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Interview with ViaPlay Experts. Authentic image of Union Berlin and the risk of commercialization.

Updated: Jan 28, 2023

Roger Hampel

1.FC Union Berlin is the current vice leader of the Bundesliga. At the same time, the club has a very traditional, authentic and anti-commercial image. In 2019, Union Berlin was promoted to the Bundesliga for the first time in its history, which already resulted in fans' concerns about commercialization risk. In addition, the club exceeded expectations in the Bundesliga, consistently holding up in its first season. In the second season, they qualified to the international competition UEFA Conference League by taking 7th place in the league, which was a surprising achievement. The season 2021/2022 was the third season of 1. FC Union Berlin in the Bundesliga. They took 5th place and in consequence to which they qualified for the UEFA Europa League. Additionally, they reached the half final of the DFB Pokal. The transformation from a second league club to a club playing in European competitions in a very short period, has made this authentic and anti-commercial organization becoming an increasingly recognizable sports brand. The club's current successes are of course a consequence of well-matched transfers and outstanding work of the entire team. However, by crossing new boundaries, everyone's ambition for the brand is to remain high and to constantly develop in terms of sport and economic aspects.

The guests of today's interview will be:

• Artur Wichniarek: former Bundesliga footballer of Hertha BSC, record goalscorer in the history of Arminia Bielefeld. Currently, a Bundesliga expert at ViaPlay.

• Tomasz Urban: Sports journalist and sports commentator at ViaPlay. The main specialization is the German Bundesliga.

• Marcin Borzecki: Sports journalist and sports commentator at ViaPlay. The main specialization is the German Bundesliga.

So, is 1. FC Union Berlin able to avoid commercialization and maintain its authentic image in the era of the club's greatest success?

Roger Hampel (Football Business Journal): Football is moving in an increasingly commercial direction, but in Germany there are still clubs with very anti-commercial values, such as 1. FC Union Berlin and FC St. Pauli.

Tomasz Urban: Well, these are, of course, unique clubs, not only in German football, but also in worldwide football. I have the impression that they really have such specific values with which they identify themselves, which they live by, which fans also live by, they organize various actions to unite this fan base around them. As far as Union is concerned, it is worth mentioning the singing of Christmas carols, the sofas brought to the stadium, the fact that the fans actually built the stadium with their own hands, and many social actions. I also think that of course St. Pauli as well as Union are sports organizations with very pro- social values. Openness to others and tolerance in these two cases matters.

Marcin Borzecki: Well, it has a chance to survive, but it could probably continue for hundreds of years in its romantic aura, that is without some Western investors and so on. On the other hand, the question is at what level would it survive because, however, it is impossible to get away from the impression that other leagues that may admit big sponsors will be financially distant from the Bundesliga, for example, the English Premier league. Honestly speaking, I am in favor of the 50+1 rule being abolished, because I have the impression that it blocks the development and I also think that there is great potential in Germany. It seems to me that if this rule would be abolished, then this league could be stronger than the English league, because in fact it has all the fundaments to develop, i.e. it has stadiums, training bases for fans, many cities attractive for investors such as, for example, Cologne, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Bremen. Cities like this are cool cities to just bring a football life to the next level. And Germany already has such know-how, they know how to spend this money, they know how to develop, they have different educational systems for the development of coaches, directors and players. The example of Hertha Berlin shows that this is not a guarantee of success. Of course, if it were to take place, it would be within some reasonable limits, that foreign investors would not have absolute power over the club. The romantic aura and this principle are nice, the clubs are healthy, but I believe that it strongly blocks development. There are more and more voices to change these rules and I think it is a matter of time when such a more serious discussion about abolishment of the 50+1 Rule will take place. Bayern Munich notes that they are losing a lot with this rule, because of course, it is nice for them that they are winning 10 championships in a row and are a tycoon and generally nobody in the Bundesliga will compete equally. On the other hand, the lack of competition slows down the development of the club. This rule is cool, but I don't think it will survive sooner or later. There is an argument for fans to stop walking, to be offended and so on, and now I don't think it would be like that. If someone does not come to the game because he is irritated by the presence of an American investor, his neighbour will come because he will want to see a very good player the club could not afford before, and now this player can simply stand and play in the jersey of his favourite club.

