Donata Hopfen must have felt the headwind at the top of the German Football League for some time. Now the end of her work as DFL boss seems to be imminent.
According to information from the German Press Agency, the league's supervisory board is advising on an interim solution after hops have been replaced. A double lead with Axel Hellmann from Eintracht Frankfurt and Oliver Leki from SC Freiburg is under discussion. Hellmann and Leki could not be reached for comment.
The spokesman of the board of Eintracht Frankfurt and the chief financial officer of SC Freiburg belong to the supervisory board of the DFL. This consists of six people chaired by Hans-Joachim Watzke, the managing director of Borussia Dortmund. A meeting of the committee is scheduled for Wednesday.
At the end of October, the managing director of the umbrella organization of German professional football publicly campaigned for stronger support. "More is always possible," Hopfen answered in an interview with "Kicker" when asked if she felt absolutely supported.
In hindsight, this seems like a cry for help. A good five weeks later, the 46-year-old threatens to be replaced at the supervisory board meeting this Wednesday. According to information from "Kicker", Hopfen, whose contract runs until the end of 2024, has finally lost the trust of the six-member committee chaired by Borussia Dortmund's managing director Hans-Joachim Watzke. The parties involved initially did not comment on request.
Are hops failing in Seifert's big footsteps?
How could this happen? After all, shortly before Hopfen took office on January 1st of this year, Watzke had declared: "I have great confidence in her and will have her back." Even at the DFL General Assembly in mid-August, the BVB boss had still praised that hops proceed with "a lot of vigour, a lot of enthusiasm and a great deal of goal orientation".
On the one hand, there are the big footsteps of hop's predecessor Christian Seifert. During his 16-year tenure, the top manager had turned the Bundesliga into a flourishing company with record annual revenues. Under his leadership, marketing and television revenues have increased by more than 250 percent. Without Seifert, Bayern President Herbert Hainer praised his farewell at the end of 2021, "the Bundesliga would never be as professional and successful as it is today".
Hops, on the other hand, have recently been increasingly confronted with critical tones from the league, which recorded a loss in sales of more than one billion euros in the Corona crisis. The international media rights were "sold completely below market", complained about Bayer Leverkusen's managing director Fernando Carro. And Dortmund boss Watzke complained that the league had "honestly not really started to exploit our potential properly". Hopfen recently admitted at the Spobis Congress: "We're hanging on there."
opposition in the unions
There is probably also dissatisfaction in the league with other important issues such as digitization and the 50 1 rule, which limits the influence of external investors in the clubs. All in all, all this could be fatal for Hopfen, who came to the DFL as a lateral entrant with no football experience.
There have recently been indications that their position has been weakened. In the search for a new person responsible for foreign marketing, the league managers on the supervisory board of the responsible DFL subsidiary Bundesliga International rejected the hop candidate, according to dpa information. Robert Klein is giving up his job as head of Bundesliga International at the end of the year. Other top employees such as media director Christian Pfennig and digital boss Andreas Heyden left the company after Hopfen started.
The first woman at the head of a large football organization was not welcomed everywhere and by everyone with open arms anyway. "My job is to draw up the strategic lines for the future and, as the DFL, to offer the best possible framework conditions. This requires everyone's willingness to accept changes and sometimes also to scale back their own interests a bit in the interests of the big picture," pointed out Hop recently in the "Kicker" resistors.
Hops remain inconspicuous in Qatar
However, she failed to make a name for herself. Significant was her appearance at the World Cup in Qatar, which was as inconspicuous as her previous tenure. Before the momentous group final of the DFB selection against Costa Rica, Hopfen visited the German fan embassy in Doha together with DFB Vice President Ronny Zimmermann.
While Interior Minister Nancy Faeser caused a big media crowd there at the start of the World Cup, the DFL managing director appeared almost unobserved. Neither the DFL nor the DFB had made the date public. Hopfen did not want to comment specifically on controversial issues such as the "One Love" captain's armband or the performance of FIFA President Gianni Infantino, which was criticized around the world, or later on the preliminary round elimination of the German national team.
The corona crisis, energy crisis and inflation also made it difficult for hops to get into professional football. "I started in times of crisis, and the global political and social problems felt like they were increasing every day," she stated in the "Kicker" interview. The first months of her tenure had been "a wild ride". It could end abruptly now.