Sixteenth has become an all-too familiar position for SG Dynamo Dresden recently. The Saxonian Traditionsverein, a giant of the later years of the GDR, may have spent the last three seasons in the 2. Bundesliga after a period in the lower divisions, but the club is nearing the decisive point of its second consecutive relegation battle as the 2013/14 season nears its climax.
A poor season
Despite a campaign of mostly disappointing results on the pitch, Dynamo gave themselves renewed hope in their fight for survival with a first win in 14 league matches – a run stretching back to the end of November – with a dazzling victory over 1860 München on Matchday 30. But the club couldn’t capitalise on this injection of confidence and succumbed to a 2-0 defeat in the Sachsenderby in Aue – a fixture which so rarely brings cause for celebration for die SG – a few days later. The loss, in surely one of Dynamo’s most important fixtures in the 2. Bundesliga since their promotion in 2011, leaves them in 16th place with three matches to play, two points ahead of Arminia Bielefeld and three short of FSV Frankfurt and survival, in a frustrating season in which Dynamo have drawn over half of their matches to date.
Another 16th place finish would see Dynamo Dresden enter the relegation playoff for the third time in the last four seasons. Last season, with a record points total for the side finishing 16th (37), they clinched survival with a dramatic comeback win over VfL Osnabrück, the same team they were victorious over two years previously when they sealed promotion.
So, on the surface, operating on one of the division’s lowest budgets, it would seem that Dynamo are more or less where they should be within the German hierarchy. With the club so used to fighting on the peripheries of the 2nd and 3rd tiers recently, why, then, would relegation be a disaster for them?
The main issue is the one that seems to have become synonymous with difficulties among the clubs of the neue Bundesländer – money. With Bundesliga licenses up for renewal, Dynamo had no option this year but to ask the city of Dresden for help. The city obliged. Last week, the city council agreed to ratify recommendations made by the Mayor of Dresden to offer its principal football club significant financial help for next season.
An expensive stadium
The money from the city will principally support the running costs of the club’s state-of-the-art, 32,000 capacity Rudolf-Harbig-Stadion, recently renovated (and renamed glücksgas stadion as part of a sponsorship deal). The city council has agreed to donate €500,000 to contribute to the stadium’s burdensome cost, with an eye-watering €5 million needed for the club to use it each year. This donation brings the state’s cash injection to a total of €1.12 million for next season. Should the club be relegated this summer, they would be granted an additional €1.3 million.
Even with the extra money in the event of relegation, the club’s running costs could threaten to spiral out of control in the 3. Liga. Lost revenue from Bundesliga TV rights, approximately €4 million for this season, would be crucial, with clubs in the 3. Liga averaging around a quarter of the turnover of their 2nd tier counterparts.
Paying rent on the stadium would become altogether more difficult too. But no matter which division Dynamo find themselves in next season, a viable long-term solution to their stadium problem is needed. Indeed, as part of the support from the city council, Dynamo have been given a deadline of October 2014 to propose a viable long-term plan for paying their rent. The money from the 2. Bundesliga, and all that comes with it, is surely vital to this.
One thing Dynamo could count on in the 3. Liga is support, as the club has one of the most vociferous and committed support bases in the division, if not the country. But with the Schwarzgelben enjoying a period of high ticket sales, it would be another damaging factor to the club’s financial future should they fail to capitalise on this current boom.
Indeed, on last year, ticket sales at Dynamo increased by 13.9% during the 2013/14 Hinrunde, compared with the league average of an 8.8% increase. Their stadium was 83% full in their league matches up to the winter break, which corresponds to, at 26,700, the 5th highest average attendance in the 2. Bundesliga and the 20th highest in the country. Dynamo Dresden are a club worthy of this level of football.
Changes at the top
Dynamo’s supporters have had to tolerate poor results and changes to the hierarchy for a while now. After thrilling fans with energetic performances in finishing 9th in 2011/12, a downward turn saw coach Ralf Loose sacked and replaced with Peter Pacult, who, after barely guiding the club to safety, lost his own job fewer than two months into this season. Olaf Janβen took the reins. His tenure has been typified by draws – 13 in the 25 league games he has overseen – and he has organised a side which, while difficult to beat, has lacked cutting edge, particularly at important moments. As the relegation fight has intensified, consecutive 0-0 draws at home to Sandhausen and away to Cottbus has caused particular frustration, as well as failing to close out other matches.
As well as replacing the coach, the supervisory board has overseen other changes at the helm of the club. Sporting Director Steffen Menze, having declared his intention to step down at the end of the season, was relieved of his duties in the new year and replaced with Ralf Minge. In Minge, the board has sought to appoint someone who understands the heartbeat of the club in order to direct their future. Minge not only represented Dynamo for 11 years as a player but was also their Sporting Director between 2007 and 2009. He left behind a growing reputation as a youth coach, leaving his post as the U23 coach at Bayer Leverkusen after previously having a job within the DFB youth setup.
The threat of the drinks can
It’s clear then, that the club’s new sporting leadership have only just begun implementing their strategy for the club’s future development. Relegation would add further disruption and upheaval where the club is in desperate need of some continuity. Add that to the likely departures and invalid contracts of the team’s most important players, and, of course, the significant financial implications, then there’s little doubt that, despite seemingly becoming accustomed to their position, Dynamo simply cannot afford to be relegated – in a literal sense above all else. That the Red Bull project an hour’s drive west is on the verge of 2. Bundesliga football next season will only up the stakes in their Saxonian neighbours’ fight for their status.
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