Union won all last 5 games vs. Hertha Berlin. Source:

Tomasz Urban: The fact that both Union Berlin and St. Pauli are underdogs in their cities, is the result that both must constitute some kind of opposition to tycoons from their cities - Hertha Berlin and for HSV Hamburg. They must be slightly different, they have to stand out with something different, which I also think shaped both clubs and made them simply nice and likeable. There is no arrogance and conceit in them. They are aware that they come from low social levels, they are not clubs for the aristocracy, but for such an ordinary citizen. And I think it all matters, it is reflected in how both clubs are perceived. There is not a lot of money in these clubs, there are no investors, they have to deal with a bit of such outdated methods, because it also matters how these clubs are received. Union and St. Pauli shouldn't go beyond their limits. They should keep identity. They shouldn't be number one in the city, even if they have ambitions. They should be humble and aware of where they came from as well not to be a mainstream, plastic or elite club. These values they have should be cared for at all times, because this is what distinguishes them from the other clubs in Germany. Every marketing campaign directed at fans has to be carefully thought out so as not to lose your identity by accident. You have to try to get a new fan, new markets, but at the same time you can't deviate from its original path.

Artur Wichniarek: Today everyone is impressed with what Union Berlin is doing with its modest wage and transfer budget. No one really expected that they could be a team that would make a promotion to the Bundesliga. They tried many times to be promoted with previous coaches such as Uwe Neuhaus. They were a team that knocked on the gates of the Bundesliga, but they never managed to reach the promotion. The contracting of Urs Fischer, the coach with the idea for Union Berlin, a coach fitting the concept of the club president, had a similar effect, of course keeping the proportions between the clubs, such as Hansi Flick's takeover of Bayern, who changed the team and won everything with Bayern. Urs Fischer and Union Berlin are comparable. Urs Fischer came to the 2nd Bundesliga team, was promoted to the 1st Bundesliga, stayed there and then advanced to the European cups. The 2021/2022 season is another successful season by Union Berlin and this shows that today money is not the most important thing in football, but the idea and implementation of this idea are the most important. It cannot be bought for any amount of money, and this is shown by Union Berlin. It is also shown by other smaller clubs like the Spanish Villareal, which is not as financially strong as the financial monsters from the Spanish league. They had hired a coach who had an idea for this team, and they successively began to play in Spain and in international competitions. Their victory of the UEFA Europe League 2021, defeating Manchester United in the final - the richer club that is owned by an American investor who supplies the club with huge funds - is the perfect example. This shows that despite the commercialization and big money in football, building a team based on money is still not a guarantee of success. Money itself is not playing football. The perfect example is Hertha Berlin, which lost Berlin-Derby to Union Berlin. As Hertha has dominated Union financially in recent seasons, so sportingly Union Berlin has dominated Hertha. Football and its values will always defend themselves.

Artur Wichniarek: Of course, today's Union Berlin is not Union Berlin from four seasons ago. Spending 6.5million€ for a footballer (Taiwo Awonyi) by Union was unimaginable and financially impossible 4 years ago. The club's sports successes result in the club's economic successes. I hope Union will never lose its DNA and that they will always be the club from Alte Foersterei and Koepenick.

Roger: Dirk Zingler, president of Union Berlin said "We as German football must remain authentic and then we must sell this genuine football of ours." Nowadays, is it possible to maintain an authentic and traditional image and at the same time raise more and more funds to remain competitive?

