1860 Munich will be playing their football in Germany’s amateur leagues next season after failing to pay the licence to register themselves in the 2017/18 3. Liga (third division). They are likely now to end up in the Bavarian regional league in the amateur fourth tier.
The club spent 10 years in the Bundesliga in the late 90s and early 2000s, finishing 4th in 1999/00, but despite having the 2. Bundesliga’s third most expensive squad they only finished 16th this season. 1860 then lost a relegation play-off against Regensburg amid fan protests that saw 10 police officers injured and the second leg held up for 15 minutes.
The relegation has plunged 1860 into crisis, as majority owner Hasan Ismaik refused to pay the licence fee – reported to be between €11.3 million by Abendzeitung München – to register the club in the 3. Liga. As a result, not only have the club been demoted further, but president Peter Cassalette has resigned and 1860 may not even be able to continue playing in the Allianz Arena.
The club wrote on Twitter last week that “TSV 1860’s shareholders have not reached an agreement. The Lions have not received a licence for the DFB 3. Liga.”
— TSV 1860 München (@TSV1860) June 2, 2017
Former Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre, who resigned from his role as 1860’s managing director after the first leg of their relegation play-off, had previously hinted at discord amongst the shareholders. “Unfortunately, during my short eight-week tenure, I have found an organisation in which the shareholders are not aligned in a common interest, nor have a shared vision for the future of the club,” Ayre said upon resigning.
Ayre’s concerns were confirmed a few days later when Ismaik refused to pay the fee – which is small change for the Jordanian, whose personal wealth amounted to $1.4 billion in 2014 according to Forbes – because of the club’s current ownership structure. Ismaik owns 60% of 1860 Munich, but only has 49% voting rights in line with Germany’s 50-plus-1 policy that prevents external financial backers holding a majority over other shareholders.
Ismaik wrote on Facebook that “I am being forced to make such a decision, and I am sad about this. I have fought to find a solution until the very last minute. People have to wake up to the fact that the club has to change to survive. I take my responsibility for the club very seriously and I hope that those in charge in the administrative process also do.”
Vice-president Hans Sitzberger pointed out the futility of Ismaik holding the club to ransom over his demands, telling Abendzeitung München that “it is impossible to fulfil the conditions within a week, some of them were not even within our power.” It is reported that Ismaik has filed a lawsuit against the 50-plus-1 rule, the main obstacle to taking full control, but former German Football Association president Rainer Koch believes his case is without foundation.
However, 1860 Munich’s former president Cassalette, who resigned after the club’s relegation against Regensburg, backed Ismaik’s stance. “I have never been Ismaik’s puppet,” he told dieblaue24.com, “but how is it that a company’s owner, despite financing it and holding a majority stake, is not allowed to run it?”
Despite supporting Ismaik, Cassalette quit as president “because relegation was proof that the strategy endorsed by him and [Ismaik], who he represented, had failed,” said vice-president Sitzberger. Coach Vitor Pereira, formerly in charge at Porto, will also leave, as will the vast majority of the players – only six players remain under contract, with the likes of veteran Ivica Olic to be released.
Even the question of where the club will play next season is up in the air. 1860 Munich currently share the Allianz Arena with Bayern Munich, paying €3.5 million a season to lease the ground from the Bavarian giants, but the lease does not extend to below the third tier. As a result, they may move back to their old Grünwalder Stadion, which has a capacity of 21,272, but Bayern president Uli Hoeness says he hasn’t yet discussed the matter of the Allianz lease with 1860.
Last September, Ismaik had huge hopes for the 1966 Bundesliga champions, saying that “we’re on the right path to turn 1860 into one of the best clubs in Europe“. But not only will 1860 be forced to start again from the amateur leagues, their under-21, under-19, under-17 and under-16 teams were all also relegated from their respective leagues. This historic club will have to rebuild from the very foundations to achieve their lofty aims.