Kaiserslautern have confirmed their relegation to the third division of German football after losing their 17th game of the 34-match season. The Red Devils won Bundesliga titles in 1991 and 1998.
With their 3-2 loss to Arminia Bielefeld on Friday, Kaiserslautern confirmed they will finish in one of the bottom two spots in Germany's 18-team second league.
The teams with the two worst point totals in the second division are automatically relegated to the third tier.
Kaiserslautern have won four German league titles, including Bundesliga titles in 1991 and 1998. They also won the German Cup in 1990 and 1996 and reached the Champions League quarterfinals in the 1998-1999 season.
The Red Devils were one of the founding members of the Bundesliga in 1963 and have never dropped below the second tier of German football.
"The relegation is very bitter for the club and the entire region. It hurts me for the team because it really is a joke that we are going down," Kaiserslautern coach Michael Frontczek said.
A tough year
Kaiserslautern has spent most of the season at the bottom of the table. Their loss Friday was the 17th of the season, by far the most in the second division.
But their misfortune wasn't just on the field. In a game against Darmstadt on January 24, Jeff Strasser, Kaiserslautern's coach at the time, was rushed to the hospital at halftime after suffering a heart attack during the game. The match was abandoned after the incident.
Strasser could not see out the season and the club replaced him a week later with Frontzeck. Kaiserslautern collected four wins and two draws under Frontzeck but could not get themselves off the bottom of the standings.
"Of course it was a slow death. But we tried to keep the whole thing alive. The team also did everything today to stay in the league," said club sporting director Martin Bader. "Kaiserslautern is knocked down. But getting back on its feet can be a nice thing to do."
Bader said that 90 percent of the players in Kaiserslautern squad do not have contracts for Germany's third league, which means they could depart the club with little to no transfer compensation.
"That hurts because we hoped to keep them and others," Bader said German sports outlet Kicker.
Additionally, in dropping to the third tier, Kaiserslautern forecasts a €24 million ($29 million) reduction in turnover and expects to have a modest budget of €5 million.
The club is holding an extraordinary general meeting in June to determine whether they will spin off their soccer team from the club. Clubs in Germany do this to allow investors to buy equity in the team, injecting capital into the club's football department.
Per German rules, Kaiserslautern have to hold 50 percent plus one share in the team, effectively leaving its voting rights with the club's members.