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Sports

DFB gets green light for academy in Frankfurt

The German FA has won a controversial vote to build a new football academy in Frankfurt on land currently used for golf and horse racing. Sunday's referendum voted in favor of the 89-million-euro structure.

Officials at Frankfurt's city hall announced on Sunday that the DFB (the German FA) has successfully won the vote to build a new football academy in the city after the opposition initiative failed to secure 25 percent of the vote.

On January 1, 2016, the racetrack area that currently occupies the site of the future academy must be cleared so the land can be handed over to the German FA. Construction will start at the beginning of 2017. The academy is slated to be the largest building project the DFB has ever undertaken. Plans include a number of buildings all under one roof, as well as football pitches, an indoor hall and a park.

Early predictions suggest the academy, which will cost 89 million euros ($96 million) will be finished at the end of 2018.

Computersimulation DFB-Akademie

The design is lavish but if finished by 2018, could become the leading football academy in the world

In the first vote of its kind in the city, the total cost reached 1 million euros and participation only reached 20.9 percent. The result meant that despite 62,900 people voting in favor of retaining the racetrack, the pro-racetrack initiative fell well short of the 124,389 required votes.

Germany team manager Oliver Bierhoff, who proposed the idea in 2007, threatened to pull the DFB out of Frankfurt if the vote didn't go in its favor. Speaking to the local German newspaper "Frankfurt Rundschau" after the ballots had been counted, it was clear how important the project aims to be - and not just for German football.

"We want this academy to be the best in the world," Bierhoff told the paper. "This is a lighthouse project for football."

Frankfurter entscheiden über den Bau der DFB-Akademie

As strong as the pro racetrack arguments were, they were not strong enough

Academy a DFB gift

A major criticism of the construction plan was that the city handed the association the building contract on a silver platter by including a 99-year lease and 6.8 million euro rent. Bierhoff felt the posters were unfair.

"These posters were a step too far. I find it tasteless that things are mixed together like that," said Bierhoff.

Germany national team head coach Joachim Löw wrote an open letter to the people of Frankfurt: "I hope you won't just support us with your voice in the stadium. We are all world champions." Löw added the coaches needed "a place to concentrate their knowledge and develop football."

Those in favor of retaining the racetrack spoke of an "84 million euro present" for DFB, which will also receive a grant of 7.6 million euros from both FIFA and UEFA for the construction.

jh/sms (dpa, SID)