Artur Wichniarek: Sports success always transforms into financial success. Sponsors in Union Berlin today are paying more for sponsorship than in previous years. Today Union is a brand, a product that more and more people want to be a part of. With its authenticity, Union wins more and more fans. For now, more fans will not fit into the An Der Alten Foersterei Stadium, because it is one of the smallest stadiums in the Bundesliga. Union, wanting to continue the successful path, will have stronger finances through this sports success. This results in better money from broadcast rights, advertising, sponsorship deals etc. Union will never be a financial monster and I think that they themselves do not want to be such a monster. They want to work modestly, calmly as before, but very intensively. It's good to have finances, but managing big finances is also a separate aspect and it is a lesson of humility for many clubs.

Tomasz Urban: It is very difficult, and I find it more and more difficult, but it is possible. I like the way of Union because they walk towards their goal in small steps. Originally, Union just wanted to stay in the league and it was with this attitude that they qualified for the European cups. Hertha started talking about playing in European cups and has a problem staying in the league. Union is more pragmatic. Referring to the words of Dirk Zingler - it is possible. The mere fact that they are planning to expand the stadium with a minimum number of seats, allowing them to play in international competitions without disturbing the structure of the stadium - there will be over 8,000 seats there, the rest will be standing places. It will keep the character of the "Alte Foersterei", it will keep the character of the club. This phenomenon is less and less common in Europe right now and it is no secret that many foreign people, for example from England, come to Germany to watch football matches live, to feel the atmosphere, eat a sausage, drink a beer. This completely different stadium atmosphere, even compared to England, attracts people. Union and St. Pauli are the epitome of the longing for the 80s and 90s, leaving aside, of course, all the disadvantages of football from that period, such as fan riots etc. But it is a "Time Machine". When I was at the An Der Alten Foerstere Stadium, I had the impression that I was experiencing a travel back in time, to the 90s. It is really a stadium with a soul, and they nurture that soul, they want to keep it and it's great that they go against the tide. Paradoxically, this may be the only right path for Union and St. Pauli. Thanks to this, they will stand out from other clubs. In a moment, there will be no difference between Wolfsburg and Hoffenheim, which are following the commercialization path. They will want to follow the best clubs, and those clubs that take a different path will not dream of big matches in the Champions League, but will consciously step on the ground anyway and will go their own way and will be guided by their values and remember where they come from. They have a chance to actually attract the attention of a wider audience. There are fewer and fewer clubs such as Union and St. Pauli, and it is natural that they will simply stand out from the mainstream.

Fans of Union Berlin and FC St. Pauli. Photo source:

The expansion plan for the Union Berlin stadium.

Marcin Borzęcki: One must consider what is within the limits of authenticity. If in a club such as Union Berlin, the investor would give some money, but the money would be invested in the development of the training academy, in order to finance youth teams, to create a model in which the club has players in the first team coming from youth teams, and at the same time they would continue to play in their stadium with stands and then instead of the electronic scoreboard, it would be done in the traditional way, I think that the fans would not be too angry either. That would also be, to some extent, authentic. You have to find some reasonable balance and boundaries. I guess it also depends on how the money was spent. I think that even more conservative fans would probably be dismayed at the beginning, but when they see that it only gives the club more opportunities, and yet the club retains its identity, and characteristic image and does not become such a mainstream product, then later, the fans would start to appreciate it. It would be best if the investor himself was a fan of a given club! For example, if he were from Berlin and a fan of Union Berlin!

Tomasz Urban: For example, what bothers me in Union is such a triumphalism on Hertha. "We are number one in Berlin" - it is not the way of the 1. FC Union Berlin. In my opinion, Union cannot boast of winning the competition over Hertha, I know that it is tempting that you want to shout "Yes, we won, we are number one, we won against them 3 times" and so on, but this is not Union's way, this is the Hertha’s way. On the other hand, Union has to keep both feet on the ground. "We won. Cool. Let's move on." Union should be humble and not triumphant. This is the right way. This is something that will attract other people. And naturally, as more and more people are attracted, the club's marketing value will increase, the interest in the club will increase and, consequently, the club's earnings will increase. But it can't be done very quickly. The example of Hertha shows that an external investor and a sudden inflow of large financial resources are not a guarantee of success. 1. FC Union Berlin still has better opportunities than other Bundesliga clubs such as Bochum or Greuther Furth. In a very short time, they managed to build a very solid wage budget. The more difficult path of the underdog does not mean that there is no possibility of development and raising new capital. I believe that, paradoxically, staying authentic and keeping your identity is a path to extra income for clubs such as Union and St. Pauli. This further is a long-term path to financial development and additional profits. Taking a shortcut, that is, an investor, would distort faith in this club and I have the impression that many fans would turn their backs on Union. I have the impression that many fans support Union also for the fact that Union is what it is. It may not be perfect, it may not shine, but it is not artificial, it is human and natural.

