League winners to relegation contenders: The fall of Wolfsburg

From 2nd to 16th in two seasons, