In an appropriately gloomy ambience, Matthias Große presents a balance sheet of horror. Shortly before Christmas 2020 and only three months after his election as President of the German Speed Skating and Short Track Association (DESG), the businessman attested to the association's "desolate financial condition", speaking of nepotism and mismanagement.
Unmissable in the picture: display of his real estate company with the Berlin excursion destination Müggelturm as namesake as well as the main sponsor of the association, which he brought on board, a company from the building industry (B
"After I took office, it quickly became clear to us that the situation was much worse than we had imagined," says Große in an interview with the German Press Agency. This turned out to be because the association had been "put through its paces".
Great wants to convene a general meeting
His predecessor Stephanie Teeuwen resigned in November 2019. Critics had accused Grosse of having tied the acquisition of new financiers to his election. "As I understand it, the aim should always be for a sponsorship to be long-term and not necessarily tied to the people involved," said then-DESG Vice President Uwe Rietzke in a dpa interview in April 2020.
If the 55-year-old has his way, the members of the DESG should be informed at a meeting in the first half of 2023 about everything that went wrong before his term of office. This should be convened within the next three months. Then it should be explained "what has come to light, what misconduct happened in the years up to our association takeover".
At the same time, the head of the association announced that former DESG officials should be held accountable for misconduct. According to him, among other things, financial resources should have been used incorrectly. "We will prosecute those responsible for this crisis and these misconduct. I promised that back then and it will remain so. Because it's not just about 3.80 euros, but a little more," says Große. He wants to leave it up to the members to decide how his predecessors should be held accountable.
DESG averts impending insolvency
Financially, the DESG, which is still threatened with insolvency in 2020, is now in a stable position thanks to the sponsors and the funding. "The fact that we're still here at all is a great success. Insolvency and the dissolution of the DESG have been discussed for years. These issues have long been off the table," emphasizes Große. And further: "There are many, many, many construction sites that we have straightened again." The DESG boss did not want to comment on the content of the clean-up work to date or whether the financial gap when he took office was greater than the confirmed EUR 400,000. "I can do that, but I don't want to do that now. The members should find out first," he says firmly.
Not only economically, but also sportingly, Große accuses the former management of the association of mismanagement, which led to the decline of the former medal guarantor speed skating. "Under the old leadership, the DESG has not done any targeted youth work for 15 years, but has geared everything to the big names. For years, people have rested on the many medals that Germany has won," criticizes Claudia Pechstein's partner.
The five-time Olympic champion was part of the glorious times, but at the age of 51 she can no longer run into the medal ranks. At the World Championships last weekend in Heerenveen in the Netherlands, the Berliner made tenth place in the 5,000 meters, as did Fridtjof Petzold from Crimmitschau in the 10,000 meters for the only two German top ten finishes in individual decisions. "Our goal must be to win medals again, that's what we'll be measured against. We can do all the work in the world. If we don't win any medals, we'll get a beating," says Große.
Large: "Catch up on lost youth work"
The last Olympic medals were at the 2010 Games in Vancouver with gold in the women's team pursuit and silver for Stephanie Beckert (3000 meters/5000 meters) and Jenny Wolf (500 meters). The last World Cup medal to date went to Patrick Beckert in 2020 with bronze over 10,000 meters.
After all, Felix Rijhnen from Frankfurt/Main achieved a World Cup victory in the mass start last season after a long time. Among the women, where according to Große the Berliner Michelle Uhrig is a ray of hope, they are "only second-rate. But things are going well with the men." You have to "make up for ten years of lost work with young people".
The head of the association not only has hopes for Beckert's return after recovering from knee problems, but also for short and medium-distance runners such as Moritz Klein, Stefan Emele (both Erfurt) and Hendrik Dombek (Munich). You have young people, 20 or 22 years old, who would attack and could achieve something at the 2026 Winter Olympics, he says, adding: "There will be another medal in 2026. I'm confident about that. I also think I know by whom: The example of Moritz Klein shows how a champion can develop."