The Fall of Schalke

It was a balmy evening in May of 2011 when Schalke, in their changed strip of claret, took to the field. Ninety minutes of sumptuous football was to follow with Schalke making light work of their opponents for the evening, Duisburg. As the final whistle blew, Manuel Neuer took to the stage and lifted the Pokal proudly aloft. This was the climax to a glorious campaign that included victories over Nurnberg and Bayern. These were the good times.

They would go on to have seasons in the Champions Leagues and even to a famous win at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu against Real Madrid. How far away those glory days feel now. Gone are the days of superstar players the likes of Raul, Christoph Metzelder, Julian Draxler, Neuer and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. So, how did the gold turn to ashes?

Where Are They Now

The German giants currently find themselves in the doldrums of the 2. Bundesliga, perilously close to dropping further down the leagues. Their poor on-pitch performances are compounded by financial concerns so severe that the club may be looking at insolvency. This is an undignified fate for a club with the second largest membership in Germany, behind only Bayern Munich. 

The Decent to Darkness

The football on the pitch has been poor five years on from being in the Champions League round of 16, as Schalke currently plays in the second tier. In that time they suffered an infamous run of 16 league games without a win between January and June of 2020. Things did not get any better from there with the club yoyoing between the first and second division for the next three seasons.

The drop in divisions has also led to a significant drop in TV rights revenue, according to football finance Schalke was earning approximately € 43.7M in the 22/23 season and this dropped significantly to approximately €25m this season.

Financial Woes

Financial mismanagement and COVID have both contributed to the downfall. The basic tenant of any business is to sell your assets for more than you buy them for. However, Schalke was particularly poor in the transfer market regularly making bad investments that they later had to either sell at a loss or let leave on a free.

The covid-19 pandemic put an additional strain on their already fragile finances. The loss of matchday revenue was a major issue for many teams around the globe and Die Knappen were no different. Moreover, the war in Ukraine led to them losing their sponsorship with energy giant Gazprom. As they say, ‘when it rains, it pour.’

The Road Back

So, will the glory days ever return to Gelsenkirchen? One can only hope so. It is what the thousands of fans and ultras that loyally back their team deserve. The road back is a long and painful one we have seen sides like Hertha Berlin and HSV attempt the revival before.

The story of Schalke serves as another warning as to what can happen to even the biggest of clubs if they are allowed to be mismanaged. Football clubs are more than just businesses: they are pillars of the communities, rallying points, temples of worship. As a result, we need to renew the call for the powers that be to do more to protect these beloved institutions.

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