Debate: Is HSV staying up good for club and league?

There is no older dinosaur than Hamburg SV in the Bundesliga. The northern side has famously never been relegated from the Bundesliga, a span of time running 51 years. However, after a truly awful 2013-14 season, in which the club finished 16th (the relegation playoff spot), this fabled streak became endangered as never before in a season when HSV collected only 27 points from 34 matchdays. Putrid stuff.

And yet.

HSV pulled off the slimmest of relegation playoff victories after a 1-1 draw at Greuther Fürth, thanks to the “away goal rule” in a match – and series – that no one wanted to win it seemed. This relegation escape both rankled and relieved fans. On one hand, it rankled those who are offended that a club with a season as disappointing as HSV’s is allowed to remain in the top flight. On the hand, it relieved those who wanted to see one of the Bundesliga’s most storied and financially well-endowed clubs remain in the Bundesliga.

During their 51 year stretch, HSV won three Bundesliga titles (1978-79, 1981-82, and 1982-83), as well as three DFB Pokal titles,  not to mention countless runners-up finishes through the 70s and 80s. Besides success, HSV also has more revenue than most other Bundesliga clubs, enabling them to buy players other clubs couldn’t dream of having. Furthermore, HSV play in Germany’s second largest media market, meaning that drama, narrative, and meaning itself always swirls around die Rothosen.

Strong opinions are to be had when a club of this magnitude flirts so heavily with relegation. So let’s hear from our crack team at the Fanatic, who will consider the following debate question:

Will HSV remaining in the Bundesliga be beneficial for both the club and the league?


Pookie. . . er . . . No!

Randall Hauk

When I think of Hamburger SV fans and apologists pitching all the reasons why the best thing for both club and league is for a 27-point winner to avoid relegation to the second league, I think “Pookie.”

Then I realize I likely have to explain that “Pookie” is not just some nonsense word meant to replace “poppycock” or “shenanigans” or anything of the like.

No, “Pookie” is the name of Chris Rock’s character from early 90’s urban drama “New Jack City.”

And Pookie was a crackhead.

Shall I flesh out this hideous picture for you?

HSV is addicted to its legacy and status, so much so that it clutches onto any little sniff of glory it can muster, as if it were the Meisterschale itself.  Some supporters and club personnel definitely recognize the problems, but far too many appear to think the 2.Bundesliga is simply beneath them, as if simply being Hamburger SV gives them a birth right to top-flight status at a bare minimum.

Sure, HSV, you were prom queen, once upon a time.

Having withstood a second-half onslaught from SpVgg Greuther Fürth without surrendering the deciding goal, HSV staved-off the rock-bottom moment of suffering a drop last in last week’s relegation playoff. They celebrated the “victory” as if it were some hard-won desirable prize, rather than the narrow avoidance of a much-needed hitting of rock-bottom that would have finally, maybe, inspired real change in Hamburg.

Instead, it’s snatch, run, and hide.

The thing is, HSV, that your short-term planning always catches up to you in the long-term, doesn’t it?

Remember a few years ago when you finished just above the relegation zone? Oh, the alarm bells had gone off. It was time to get clean and fulfilling long-forgotten promises. Sure, you had seen the danger signs and been warned that a hard rain was going to fall, but you assured us you were under control.

The first sign of trouble in recovery is when you start hanging around your old friends. We should have known when Rafael van der Vaart started coming around that you hand’t really changed your ways. We wanted so badly to believe in you that we let it slide. Then you seemed to put on some new clothes and make a decent run toward Europe and, well. . .we were fooled, were’t we.

It’s easy to maintain the appearance of propriety in the short-term, but when the resources are thin, you always start acting irrationally. Burning through coaches like the cheapest hits you can buy on the street keeps the demons away briefly.

But they always return.

We know that. Why do you never learn that you’re treating symptoms and not the real problems?

Undoubtedly, this  season was a new low for you. It truly got to be a bit shocking, seeing you walking about in public looking the way you often did, while you seem completely oblivious to just how out-of-place you looked!

