November 18, 2017

TSV 1860 München – the story of a full-fledged decline

When football fans think about glorious footballing moments and the city of Munich simultaneously, their minds will invariably draft to Bayern München. However, die Roten‘s cross town rivals, TSV 1860 München, won a Bundesliga championship before the team from the Säbener Strasse and even managed to get to the European Cup winners Cup final before Bayern were even promoted to the Bundesliga.

Given the team’s performances of late, one wouldn’t necessarily think that the Lions are one of Germany’s football greats. Currently, match attendees are met by an ocean of empty seats and lacklustre football when attending an 1860 match at the Allianz Arena. Ever since the team were relegated from the Bundesliga back in 2004, 1860’s results have stagnated at best. The Lions’ average attendance has dwindled from 41,720 in the 2005/06 season to 21,918 this season.

Ambitious, but no coherent strategy

Staying in the Bundesliga 2 after the two relegation play-off matches against the in-form side of the third tier, Holstein Kiel, would at least see 1860 retain its status as the currently longest-serving club in the Bundesliga 2. However, compared to what 1860 were aiming for at the start of the season, there is little doubt that this season has been a disaster for the entire club, no matter what happens in the relegation playoff against the Storks.

At the season’s beginning, sporting director Gerhard Poschner and coach Ricardo Moniz stated that promotion was the goal. Unfortunately, Poschner had to let go some of the team’s better players during the summer, replacing them with summer signings. The new signings included three players coming from Barca’s second team and the Austrian striker Ruben Okotie, there’s little doubt that the new signings didn’t make up for the loss of Moritz Stoppelkamp, Yuya Osako and the ageing legends Benni Lauth and Daniel Bierofka.

Yet the season began poorly and new coach Ricardo Moniz was canned after 6 match days, as the team struggled with discipline and the coach’s tactics. During the Dutchman’s time at the club, 1860 only won a single match. Moniz’s assistant Markus van Ahlen was put in charge – once again (earlier, he had seen out the season after Friedhelm Funkel was let go towards the end of last season). However, the new coach never really managed to reach his players and he was fired after only taking three wins from 15 matches.

After this disaster, appointing yet another coach still didn’t do the trick for the Lions. The current man in charge, former player Torsten Fröhling, managed only to keep the team where they were in the table after he took over. The club is currently a perfect example for what happens when big ambitions meet a lack of planning and foresight, paired with a board who isn’t willing to give coaches a chance to work with the team over a longer period of time in order to establish a style of play and philosophy.

The Jordanian investor – keeping the club afloat

1860’s financial struggles over the last few years have been well-documented. In 2011, the club managed to get the Jordanian investor Hasan Ismaik on board, selling him 60% of the club’s shares. According to his cousin, Noor Basha, the Jordanian had been told that his help was needed to get a traditional German club back to the top. Ismaik bought the shares offered to him, but somehow the club’s leadership had forgotten to tell him about the 50+1 rule.

Instead of being the man in charge, Ismaik is now stuck paying off the Lions debts. So far, the Jordanian has spent 40 million Euros to keep the club afloat. “My cousin was tricked,” Noor Basha told 11 Freunde back in April.

Wrong place, Wrong time

Many of the club’s fans would point to the decision of moving into the Allianz Arena together with Bayern as one of the main factors for the Lions current misery. Right now, the club doesn’t have any chance of making money from the VIP lounges or selling the rights to the name of the stadium, because of Bayern’s ownership of the Allianz Arena. On top of these limitations, 1860 have to pay rent to use the ground.

The fans themselves feel alienated and not at home in the giant arena, which was built for Champions League glory, and not 2nd tier football. Noor Basha says that he and his cousin have noticed this trend, stating that moving to a new stadium is part of his three-year plan. However, it is still up in the air how the club possibly could finance such a move.

A declining youth system

Using the club’s excellent youth system, thus creating a team of local lads, has been identified as one of the possible ways out of the current downward spiral. However, the club’s youth division changed many times over the last few months. Several coaches have switched positions, and the results haven’t been going 1860’s way during this time of turbulence.

The U19 and U17 sides struggled against relegation during their Bundesliga campaign. On top of these problems, the U15 side was relegated from the Bayernliga, meaning that the club is going to have a tougher time reaching out to local talents in that age group.

And as if this trouble wasn’t enough, business manager Markus Rejek discovered that some of the transfer fees paid for some of 1860’s bigger talents were far below market value when he took a closer look at the books after taking over back in 2014. For example, both Bender twins and Kevin Volland are examples of 1860’s under-selling, who are now making names for themselves in the Bundesliga; however, the transfer fees for those players were far too low according to Rejek. The latest example of the club’s poor business sense was the sale of Juilian Weigl to BVB.

For now, 1860 is clearly a mess in need of much: better results, more stability, better stadium atmosphere, and better business sense.

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 30-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 and on the @AufstiegPod.