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Good things come from below

by archysport

Concrete idea for the Millerntor Stadium: At FC St. Pauli, the establishment of a cooperative is under discussion.

Photo: imago images / Philipp Szyza

Inventor? Josef Derkum laughs. No, he doesn’t want to claim that name for himself. But if you look for a connection between cooperatives and German professional football, the 34-year-old from Cologne is the first to catch your eye. He describes his idea, which he brought up in the spring of 2015, as a »way of thinking«. In the long-running discussion about the outsourcing of the professional departments, Derkum criticized the fact that the clubs were primarily concerned with increasing their financial possibilities. On the platform “Fascination Fan Curve” he wrote: “The formation of a corporation for gaming operations offers the possibility of selling shares in this company.” With the warning of windy investors, he pointed out an alternative. »The purpose of cooperatives is to promote their members. This promotion is ensured by the fact that each member makes a contribution and, conversely, should democratically participate in the fortunes of the cooperative. “

It is not surprising that such a growth-oriented competition as professional football hardly offers any space for values ​​such as co-determination or proximity to the grassroots. And the turbo-capitalist commercial spiral has already turned the Bundesliga upside down: With Mainz 05, SC Freiburg and 1. FC Union Berlin, there are only three registered clubs to be found there. You play against public companies, limited liability companies and limited partnerships on stocks for points.

But the idea of ​​cooperatives in professional football is by no means absurd. Even Josef Derkum didn’t just make it up. “The idea that you could organize a club in the form of a registered cooperative came to me during my studies,” he explains “nd”. The business economist even wrote his thesis on the area of ​​cooperatives. As a native of Cologne, he was born with a love of football from the very beginning – to 1. FC Cologne. An amendment to the cooperative law that had been in force in Germany since 1889 made Derkum think at some point about whether the two could be combined. In 2006, the funding purpose of cooperatives was expanded to include cultural and social issues. “That football is culture should be undisputed,” as Derkum wrote nine years later, was nothing new. The thought of cooperatives in professional football apparently does. At least nothing can be found before 2015.

It is undisputed that the cooperative works as a model in general – in Germany for around 170 years. Today it is the largest economic organization in the country with more than 22 million members, advertises the German umbrella organization DGRV. And: the bankruptcy rate for cooperatives is only 0.1 percent. There aren’t any in professional football. But the charming combination of growth and sustainability or capital and democracy made Derkum’s idea more concrete. “Such a path could be particularly interesting for traditional clubs with a large fan base,” he wrote six years ago – and should be proved right.

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At FC Schalke 04 there were always discussions about outsourcing the professional department, much more intensely for a year and a half. At that time, the controversial club boss Clemens Tönnies said goodbye. And the “Handelsblatt” wrote that the association tended “towards the legal form of the cooperative.” Schalke is still a (registered) club – with 160,000 members the second largest in Germany and the sixth largest worldwide. But Schalke is doing badly: athletically as a second division, financially with more than 200 million euros in debt. The Gelsenkirchen cooperative is not yet more than an idea. But that alone surprised Günter Althaus, “positively” of course. After all, he was President of the DGRV for two years. The 54-year-old has no concerns in view of his many years of experience. On the contrary, he sees »considerable potential« in it. Althaus described it to the Schalke fan initiative »Zukunftself« as follows: »Cooperatives are firmly convinced that economic activities are based on trust and should not be carried out over the heads of people. They are geared towards sustainability and reliability. From my point of view, a beneficial corrective to the sometimes very hectic and short-term behavior in the management floors of numerous professional football clubs. “

It is also the disadvantages of the usual paths that make a cooperative attractive in professional football. Dissolution, bankruptcy or forced relegation: there are many examples of failed attempts by associations that have become dependent on investors in search of quick money. In addition to the risk of outside control, which can also lead to alienation on the emotional level, outside investors can bring other unpleasant things into your own house. Let me just remind you of the turbulent general meeting of FC Bayern Munich at the end of November: The issue of Qatar tears the club apart.

The topic of cooperatives was recently brought up again in Cologne. “As part of a members’ event on September 5 about forms of financing, the possibility of a cooperative was brought into the discussion by a member,” reports Derkum. 1. FC Köln outsourced the professional department almost 20 years ago. Nevertheless, he is satisfied, because his association still holds 100 percent of the shares in the GmbH & Co. KGaA. And tells about the last annual general meeting. “It was decided with 92 percent of the vote that the members will in future decide on the sale of shares from the first percent – an emergency sale may in future only include 12.5 percent with the approval of the members’ council.” And Derkum also has a say in this. Since 2018 he has been a member of the supervisory body of 1. FC Köln, the membership council, and was re-elected in November.

The idea of ​​the cooperative came about when he was “only” a fan and an active member of his association. Even then, he did not refer these thoughts to his Cologne club, but to the general problematic situation in German football when it comes to the search for capital. Fans have been trying to bring the power of participation and codetermination into play for years. Josef Derkum, who works as head of the general auditing department in the Archdiocese of Cologne, knows that there is also a lot of good that comes from below.

FC St. Pauli is also aware of the advantages of a cooperative. A spin-off is not an issue for the second division club from Hamburg. The presidential phrase applies: “We want to remain member-led, self-determined and independent.” Oke Göttlich also wants to use these identity-creating characteristics for the “further development of the association”. And this should be done on a cooperative basis. The concept of giving up to 46 percent of the shares in the company’s own Millerntorstadion operating company to the fan base in the form of a cooperative has existed for three years. One member, one vote – this principle of democratic participation suits the association, and the already strong bond with the base is strengthened even further. But even when the conditions seem ideal, the path is complicated. The organizational process is not yet complete. But: »The idea of ​​the cooperative is still alive«, confirmed St. Pauli’s press chief Anne Kunze to »nd«.

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