sponsor, and on top of that they are also supposed to be paying for that.

Complicating factors

What makes matters more complicated in this situation is the fact that it isn’t Rolf Woy and the rest of the leadership at the club who are looking for a new sponsor, but the city of Nürnberg which is actually the owner of the ground. The company marketing the stadium rights is owned by the German construction giant Hochtief (holding 74.9% of the stakes) and the city of Nürnberg.

Woy and the Club board don’t depend on this money coming in, because their team won’t see a dime of the cash. The city of Nürnberg is on the other hand very much dependent on every penny they can get their hands, due to their disastrous finances. Mayor Ulrich Maly has said that he actually might have to divert funds from Kindergardens in the worst case scenario, if a new sponsor for the stadium name isn’t found.

No satisfying solutions in sight

The city council of Nürnberg has disregarded the fans wishes to re-name the stadium Max Morlock Stadion, and simply given it the name Stadion Nürnberg after easyCredit’s lease for the stadium name rights expired. The reasoning behind this somewhat odd name is according to the council to make a transition to a new sponsor name in the future easier.

The Bild Zeitung wrote at the end of last week that a new name sponsor for the stadium might be found very soon. The company MAN might be willing to pay 1 million Euros per season to have their company included in the stadium name.

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 32-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball.

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