The poster "Berlin is red!". Source:

April 2022. Union beats Hertha 4-1 away. The footballers celebrate by dancing to the rhyme of Hertha BSC "Nur Nach Hause". Source: Imago / J.Huebner. herzens-li.222073

Roger: Athletic Bilbao is a phenomenon on a global scale. You think that in Germany, anti-commercial teams like 1. FC Union Berlin or FC St. Pauli, can they start to function according to a similar model? After all, last season, Union Berlin had the oldest squad in the league.

Marcin Borzęcki: If only now I started to be interested in football and I wasn't aware that there is a project like Bilbao and someone told me that there is a club in the Spanish league that plays only players from their region and plays well because it is in the top league and sometimes where it revolves around the broadly understood opening sequence, I would not believe that it is possible to reconcile. The example of Bilbao itself shows that it is possible. On the other hand, their contemporary history, the history of that century, shows that they still have to make more and more serious concessions. They used to not play with jersey advertisements, then they started playing with jersey advertisements. I also think that not every corner of Europe can resemble this club. It seems to me that many years of tradition must be followed. For several dozen years they have managed to create certain training patterns, and this is probably not something that can be implemented in a team overnight.

Artur Wichniarek: I hope the first team's sports success and improvement in financial resources will leverage into investment in youth academy. It is a team that contracts only the Basque, only invests in its youth and in its academy, which constantly creates great footballers. I think that currently Union Berlin cannot follow this path, because the Union's structures are too limited to change this path to focusing solely on young players. You have to stick to the coach's ideas for a team that has been successful so far. Things can be refined, but you shouldn't change things while they are functioning well.

Tomasz Urban: You can try and you have to try, but I think Union still doesn’t have a strong enough position in the league to focus on goals other than sports goals. It is not yet time to get distracted by other aspects out of sport. It is worth paying attention to which players Union chooses to build its squad. These are the players who most often failed in other clubs, who were rejected by other clubs (like Oczipka), or who stood out, but at a lower level (like Volgssammer). This is the strength of the Union. These footballers are aware of that from another team they wouldn't get the chance they get in Union. This is for them the only chance to appear at the highest league level in Germany. I think that is very plausible in the context of the Union's message of taking imperfect players who have their flaws. Of course, Union cannot afford others, but it is part of the nature of this team. Not spending a lot of money on the "one-season Wonder" players, hoping to also be successful at Union, only taking players who have their flaws and building them into a hard team break - this is a great way and it should be so on. Of course you have to keep in mind the young players, of course it would be great to earn 2- 3 pupils to strengthen the brand’s principles. On the other hand, Union still has to build its position in the Bundesliga in sport next seasons to be able to calmly and fully focus on aspects such as building an academy. If you have a super talented player at the academy, you can try to give him a shot in the first team, but I don't think so in the short time managed to become a regional Athletic Bilbao, or a club that became unambiguously associated with youth. It would be great long term but nothing by force this is not the priority now.

Christopher Trimmel, captain of Union Berlin. Photo source:

The captain of Union Berlin, Christopher Trimmel is also a tattoo artist by profession. After his promotion in 2019, he made memorial tattoos for fans for free. Fans identify very much with the player who leads a normal lifestyle. Photo source:

Roger: What do you think about crowdfunding actions or German clubs releasing their own fan bonds? Is this the future for clubs like Union?

