Martin Kind is no longer president of Hannover 96. However, he retains the say in the corporation in which professional soccer is spun off.
Martin Kind at the general meeting of Hannover 96 last weekend Photo: dpa
When the count is over, Sebastian Kramer is hugged and hugged every second: The former fan representative will be the next president of Hannover 96. That’s the result of Saturday’s general meeting, which marks the victory of the strong opposition to the club’s previous boss, Martin Kind, and brings with it hopes for more democracy and transparency.
It is a small revolution in the dispute over who will have a say in professional soccer in the future: the investors or also the club members. That’s why the critical fan scene across Germany has been looking to Hanover. In fact, the majority of the 2,150 members at the meeting in the sports hall right next to Hannover 96’s stadium were successful with their rebellion. However, Hannover 96 is in danger of losing Kind not only as president, but also as a financial backer.
For decades, Kind was able to guide the club’s fortunes almost unmolested as 96 boss. He represents an attempt to separate the business of the Bundesliga team from the influence of the club. In German soccer, it is common for teams competing in the lucrative Bundesliga to be spun off as corporations – alongside their club. However, partly to protect competition, the German Soccer League (DFL) enacted a rule that the club should always have at least a one-vote majority in the corporation – the so-called 50+1 rule.
However, it is precisely these that 96 investor Kind wants to undermine and separate professional sports from the club. He has submitted an application to this effect to the DFL. If he gets his way, it would change German soccer.
Club management refuses despite court order
But since Saturday, there have been limits to Kind’s sole control. Although he retains the say in the corporation, he is history as president of the parent club. From now on, he also has to deal with a new supervisory board of the club, which is completely dominated by his opponents.
"We want more transparency and openness," said Kramer, the designated new 96 president. He was not running against Kind as a person, but against the so-called Kind system, he said. "Democracy at Hannover 96 must be strengthened again," said former 96 pro Carsten Linke. He is a member of the new Supervisory Board with Ralf Nestler, Jens Boldt, Lasse Gutsch and Nathalie Wartmann. They are all united by the desire to subject Kind’s long era, with its many idiosyncratic decisions, to a critical review.
The force with which the opposition was able to assert itself against Kind was astounding. After all, the election campaign in the run-up to the general meeting was already characterized by an imbalance. Until the very end, the club’s management had refused, despite a court order, to make the data of all members available to the opposition for comprehensive information.
Fan chant as in the stadium
What was justified with the need for data protection fit into the image of a regiment that for years had far too seldom provided insight into essential processes. As a previous member of the supervisory board, Kramer, the prospective president, has already experienced how little co-determination and control is possible under Kind’s direction. "We may have managed to break up the structures," Kramer said now.
The significance of the move was palpable on Saturday. After more than four hours, loud cheers could be heard. The change of power was celebrated with chants usually only heard in stadiums. The stern tone of the chairman of the meeting did little to help. The SPD politician Hauke Jagau is the president of the Hanover region and, as moderator and mediator, stifled many an unobjective contribution to the discussion with aplomb.
The joy over the small revolution remains accompanied by a gloomy scenario. Hannover 96’s professional team is facing relegation from the Bundesliga once again. In fiscal 2018, the associated corporation generated a loss of around 18 million euros.
Will he stay or will he go?
"I think it sucks," Kind admitted. After more than 20 years at the helm of the parent club, he also received applause, but was subsequently given another dressing down. As in the previous year, the board of management and the supervisory board were refused discharge. To this day, club members still lack transparency, for example, in the question of whether the trademark rights to Hannover 96 were transferred from the sports club to the capital side for too little money.
Likewise, they doubt that Kind was allowed to approach the DFL about the 50+1 rule without asking the members for permission. From now on, these issues must be discussed jointly. Will the opposing camps of Kind on the one side and Kramer on the other succeed in doing so constructively? The positions of the capital side and the members are very far apart.
On Saturday, Kind remained silent on the future of the club. It remains to be clarified whether he will remain as the main shareholder and patron or whether he will withdraw completely.