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Dortmund's story from cash-crisis to Wembley finalists

Updated 21 May 2013 10:47:04

Dortmund's story from cash-crisis to Wembley finalists

Borussia Dortmund's path from the brink of bankruptcy in 2005 to Saturday's Champions League final against Bayern Munich has been dubbed "Ground Zero to Wembley" by CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke.

Last November, he announced that Dortmund had posted a record net profit of 34.3 million euros ($44.5 million) for the 2011-12 season, when they won the league and cup double.

It is a far cry from March 2005 when, with debts of 120 million euros (US$154m), Watzke came within days of declaring Borussia bankrupt which would have seen them drop out of the Bundesliga and into the obscurity of amateur football.

Having won the 1997 Champions League title, the club had descended into heavy debt by signing big names for huge sums in a bid to stay near the top of German football.

Borussia was floated on the Frankfurt stock exchange in October 2000, but the cash poured out quicker than it flowed in, leading to dire financial straits.

When ex-president Dr Gerd Niebaum resigned in October 2004, the club was debt riddled, their Westfalenstadion had been sold and successor Reinhard Rauball faced an unenviable task.

"I had never taken on such a responsibility in my entire life," said the trained lawyer, who had twice bailed out Borussia in the 1970s and 80s.

"When I had previously helped save the club, the situation hadn't been easy, but the sums involved meant we could find a solution.

"This was a whole new experience given the huge sums involved."

Watzke also has clear memories of the days around March 14 2005 when they had to persuade Borussia's 5,800 shareholders, numerous banks and the German Football League (DFL) that the club had a financial future.

"It was pure chaos and anarchy, it doesn't get tighter than it did eight years ago," said Watzke of his first days as CEO in February 2005.

"Within two days of me taking over, we had to notify the stock market of our situation, or broken the law for delayed filling of insolvency.

"Then if we hadn't got a signature on a finance package, it would have meant registering for insolvency and amateur football.

"The creditors were at our door and until September 2006, we were under their governance.

"If the financial crisis had hit Germany any earlier, rather than 2008, there would definitely not be professional football in Dortmund."

The players had to take a 20 percent pay cut as shares in the club plummeted by 80 percent.

With bankruptcy avoided, the club slashed their budget, off loaded overpaid players, signed young talent and adopted a new philosophy.

"We would never again go into debt in the pursuit of sporting success, now we only spend what we have earned," said Watzke.

Borussia struggled for form in the years after their crisis with three different managers from December 2006 and May 2008, when the club finished 13th in the league.

Then Dortmund approached ambitious manager Jurgen Klopp, who had got Mainz 05 promoted to the Bundesliga in 2004 and kept them there for three seasons with a limited squad, but a well-organised system.

As luck would have it, Klopp had been approached to coach Bayern Munich, but the Bavarians opted for another Jurgen -- ex-Germany coach Klinsmann -- and Dortmund got their man.

The 45-year-old's first few campaigns were encouraging: a sixth-placed finish in his first season, fifth in his second, then the first of back-to-back league titles in 2010-2011.

"When I arrived here, I thought, naively, that I could go shopping with a big bag of money and pick players. Then I heard about the budget," admitted Klopp.

"There was little money, but a great tradition and high expectations.

"There were two options: take credit, but there was none to be had, so we had to rely on young players.

"Some of these boys were playing in the Bundesliga at 19, it's nice to see how they have developed and realised their potential.

"This final is a milestone, but no one has the feeling that the journey is over.

"Even if we win the final, we will stay tuned and then try to give rise to specific football."


AFP

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