Artur Wichniarek: You shouldn't change things while they are functioning well. You can see that the people who work there know their stuff and do their job well.

Tomasz Urban: This is where the creativity of the people managing the club is very important. However, it is difficult. The point is not to follow Hertha's example, not to go into commercialization, keep your own identity, but gain at the same time new funds.

Tomasz Urban: On the other hand, regarding various aspects of economic support for the club, I would always wonder if it is moving towards a commercial path, or whether it still goes within its own values and identity preservation. If there was a new idea and I found that's not selling your identity – let’s do it! Whereas if it could benefit me, but it is a betrayal of my identity and it would be a deviation from the path that I am following - I would just let it go. But this is a case for managers meeting and brainstorming. A single person may not get it. I think Union has to do everything to be different from Hertha. This is the key in my opinion. Hertha goes heavily towards commercialization and issues to strengthen its financial position, it has enormous ambitions and the Union should do exactly the other way around. As long as he does it the other way around, of course they have to watch out not to be relegated from the Bundesliga, but as long as in terms of sports, everything is correct, they have to do everything in the opposite way than what Hertha does. In fact, Union can be such a club that takes us back in time and makes sentiments come alive again. People expect different things from football, but I have the impression that there will be a sufficient number of people treating football like this historical journey through time and for which Union or St. Pauli will be an ideal solution, precisely through the prism of referring to the past. As long as Union does it the other way around, of course they have to watch out not to be relegated from the Bundesliga, but as long as in terms of sports, everything is correct, they have to do everything in the opposite way than what Hertha does. In fact, Union can be such a club that takes us back in time and makes sentiments come alive again. People expect different things from football, but I have the impression that there will be a sufficient number of people treating football like this historical journey through time and for which Union or St. Pauli will be an ideal solution, precisely through the prism of referring to the past. This “Gescheftstelle” in Union, this house, it all fits perfectly, it is great contrast between the office buildings in Hertha’s district– Charlottenburg. This everything is in direct opposition to what Hertha would like to do and just like that should be Union. It should cherish traditions, it should stay authentic, faithful to his ideals, not to boast of victories over Hertha, not to mock a richer rival, not to sell in the media the message that “we are number one in Berlin”. This is not the Union's way.

Tomasz Urban: They have to be humble and do their own thing. Maybe it is only that much and that much, but I have the impression that such a humble attitude, focused on for yourself, not against your opponent, is perfect and is the right path to success. I have the impression that people also value authenticity, especially in times where everyone strives to show perfection, for example on Instagram. Showing the perfect world is fashionable and other clubs strive for it. And Union goes the other way. They show up on Instagram “without make-up”, as a club, which has a tired, human, natural face. And as long as they keep it and will not powder, paint and show how beautiful it is, but rather show how natural it is, so long as everything will be correct. The solution is simple - show naturalness and faithfulness. It is becoming rarer in today's football. What I like about clubs like Union and St. Pauli is that they have such a natural, human, tired face. Their players, such as Giesselman and Trimmel, are not self-proclaimed football stars, but artisans. Fans can identify with them because they know that Union players are people who have achieved their success and a lot of money through hard work. A player in Union does not receive a salary just for his name, potential for the future, or because he is coming from Bayern - but for hard work. The message from Union Berlin is consistent on many levels, ranging from fans, anthem, transferred players, and social media. This message is coherent, perfectly on point. If clubs like Union or St. Pauli, also in social media, will try to compete with local, richer rivals, like Hertha or HSV Hamburg, it will not be a good step. Let the richer rivals worry that they are in crisis, and the authentic sports organizations should focus on themselves. Of course you have to have ambition to be the number one club in the city, but don’t show it. It will not be achieved through Twitter posts "We are number one", but through natural numbers, like the number of members, or the better position in the Bundesliga five-year ranking, developing a fan identity, developing financially in the frames of your philosophy - that is what you can do to be number one, but don't talk about it out loudly. Then it shows that you are not worse, that you don’t have a richer rival complex, you just do your job.

