The place where the representatives of the 36 clubs in the first and second Bundesliga met the full-time officials of the German Football League (DFL) on Wednesday provided a number of indications of the situation of professional football in Germany.
The 22nd general meeting of the association took place in the Westfalenhallen in Dortmund, practically opposite the building where Hans-Joachim Watzke has his office as boss of Borussia Dortmund.
Although Watzke assured that there had been no “shift in the axis of power from Frankfurt to Dortmund”, the chairman of the DFL supervisory board has been regarded as the most influential figure in national league football since the resignation of the long-standing association manager Christian Seifert.
And not Seifert's successor Donata Hopfen, whose association had previously traditionally invited to Berlin.
In addition, the introduction of the Bundesliga was decided 60 years ago in the Crystal Hall of the Westfalenhallen, and this reference is not without symbolic power.
Because in 2022 there will again be important decisions that those responsible are currently preparing.
Watzke confirmed in office
The presidential elections went as expected, Watzke was confirmed as chairman of the supervisory board, only Hannover 96 abstained.
The other candidates for the presidency were also elected, only two men are new to the nine-member body: Holger Schwiewagner (Greuther Fürth) replaces Rüdiger Frisch (Darmstadt), who is moving to the supervisory board.
In addition, as expected, Axel Hellmann, spokesman for the board of Eintracht Frankfurt, takes over the post from Alexander Wehrle (formerly Cologne, now Stuttgart), who no longer ran for office.
"It's no secret that I appreciate the intellectual abilities and his assertiveness very much," said Watzke about Hellmann;
the two could also become close allies in the DFL in terms of content: for maintaining the 50+1 rule and at the same time united in their openness to growth measures,
In addition, the licensing committee and the supervisory board were newly appointed, with these elections having the characteristics of a show event.
A number of candidates such as Fernando Carro (Bayer Leverkusen), a determined opponent of the 50+1 rule, and Christian Keller (Cologne), who advocates co-determination and traditional values of Bundesliga culture, had withdrawn their candidatures prior to the meeting.
According to reports, there were agreements to circumvent combat votes and to represent as balanced as possible all currents.
The fact that the full-time DFL Managing Director Hopfen gave her speech on the future plans of professional football in the non-public part of the General Assembly fits in with the need felt throughout the association to keep certain processes under lock and key.
"Sometimes it's necessary to close the windows and doors and talk to each other," Watzke explained about this measure, and praised Hopfen for her work to date: "She tackles the issues with a lot of panache, enthusiasm and a great focus on goals."
How difficult Hopfen's position is in this male-dominated association became clear when her predecessor Seifert was made an honorary member of the DFL and the laudator, Professor Michael Wolffsohn, announced: "Christian Seifert is the superlative.
It doesn't get any better than Christian Seifert.” It comes as no surprise that Hopfen, as the successor to such a man, has not yet convinced all club representatives.
Even after the end of the event, it was not entirely clear whether the managing director managed at least a small liberation at the meeting.
She "explained how we are dealing with the current topics of future options", meaning, in addition to questions of sustainability and the unresolved questions about dealing with the 50+1 rule, considerations about the entry of one or more investors.
"We had a very good discussion about the next steps," she said.
It is clear that the league would very much like to find an investor who would ideally bring in know-how as well as money.
The sale of shares in a subsidiary that has yet to be founded, which could take care of the foreign marketing of Bundesliga football in the future, is being considered.
With the money raised – it is speculated that up to four billion euros – a digital platform could be set up through which content such as live games and summaries could then be distributed.
But all of this will be done carefully, assured Hopfen.
"Our own way means: 50+1 will of course remain, we will go our own German way," she said.
"We cannot copy left and right, we will learn left and right."