TSV 1860 Munich have been relegated to the fourth tier of German football for the first time since 1992. Champions in 1966, a Bavarian footballing institution is now on the edge of the abyss. DW asks: what's gone wrong?
Bayern Munich may have won 26 Bundesliga titles since the league's inauguration in 1963, but the first Munich side to win the championship wore sky blue. In 1966, with the not-yet-so-famous FC Bayern having only just been promoted, "Turn- und Sportverein München von 1860" beat Borussia Dortmund to the trophy. It was a successful decade for the 'Lions', which also included a German Cup win in 1964 and a European Cup Winners' Cup final in 1965, where they lost 2-0 to West Ham United at Wembley.
Two turbulent decades followed in which the club fell into financial difficulties, had its license revoked and was automatically relegated to the amateur leagues. But under club legend Werner Lorant, they bounced back, qualifying for the UEFA Cup in 1997 and the Champions League in 2000.
Nevertheless, they were still unable to play in their own Grünwalderstrasse stadium after the plug was pulled on a stadium expansion project, forcing the club to ground-share with arch rivals Bayern, first in the Olympic Stadium and then in the Allianz Arena. On the brink of insolvency in 2006, they were saved when Bayern purchased their shares in the Arena for €11 million euros, making 1860 tenants who were reliant on their rivals.
Promise turns to chaos
The heady days of the Champions League seemed like ancient history in the Allianz Arena on Tuesday night, when the closing stages of the relegation playoff second leg against Jahn Regensburg descended into anarchy. Trailing 0-2 (1-3 on aggregate), supporters in the north stand began ripping up seats and throwing them onto the pitch. As riot police lined up behind his goal, Regensburg goalkeeper Philipp Pentke was forced to physically dodge missiles while defending a corner. These were unruly and chaotic scenes which encapsulated the sorry state of a once great football club.
In 2011, with "Sechzig" (Sixty), as their fans call them, again facing bankruptcy, Jordanian billionaire Hasan Ismaik purchased a 60% stake in the club - albeit with only 49% voting rights so as not to infringe German football's 50+1% ownership law. Ismaik promised to lead 1860 back to the Bundesliga and the Champions League.
Since then, 13 managers have come and gone and huge sums have been spent on players and coaches. This season, however, the rollercoaster has entered one permanent big dip.
Sporting director Thomas Eichin was demoted in December after only five months in the job, to be replaced by businessman Anthony Power. The American introduced himself in a bizarre press conference, speaking up unexpectedly from a position among the gathered journalists, who were not aware that Eichin had even been sacked.
Covering 1860 Munich was becoming increasingly challenging for reporters. Having already been banned from the training ground in November, three local newspapers (Münchner Merkur, Tageszeitung and BILD München) had their accreditation withdrawn in January, meaning they were unable to report directly on Brazilian record-signing Ribamar's red card just 19 minutes after coming on in the cup defeat against third-division SF Lotte. Consequently, leading German football magazine 'Kicker' announced it would refuse to conduct any further interviews with 1860 Munich players or staff.
In March, local BILD journalist Kristina Ellwanger was refused access to the club's home match against FC St Pauli after reporting on alleged bullying within the squad. At the same fixture, the visiting club's directors were requested to move from their seats in the VIP section after celebrating their team's goals in Ismaik's vicinity, leading St Pauli's sporting director Andreas Rettig to release a statement, saying: “When respect and freedom of expression are sacrificed at the altar of big money, good night football in Germany."
On April 3, former Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre was unveiled as the surprise new CEO at 1860 - a strange appointment made possible by the involvement of Iranian agent Kia Joorabchian (who was also the man behind the controversial transfers of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano to West Ham United in 2006, in breach of third-party ownership laws). Ayre resigned on May 30, on the morning of the relegation play-off second leg against Regensburg, citing "an organisation in which the shareholders are not aligned in a common interest, nor have a shared vision for the future of the club."
Local media in Munich later reported that neither he nor the players had been paid and that the club's accounts had been cleared out, signaling Ismaik's potential withdrawal. Only six players have contracts which are valid for the third division - and the exodus has already begun, defender Kai Bülow joining Karlsruher SC, who will also join 1860 in the third tier.
After one of the blackest days in the club's history, the future looks darker still. Not only has the first team been relegated, their relegation has also forced the club's U23 team, who finished second in the 4th tier, down a division to maintain the two-division gap between the teams. The club's U19, U17 and U16 have also been relegated from their respective leagues.
1860 Munich have until Friday 2 June at 15:30 CET to submit their application for a third division playing license. But with television revenue set to sink from six million to one million euros and a further five million euros' worth of sponsorship from marketing partner Infront also set to go, it's possible that they won't be able to afford it.
The consequence could be further relegation to the regional fourth tier or even insolvency and a re-start in the club's old Grünwalderstraße stadium.
One of German football's great institutions is on its knees. "We would rather be relegated to the regional leagues than take any more of [Ismaik's] money!" one supporter told DW in Munich earlier this year. It may be the only solution.