Marcin Borzęcki: I don't see anything wrong with that. Both smaller clubs can do this and bigger. Of course, you can argue that the money transferred can go to the expensive and unsuccessful transfer - but I guess that's the point of being a supporter, right? The emotional connection of the fan with the club should be not only in the case of successes and expensive transfers, but also in the case of times when not everything is going well. And I think the german fans share my opinion, because whenever there are some such actions aimed at increasing the club's budget, the fans willingly get involved in it, buy special products of the club and their actions make it clear that they like it too. And I think that German fans share my opinion, because whenever there are some such actions aimed at increasing the club's budget, the fans willingly get involved in it, buy special products from the club and by their actions make it clear that they like it too. The club never forces anyone to take part in such actions, does not write an e-mail to fans with the obligation to pay, that everyone must transfer, for example, 10 euros. Someone can spend 10 euros on an amusement park, someone else on supporting a club. There is nothing wrong with such actions. I think there are many ways to raise money and I think that though such actions appear, there are still not enough of them. I think there are many ways to fund the clubs' account and give fans an extra pleasure that will not only be a drain on your wallet. You can organize many things, e.g. meetings with players, sell club-related trips, trainings with coaches, classes with footballers. There are quite a few different ways. You can connect pleasant with useful, i.e. financial impact with entertainment for fans. Such actions connect the fan with the club.

Roger: And the ticket increases by a few euros?

Tomasz Urban: I think so, if it was properly explained to the fans - why does the club increase ticket prices and for what reason. I would pack it in such a way that ''we do not want to commercialize, open up to external investors, take shortcuts, we want to build our own club, but we still need more funds." If it were to sell well and keep this identity in the media, it would be acceptable. Fans receiving a sincere message will be ready to accept such a thing. It could be one such path, but the creativity of the management is very important in this aspect.

Marcin Borzęcki: I think it depends what the raise would be. I talked to a Bayern Munich fan, he said that he also pays 15 euros for places behind the goal, so it is a cheap price. It all depends on the amount of the raise. If the prices jumped from 15 euros to 20 euros, I think everyone would understand. However, if the prices jumped from 15 euros to 45 euros, I think there would be a lot of protests. Since there were a lot of protests about Monday's games, in the case of a very high raise, I think there would also be a lot of protests. The protests would be so large that this increase would have to be withdrawn sooner or later. Too much tilting of this barrier would be met with strong irritation of fans. Conversely, if it were within reasonable limits, everyone would understand it. Times are changing and more and more money needs to be spent. The club needs to grow.

Roger: 50+1 Regel. Does it have a chance to survive?

Artur Wichniarek: There are advantages and disadvantages. The Bundesliga has shown how resiliently it functions without debts and credits, which in a time of crisis, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, may be impossible to pay off. The Bundesliga has shown that it is financially very healthy, that the management of the clubs is very professional and this is the most important message of the last two years.

Roger: Could the war in Ukraine be a catalyst for changes in football values? Will the fashion for anti-commercial sports teams begin?

Artur Wichniarek: The fans are with the clubs for good and bad times. The owner or the political situation has no influence on fan loyalty.

Marcin Borzęcki: I guess so. A lot of fans generally condemn the fact that clubs are funded by some foreign budgets, and not all these foreign budgets were earned fully legally and honestly. Maybe not on a mass scale, but there are many people who are not looking to support a club that is somehow suspiciously financed, but for some niche, to support an underdog. This season, I have the impression that 1. FC Union Berlin and FC. Koeln have more and more sympathizers. And such sympathy from simply checking the results at the beginning can turn into something bigger. I think there is already a surfeit of all these clubs like Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, and Manchester City. Many fans are looking to place their sympathy in a club that has an identity, such as Union or FC. Koeln, who has a friendly coach and a great atmosphere in the stadium. I think it can really go this way. The more clubs there are like Chelsea or Paris Saint- Germain, the more I get the impression that there is less interest in them. Watching these stars and transfers for 100 million euros is not as atmospheric as watching Union Berlin, where the result is changed manually.

