When Werner Gegenbauer was asked about his recent re-election as President of Hertha BSC how long he intended to hold the position, he referred to his counterpart Rolf Königs. Koenigs, who celebrated his 80th birthday in August, has been president of Borussia Mönchengladbach since 2004 and appears to have no intention of giving up the position.
Gegenbauer turns 72 next week and has at least fourteen years at the helm of German club Hertha BSC. But – it is now clear – it will remain that way. In the past few weeks, months and years, Gegenbauer has received a lot of criticism for his leadership and has resisted those criticism more or less defiantly. The fact that he has now decided to leave office prematurely and of his own free will deserves at least respect. Because this decision prevents further damage from Herta.
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Gegenbauer has recently been at the center of a power struggle with investor Lars Windhorst, the effects of which have weighed heavily on the club – and likely had an even greater impact on it. Both sides accuse the other of unfair methods.
Regardless of who is right: the decisive factor is that there is no longer a peaceful solution and therefore also satisfactory to this conflict, which has long reached a personal level. Gegenbauer’s voluntary withdrawal enables Herta to mend his strained relationship with Windhurst.
Fourteen years, a lot of middle level
Fourteen years as president is an impressive time, however it would be difficult to speak of an era that shaped Gegenbauer. Above all, sporting successes are missing. Hertha was promoted twice to the Bundesliga during his tenure – but only because they were relegated twice before. The rest was rather mediocre.
The president likes to be blamed for things he is not responsible for. Gegenbauer was not responsible for the day-to-day chores, nor for the appointment or dismissal of the head coach, nor for the creation of a new right-back. But the president sets the framework within which the department responsible for operations moves.
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Above all, Gegenbauer’s commitment to sporting director Michael Pritz over all the failures has almost gone on a tragic note. As if the chief of Hertha wanted to prove to his former friend and later enemy Dieter Hoeness with all his might that he was wrong in evaluating his successor (“Michael Pritz, he can’t do that”).
Presidency of unfulfilled hopes
And so Gegenbauer’s presidency, from the start, will go down in the club’s history as a presidency of unfulfilled hopes. There was a certain logic to the idea of him being appointed at the helm of the club: a businessman, successful and nonetheless accessible, a native Berliner with intelligence and at times a slightly rusty charm – and above all best links with the decision-makers of politics.
Gegenbauer was considered a genius for pulling strings, but according to this reputation, Hertha clearly didn’t get around enough in the end. Times have just changed, and Hertha’s desperate behavior when planning a new stadium has shown that many matters can no longer be settled through official channels between friends as in old West Berlin.
Of course, Werner Gegenbauer would have loved to see the opening of this stadium still in office. Nothing will come of it now. It is not the only wish that has not been fulfilled.