German outfit Turbine Potsdam would probably just want to forget the first half of 2022/23 Frauen-Bundesliga season.
After 10 rounds played of the campaign, they sit last in the league table. More than ever, relegation is a realistic scenario for the team.
The downfall of Potsdam, who once were the flagship team of German women’s football, is a bitter one.
They won the Champions League twice in 2005 and 2010, and have six league and three DFB-Pokal titles to their name. Now, they’re playing what seems to be their last season in Germany’s top flight. How could it come this far?
The current situation
Since the Frauen-Bundesliga started back up in September, Potsdam gained only one point from a draw against SV Werder Bremen. The nine other games all ended in defeat for the last-placed team.
In addition, Potsdam are out of the DFB-Pokal, which is equivalent to the English FA Cup.
The team would need at least nine points to reach the safe zone in the Frauen-Bundesliga table. However, with their recent performances in mind, this seems hardly manageable.
They went into the season with a new head coach, Sebastian Middeke, who was sacked by the end of October. His successor is Sven Weigang, although the club didn’t bring him in as permanent solution.
A month prior to this, team captain Naomi Gentile suffered an ACL injury and is sidelined until further notice. However, Potsdam not only face problems regarding the squad and its management. The issues root far deeper.
Behind the scenes
The team is one of few in the Frauen-Bundesliga that are an independent women’s football club. This means they are not integrated to a men’s license team.
Potsdam did have a cooperation with Hertha BSC, however, that was terminated last year as the Berlin club are looking to found their own women’s team. Since this partnership has come to an end, Potsdam lack even more money.
The team and the structures within the club have been underfunded for a long time. Several sponsors have withdrawn their support, with new ones hard to find. This is also due to the fact that the management of the club are executing their positions honorarily. Competences are often unclear, which seems to result in chaotic and slow internal working processes.Embed from Getty Images
Meanwhile, those responsible at Potsdam have failed to adapt and improve the structures at the club so that they would fit with the development of modern women’s football.
In an interview with German media outlet rbb24, former players of the team spoke anonymously about the current crisis.
“The topic is very complex”, one of them said. “Ten years ago, they were leading in terms of infrastructure, now, women’s football has grown.
“The club missed the leap, lost the innovativion and rested on their phase of success.”
The honorary working management of Potsdam were overstrained by the challenges they had to face. This became especially clear when more than ten players left the club at the end of the 2012/22 season. As a result, they are playing with nearly a completely new, and hardly routined starting eleven.
Also, management didn’t react to players’ demands and suggestions on how to improve the situation at the club. What they had to say was met with interest. according to what rbb24 was told. However, no actions followed.Embed from Getty Images
Potsdam have, for example, no sporting director, no team-advisor, and poor conditions on the training grounds.
Additionally, physios weren’t informed about injuries that a player may have had.
“We’ve had a lot of talks, very often the same issues that we need more staff, that the conditions need to change immediately,” a former squad member told rbb24. “But that shouldn’t just come from us.”
Lack of professionalism
The Frauen-Bundesliga is not a fully professionalised league. Only players of the top four to five teams can fully focus on their sports career and make a living from it. Others have to work a second job, while being a footballer at the same time. This also applies to Turbine Potsdam.
As management at the club did not act, players sat down to conceptualise proposals on how to stop the crisis at the club. This additional stress had an influence on their performances on the pitch.
“We didn’t have the feeling that we could focus on football only,” an ex-player told rbb24.
The missing professional structures and sporting success now makes the club likewise unattractive for possible new signings and sponsors. Players had to take up tasks which would be the job of Potsdam’s management.
In addition, their suggestions were ignored or denied with a reference to the financial situation. Internal discussions between players, staff and management caused a climate of tension and resentment. No club could succeed under these circumstances.
What’s next for Turbine Potsdam?
The German outfit is most likely to be relegated and play in the second tier from the 2023/24 season on. This will of course be a huge disappointment. Not only for the club, but also German women’s football as a whole.
However, it is also a chance for the club to rebuild itself.
Karsten Ritter-Lang was voted the new head of management back in November.
“It is certainly not the most tempting task at the moment,” he told rbb24. “But after talking to the team and fans, I am motivated to change course.”
However, this process will take a long time. Too many things went wrong at Turbine Potsdam. Their downfall should be viewed as a warning signal.
Another independent women’s club in the Bundesliga, SGS Essen, also battles financial difficulties.
As long as the whole women’s league in Germany isn’t fully professionalised, teams with less money and underfunded structures will never be able to compete for the top-three spots in the table. This is not the path that the Frauen-Bundesliga should stride on.