Photo source:

Roger: Social Media image of the german football clubs.

Artur Wichniarek: Nowadays, all such tools and activities are necessary. These times are different than 10-12 years ago, when I was playing football or finishing up playing football. The whole world, not only in football, has gone in a completely different direction, which one, whether it is good or bad, we will have to judge in the next 10-15 years. Each club has its DNA and each club has to decide in which direction it wants to go, and we will see the effects of this in some time.

Marcin Borzęcki: I think that Bundesliga clubs present themselves very well in social media and it is helpful in image development. They don't limit themselves to these messages "there is a match tomorrow, the match ended with this result etc". They often interact with the fans. There are also a lot of great activities by the German teams as for example, Schalke 04, who has Polish roots, makes Christmas greetings on Facebook in Polish. It is a friendly way of contacting new fans and it is very helpful. Therefore, it seems to me that the Bundesliga stands for a good level in case of such campaigns, let's say brand marketing.

Roger: Should clubs like Union reconcile the entry of new fans into the team and encourage them to join the team, with current fans who have been loyal to the team for a long time, from the fourth league?

Marcin Borzęcki: In the case of Union Berlin, it seems to me that they haven’t been yet such a big club in Germany with a lot of money. However, those clubs that decide to expand internationally and are looking for new fans in various parts of Europe and the world, can afford it thanks to good financial opportunities. I think if Union had enough money, and the stadium could expand, then it would be a little easier to get tickets for the game. Then they could do some camps in other countries and so on. It seems to me that currently Union is not in such a good financial situation, and that the priority is not to look for new fans all over the world, but to take care of the club's current tasks.

Roger: Should clubs promote such slogans as Schalke’s ''Wir Leben Dich'', or BVB’s ''Echte Liebe''?

Artur Wichniarek: Yes of course. Such slogans like Bayern Munich’s Mia San Mia are needed. Fans identify with these slogans. I think that every club has an idea for its promotion that brings good effects, but at the very end the most important thing is always the sport performance of the team.

Tomasz Urban: Union should not preach marketing slogans "We want to be the best", "We are a club for everyone". They should refer more to their past and tradition. It attracts attention, maintains identity, and distinguishes them from other clubs that are more commercialized. An example are the fans' chants at the stadium and the anthems at the stadium. The anthems of Union and St. Pauli Stadiums stand out significantly from those of Bayern or Borussia Dortmund, which are delicate, fluid, pop and "for everyone". Hertha’s anthem “Nur Nach Hause” is much softer and less thrilling than the Union's Berlin anthem. It is a small thing, but it gives the impression that it is a club with character, that it has its value, that it is not a club for everyone and that it knows which path it wants to take.

Tomasz Urban: An example are the fans' chants at the stadium and the anthems at the stadium. The anthems of Union and St. Pauli Stadiums stand out significantly from those of Bayern or Borussia Dortmund, which are delicate, fluid, pop and "for everyone". Hertha’s anthem “Nur Nach Hause” is much softer and less thrilling than the Union's Berlin anthem. It is a small thing, but it gives the impression that it is a club with character, that it has its value, that it is not a club for everyone and that it knows which path it wants to take.

Marcin Borzęcki: Such slogans like Borussia Dortmund’s Echte Liebe, or Schalke’s Wir Leben Dich have a positive impact on the authenticity of the club. Although in Bayern Munich over the years, Qatar Airways airlines appeared on the sleeves, they still have the slogan Mia san Mia on their shirts. It is great that despite this more international image of German clubs, many clubs use these slogans. It keeps up this German identity and it reminds us that this club is something more than just a toy for some investor, but simply a club that has been working on its own position for years. This has a positive effect on the authenticity of the club.

Roger: What do you think about the club issuing bonds in such a situation?

