Eight days after the final day of the 2020/21 Bundesliga season, Hertha held their first ordinary members’ meeting of the new year. Just like last May, it was a digital event due to the coronavirus pandemic. Typically, over 1,000 members of the Blue-Whites would fill the exhibition hall, but club representatives were met with just cameras, allowing over 2,740 Berliners to follow proceedings, led as usual by Dr. Dirk Lentfer. “Dear Herthaner, I would like to welcome you all to the Berlin exhibition hall for the first members’ meeting of 2021,” was president Werner Gegnbauer’s opening statement, quickly followed by a message that’s just as relevant even over a year into the pandemic: “I hope above all that you’re all enjoying good health.”
After battles for points and places, for the title and for survival, another Bundesliga season has come to an end. The 71-year-old, who celebrated his birthday last Friday, made no bones about things having been anything but rosy of late. “The recent campaign has been defined by hardship and of course the absence of the most important aspect of football: all of you, our members and fans, who have been unable to cheer our team on in the stadium for over a year now, and you are sorely missed at every game,” said the long-time Herthaner. He spoke of an unusual season, that will require deep analysis. “On the pitch, it was an extremely unsatisfactory and disappointing campaign, although it at least had a happy ending by us securing survival,” was Gegenbauer’s critical summary, but he still highlighted the team’s achievement of avoiding relegation despite a number of setbacks and thanked those that stood by the Blue-Whites. “Under our “Gemeinsam Hertha” (Together for Hertha) motto, we were able to create a wave of solidarity that in turn led to incredible support for our boys in the battle against the drop,” said Gegenbauer, who has been president of the capital club since 2008.
Pál Dárdai stays on – Hertha BSC continues to grow!
After a report from the supervisory board courtesy of chairman Dr. Torsten-Jörn Klein and the subsequent discussion of his points, Carsten Schmidt spoke about the solidarity of the Hertha family – the crux in our relegation battle. “I am delighted to report that, since we began our membership initiative on 10th March, Hertha BSC has gained 2,148 new members. That is a fantastic result,” said the Hertha CEO in his first members’ meeting since taking on that role. “I am convinced that the city of Berlin and Hertha BSC will continue to grow in the future.” The 57-year-old had more good news to share too, playing a video of Pál Dárdai, who confirmed that he will remain the club’s head coach in the new season. As he spoke about the topic of corporate social responsibility, Schmidt highlighted how this club is about more than just football: “I joined a very special club. The Hertha BSC approach and values structure is simply extraordinary. I say that because you, our members, and the fans who are not yet members, have made that possible. It’s a community that cares for one another and has done extraordinary things during this coronavirus pandemic,” said Schmidt, before going on to detail various social engagement activities. “The Wilhelm Wernicke Prize has produced our first ever €25,000 beneficiary. There have been many other very successful initiatives and we are glad to offer them our support.”
Scenarios for fans to return in the works
Meanwhile, Ingo Schiller spoke positively about the cooperation with Hertha’s strategic partner Tennor. “The fact that, in spite of the difficult situation surrounding the pandemic, I am confident about the future and have found the strength to come out of this situation even stronger is above all down to the partnership with Tennor,” said Hertha’s financial director. “Much to everyone’s delight, Tennor decided last July to provide another €150 million of equity, which undeniably affirms their belief in Hertha BSC and the city of Berlin. We’re in an incredibly strong business relationship.” A further topic of discussion was the potential for fans to return to the Olympiastadion. “We are under the assumption that spectators will be able to attend games again, but it won’t happen all at once. I can assure you that we intend to open our gates as soon as possible though.” For now, there is no season ticket for 2021/22, with the sale of matchday tickets to be prioritised for past season-ticket holders who are also members. Schiller also wanted to thank the club’s sponsors, partners and friends, who have stood beside them during this difficult period: “Thank you to Homeday for their commitment to Hertha BSC. With Hyundai, we have an automotive partner who last autumn agreed to an early extension through until 30th June 2022. Coca Cola have already extended their partnership for another year, while we have agreed a new three-year deal with Berliner Kindl,” revealed the 55-year-old.
Schiller was also full of praise for the club’s various bodies and all of its staff: “We’re in a special situation at the moment. Most of our colleagues are working from home and that of course limits communication, yet the work that has been done regardless of that is remarkable and should not be taken for granted. I hope that we can continue to work together with this spirit for many more years.” He also thanked Michael Preetz, who left the club earlier in the year. “I would like to thank Michael personally for everything he did for Hertha – for his commitment, for his fairness and for his work for the club, which has left its mark.”
Detailed exchanges and a proposal
In the exchanges that followed, the presidential and executive boards answered questions submitted by the members, with topics such as the cooperation with Turbine Potsdam, personnel decisions, youth work and the kit launch for the new season all discussed. There was also a proposal for the removal of Werner Gegenbauer as president. Only 622 of the 2,422 voting members’ present backed it, falling well short of the two-thirds majority required. After 188 minutes of the members’ meeting, it was Gegenbauer who then had the final word: “Here’s to seeing you all again soon in the stadium in good health!”