Mr. Wettich, on Thursday you will stand for election to the members of 1. FC Köln as vice-president. Do you sometimes look back on your way to the top of the club?
I’ve been an FC fan since I was a child and even played for the club for two years as a child. But others could do that much better than me, so I orientated myself differently. As a lawyer, you like to look behind the scenes. The fact that I actually got involved in the committees was more of a whim: We drove to the North Cape with our daughter in our motorhome during parental leave. Back then, my wife read that FC was looking for people for the members’ council and said: “Look!” I thought the idea was good, but I would never have known where it was going.
Do you now regret looking behind the curtain?
There are things in professional football that I don’t like. Especially in times of the Corona, when there is no emotional track, you notice an alienation of the industry from people. Nevertheless, it just makes me want to, precisely because I can change things in this position for the benefit of the fans. We have extremely good chances here in Cologne, a great environment. I am sure that we will bring FC forward. I would like to help and be part of the success story.
Can 1. FC Köln change fundamental things as part of the system?
We have to concentrate on the essentials. On the people in the stadium, our identity in the region, our roots. We can definitely do that as a club. Of course, we cannot refuse to develop if everyone else just keeps going. So we have to find partners for major reforms. In the past, we were often not brave enough to take our positions. We have to get a lot louder there. We owe it to our members to get their votes out there. There is some populism in football, but we have to convince with arguments and of course with the emotions and the force that 1. FC Köln has. We need a new sound at FC: We have our positions that we represent externally – and they are immovable. I would like to make FC a voice in football Germany in the current debate about the future of professional football.
Do you see this as your management role as a board member of an association with more than 100,000 members? To be audible beyond the city?
Absolutely. It is important to work out what 1. FC Köln should stand for. We will present a vision, a mission and a catalog of values at the general meeting and then enter into a dialogue to find out whether this corresponds to the ideas of our members. Then we will represent it externally. Of course it’s important to stay in the top division. As the board of directors, however, it is also our job to think beyond the season, create structures, think and work sustainably. With my experience and my skills, I can contribute and hope that my closeness to the fans will help ensure that this strategy is supported.
You say it yourself: The problem in professional football is that in addition to long-term planning, short-term sporting success counts. Do you have to make compromises for this?
Yes, you have to. In doing so, however, we must never lose sight of our goals. There are parts of the system where I clearly see a need for reform. Take the player advisors, who represent the interests of the player. This is completely right. But their interests are exactly the opposite of ours – and yet the advisors are not paid by the players, but by the clubs. That is absurd, we have to change that. Not alone, of course, we have to get the other clubs behind us.
Parts of your strategy have already become public, especially the periods of time mentioned. Will it actually take seven years before 1. FC Köln is a modern, sporting and successful club?
The term seven-year plan is misleading. It’s about an agenda for the future of 1. FC Köln. It won’t be seven years before we get anywhere. The association needs overarching goals. If you look at the past, the problem has seldom been the money, but rather investing it wisely. A well-known player’s agent has rightly stated that even the Mainz team have overtaken us. What is interesting about the example he cited is that the Mainz-based company has no investors and the framework conditions are much worse than we do. If they pass us by, we’ve done poorly in Cologne, so you just have to analyze it that way. That is precisely why we said together: We need a strategy. Some measures will take time to take effect. But if you never start, nothing will ever happen. In the past few years, people have all too often believed that they couldn’t plan for the long term because they had to concentrate on day-to-day sporting business. I am convinced that both are possible. We have specific plans for every single year and a lot that can be implemented quickly. If it works the way we imagine it will, we will slowly but sustainably make it to the top in the Bundesliga. I am convinced of that, and we will be judged by it.
Nevertheless, you also name sporting success as a goal.
Of course, we are a football club. I’m still a fan of this club, so I want to see victories. If you analyze it soberly, money actually scores goals. You can perform better than the market or worse – unfortunately we usually performed worse. This is a phenomenon in the Bundesliga: In the private sector there is no SC Freiburg that can perform so much better with much worse conditions. That is why I am convinced that we will soon have a certain degree of success with other structures in the sporting sector. In the end, however, we lack a budget of 25 to 30 million euros for the licensed players to be in the top 10. We want to collect this money sustainably. But that doesn’t happen overnight, it will develop year after year.
How far can it go in terms of sport?
If you consistently reach eighth to tenth place, it may go beyond that. But happiness cannot be planned. Sustainability is important: We had the example that we were once in Europe and then relegated. For me personally, Europe was a dream, I will never forget the days in London, Belgrade or Borissow in my life. But from the point of view of Vice-President Carsten Wettich, we would have been better to have been twice tenth than once fifth and once last.
How are you nervous about the choice?
So – of course I want to be. I have the ambition and the courage to lead 1. FC Köln through this crisis. Right now, things are in demand that I attribute to myself: sobriety, the ability to analyze clearly, economic competence. I like to take the emotions with me, but for us it’s about clear analyzes and about doing more than just babbling, to put it casually. At 1. FC Köln there are always many who have something to say, but only a few do something. I think a lot of people can talk better than me. But few can do better. A lot happens in the background, we have to communicate that better in the future. We and I especially haven’t done that well in the last few months. But we don’t need to speak well, because if we just talk here and do nothing, 1. FC Köln will no longer exist in two years. We now need people who do the job, who take it easy, who are ready to do the dirty work too. At 1. FC Köln, it has always been difficult to make difficult decisions. I make decisions when they have to be made, that’s my role. Others are welcome to reap the laurels.
You are trying to win an election with the opposite of populism.
Correct. Members must decide if the time is right.
Corona is currently an argument for everything, including the fact that you have difficulties being in dialogue. What do you do when it’s over?
We as the board of directors have to hug people. We are experiencing a strong polarization, which was increased by Corona. I believe that we have left the fans and members alone too often in the corona crisis. We did virtual fan club visits, but then you just notice that you can’t reach a lot of people. I look forward to being with the fan clubs again and greeting people personally and drinking a Kölsch with fans. These are simply sensational events that I miss a lot. And I’m looking forward to doing an away tour with friends again.
There seems to be a particularly large number of people around 1. FC Köln who have suffered injuries, are disappointed and have a cynical view of the club. How is this coming?
In the past few years, we have never managed to get someone upright through the door. Horst Heldt, in front of that Armin Veh, in front of that Jörg Schmadtke: Nobody went right there. Werner Spinner also left with major injuries; Overath, Caspers. Even a coach like Peter Stöger, who stands for the most successful period of 1. FC Köln in the past 20 years, is still not at peace with 1. FC Köln, and neither is 1. FC Köln with him. I regret that very much. We have very different groups that are critical of each other. No matter what is decided: there is always a categorization of good and bad. Werner Spinner managed very well in the first few years to bring the most diverse groups to one table, and he has my greatest respect for that. In doing so, he may have made some people’s expectations grow too much. It is part of our office to say no, even if that is difficult. Sometimes you have to say: I understand what you want. But we don’t do it.
You are young, have a family, and are successful at work. Are you not worried that you too will one day leave 1. FC Köln with injuries?
Looked at soberly, this train has probably already left (laughs). I’m already part of the public discussion. But I know what we’re up to, what we’re going to do. If the next season goes halfway, one day you will say: Why didn’t they communicate more clearly back then what they were up to? That was good! I am very confident that we will achieve a lot. What I actually miss is the sheer joy of going to the stadium. I’m so tense, I don’t enjoy the games anymore. But I believe that it will be easier when there are spectators in the stadium again and you are no longer so alone with your emotions.
Source: Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger – Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger by www.ksta.de.
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