On the face of it, these are dark days for Hansa Rostock. The Ostsee club went down 5-4 to Union Berlin in an incredible match on a scorching day in Köpenick yesterday and were duly relegated from the 2. Bundesliga, just 10 months after their successful return. It could, and perhaps should, have been the Hanseaten who were celebrating at the end of the match; but that’s the story of Hansa’s season. Their recent run of form has come far too late and their relegation shouldn’t be put down to recent losses at rivals in Berlin or at the Millerntor, rather the inability to beat the likes of Ingolstadt or FSV Frankfurt at home.
The truth is, things could get a hell of a lot worse before they get better. FC Hansa Rostock are dangling over the precipice of financial ruin and help can only be found from one source: the city itself. Hansa require an injection of around €750,000 simply to continue operating as a solvent entity. On top of that, they also need €4.5m of debt to Rostock city council to be written off. The city parliament is due to debate and decide on the financial measures on 9th May; if the decision doesn’t go their way, managing director Bernd Hoffman says that Hansa’s only option is to go before the district court and lose their licence for the 3. Liga, meaning direct relegation to the fourth-tier Regionalliga Nordost.
The €4.5m debt is around half of the club’s total and stems from missed tax payments between 1999 and 2001, a time when Bundesliga football was played at the Ostseestadion. The city parliament’s finance commission has already recommended that any bailout plan be rejected; leaving Hansa facing fourth-tier football and even insolvency. The federal state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has categorically refused to provide any assistance, adding that the city authorities were welcome to step in if they deem it appropriate. Hoffman didn’t exactly give any grounds for hope by bluntly saying that there was “no plan B”.
The active fan scene at Hansa is, of course, in full swing with protests and campaigns for the city bailout. They believe that the football club is a vital part of the city and should be treated as such. Protests are planned on 6th May at the stadium and on 9th May in front of the city hall. It remains to be seen whether the authorities will be willing to spend taxpayers money on cleaning up the mistakes of previous directors; but it doesn’t look good.
Further reading (German):