Frankly, we started being a bit embarrassed for you, but when we realize how much we’ve enabled you, it reflects poorly on all of us.

It was so bad, in fact, that it wouldn’t be a shock if the rules were soon updated so that a 16th-place side with fewer than 30 points would automatically be relegated, rather than be thrown the playoff life-saver you were given this season.

So now you’ve been given yet another chance and promise that this time will be different, and we are left to hope that this most-recent indignity will be the one that acts as intervention, forcing you to make hard choices and truly get the help that you need.

Forgive me if I am not trying to hear that, but it all has long since begun to sound the same to my ears. It may look good in the short term, but how can I help but think you’ll start reaching for those old habits, firing Mirko Slomka or begging for just a little bit of money to help you get something to eat, but then spend it on bringing some old friends  (Ruud van Nistelrooy, anyone?) around the way?

Sorry, but I’ve learned my lesson.

Never trust a junkie.



Aleix Gwilliam


It’s quite obvious that relegation is never a good thing but particularly for a big club, for a Traditionsverein, for a club who has a banner in its stadium that states the seconds that it has been in the top flight. Some clubs, though, argue that you sometimes have to take one step backwards to make two steps forward. While this has been the case for many clubs, this would not apply to HSV.

HSV are in a Catch 22 situation. They lack money and therefore need it, but cannot get into European competitions to get it, and that’s because they don’t have the money to sign the players that will get them there… and so on, and so forth. Dropping down to the 2. Bundesliga would not help that cause at all, as they would also lose the talent they have in the squad.

Admittedly it hasn’t been a great year for their so-called better players, like René Adler, Marcell Jansen, Heiko Westermann and, perhaps most of all, Rafael van der Vaart. The one that did shine was Hakan Çalhanoğlu and he’s already stated, after just one year at the club, that he wants to move on to Bayer Leverkusen, so one can imagine what kind of squad would be left if HSV had gone down.

The Bundesliga, in the past few seasons, has proven that clubs can punch above their weight and finish in positions that they would not have dreamed of at the beginning of the season, so why can’t this happen to HSV next season? Just because they are a big club? Admittedly, Oliver Kreuzer will have to do a better job than he did last summer and sign less of the Jacques Zouas of this world and more Çalhanoğlus, but that’s another matter altogether.

To be a big European league, you need big clubs in it. With all due respect to Greuther Fürth fans, Greuther Fürth brings very little to the Bundesliga in terms of stature, fan-base and general interest. HSV is one of the biggest clubs in Germany and therefore must remain in the Bundesliga simply because of that, as long as we are looking after the interests of the league.

If we take a look at England’s lower leagues, we see teams like Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday, Sheffield United, Nottingham Forest, Birmingham City… all of them big clubs with big stadiums that could attract many dozens of thousands of fans on the day, even in the post-terrace era. In the top flight, we have the Hull, Crystal Palace, Swansea, Fulham… all of them clubs that will never reach the height or the popularity of the aforementioned clubs. Therefore,  attendance figures drop and the league stature suffers because of it.

On the other hand, I do feel that HSV should be ‘punished’ for making such a pig’s ear of last season but I would like to think that the relegation playoff has been that for them and that they will learn from their mistakes. The problems at HSV last season were like a snowball, to the point where every player in that squad was playing below their capacity.

With Mirko Slomka able to plan from the beginning and not jump into a train heading for the abyss like he did last season, HSV will have a better season and can put 2013/2014 as one big scare. We all agree that the Bundesliga last season lacked thrill at the top and this thrill will only come back when teams like HSV, Werder Bremen, Stuttgart, etc. get big again, and not with the Greuther Fürths of this world.

*Disclaimer: I used Greuther Fürth as an example as they were the alternative to HSV in the Bundesliga for next season. I have nothing against Greuther Fürth, their fans, players and I don’t hold a particular grudge against Henry Kissinger either.

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