German Football League: Quick end: Managing Director Hopfen has to leave the DFL

German football league
Quick end: Managing Director Hops has to leave the DFL

Donata Hopfen, former CEO of the DFL, leaves the podium after a general meeting. photo

© Frank Rumpenhorst/dpa

Donata Hopfen’s football career ends quickly. At the beginning of the year she took over the management of the German Football League – but after just one year her time is already over.

With clear words and a little dig, Donata Hopfen said goodbye to the German Football League. The 46-year-old complained of a lack of support after the end of the collaboration was announced.

She “didn’t feel any more support in the end,” she wrote on social media. The first woman to head a large German football association wished “the responsible gentlemen the necessary courage and will to change”.

First of all, men should actually run the business of the DFL again. According to information from the German Press Agency, Oliver Leki, who is currently employed at SC Freiburg, and Axel Hellmann from Eintracht Frankfurt are now to take over the DFL management as a double head on an interim basis. It’s not official yet.

The DFL statement said that the employment relationship with the 46-year-old had ended “by mutual agreement”. The reason for the separation are different ideas about the further strategic direction of the company, it said. Hopfen had only assumed the chairmanship of the committee at the beginning of the year, succeeding Christian Seifert.

The league has many problems to deal with

Hans-Joachim Watzke, head of the DFL supervisory board, was dutifully quoted in the announcement: “I would like to thank Donata Hopfen for her great commitment and the intensive months in which we worked together very trustingly.” In fact, hops had obvious problems with some of the Bundesliga managers around Watzke.

Nevertheless, Hopfen also wrote: “It was an intense time, I got to know and appreciate many great people. I leave knowing that I have initiated the right things.” But not everyone in the Bundesliga saw it that way.

For the new season, the management is to be redistributed again. Leki and Hellmann are to run the business until then. However, this rule is not official yet. Either way, however, the new leadership has a lot of work to do. The discussions that have been going on behind the scenes for months about the hops, which only started in January of this year, show that the league has many problems to overcome.

The differences between the industry giants such as Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund on the one hand and those who have been promoted to the second division on the other are naturally large, and the needs are very different. One of the difficult tasks of the DFL management is the reconciliation of interests, which has not become any easier after the departure of the well-respected Hopfen predecessor Christian Seifert.

Evergreen topic 50+1

The long-running issue of 50+1 continues to have great potential for controversy. The Cartel Office is pushing for clarification. The authority does not fundamentally object to the restriction for investors that only applies in Germany, but rather to the exception for the three Bundesliga clubs Bayer Leverkusen, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim and VfL Wolfsburg. The problem dates back to Seifert’s time, but has still not been resolved. There was no solution in sight under hops.

The most important issue for the DFL is domestic marketing, which currently brings in 1.1 billion euros per season. After the drop in income as a result of the Corona crisis, the clubs want more again with the next contract. The tender for the audiovisual media rights is planned for the first quarter of 2024, but several steps are necessary beforehand – such as coordination with the Cartel Office. That would be the first big task for Hellmann and Leki.

Another construction site after the short hop era is the entry of investors. The DFL is currently working on selling some of the media rights to investors – just as other leagues have already done. However, the project is controversial. The regional conferences announced by Hopfen in September have not yet taken place. There is a working group. A majority for this billion dollar project is not recognizable among the 36 clubs.


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