Artur Wichniarek: Bonds were issued by Hertha Berlin, but it was in a crisis situation when Hertha was in debt. These are treatments that support the club financially, not promotional treatments. Introducing an investor, making clubs into joint stock companies is a high risk, which results in a lack of independent decision making. An example of Hertha Berlin shows that this is not a guarantee of success. At the very end there is a coach, appropriate players chosen by them and the right tactic chosen by them. This is the most important thing. And finances can help with club development, infrastructure, academy and making transfers that are becoming more and more expensive nowadays. But Union Berlin should remain itself.

€100 bond, issued by Hertha Berlin in 2004. More on Bundesliga bonds soon on Footbaal Business Journal. Photo source:

Roger Hampel: Bundesliga Footballers. We remember the extravagant behaviour of for example Ribery or Aubameyang. Should the club look at players' outside-pitch behaviour?

Tomasz Urban: Then Union would lose its credible message. The club should educate their players in this respect and make them aware of their own values. But I am convinced that the players in Union are carefully selected before the transfer in case of the outside-pitch behavior. And even if Union Berlin hires a player who’s extravagant and controversial by nature, paradoxically he will fit even better with Union Berlin because it will be natural and authentic what he does, he will not pretend to be someone else, and it fits. Such an example is former Union player - Max Kruse. I wrote before Max Kruse's transfer to Union Berlin that he goes to the city, which fits him well, but a club that doesn't fit him at all. And it turned out that he fit perfectly, because he was himself, he was authentic, natural and people accepted his otherness. But if other players, suddenly after becoming successful and earning more money, began to radiate their wealth, it would disrupt the Union's message. With this move Union also showed that it is open to otherness and as long as a given player is authentic, everything fits correctly. The club also made a profit from his transfer to VFL Wolfsburg, selling him in good time, when they were already secure in the Bundesliga. Union is not a glamor club and it will never be and I would not want that club to go in that direction. Union must be completely different from Hertha and then it will attract people to the club.

Marcin Borzęcki: I think that in general it should be controlled and probably in clubs, there is someone who wants to follow Instagram, footballers and life outside the pitch. However, I think that up to a point there should be no interference in it and the limit of such a player can be allowed to be quite large, as long as he does not really do some very controversial things. On the other hand, off the pitch, there are more controversial eccentric players who eat a golden steak or, like Aubameyang, blast their Lamborghini with diamonds. This is, of course, controversial, but who will forbid it? Well, it is simply done with the money that this footballer has honestly earned himself, as if he was working hard for that money on the pitch, so he can spend it on what he wants. However, I think it should be controlled, because there is a fine line between being extravagant and being distasteful and harmful for the club’s image. If it is within healthy limits and does not harm other people and the club, however absurd some actions are, let them just spend their big money on whatever they want.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (former Borussia Dortmund footballer) and a collection of gold-studded supercars. Source of the photo:

Grischa Prömel, as a Union Berlin player, used to train in an old Ford Fiesta, which he got from his grandmother for his eighteenth birthday. Photo source:

Roger: Your reflection on the future of Union Berlin.

Marcin Borzęcki: The future of Union is strongly dependent on the future leadership of the sports director and coach. This is one example of clubs where the influence of these two people is very strong. It is often said that the squad of the team should be built very stably, that the staff should not be turned upside down every season. However, when we trace the transfers of Union Berlin even from the moment of promotion to the Bundesliga, over a dozen players came, and over a dozen left. So, this squad is turned upside down, and the results are still amazing. The director has an incredible talent for finding suitable players from the second league or weaker Bundesliga teams. Maybe the moment when the coach and sports director leave will never come, and they will work there for the rest of their careers. However, I think when that moment of departure comes, it will be difficult for Union Berlin to maintain its present level. It is very difficult to close the financial gap in the Bundesliga. For Union it would be best if these two worked at the club as long as possible, because it rarely happens that you get people with such intuition, knowledge, skills and talent to find new players. The departure of even one of these people could already be quite a problem.


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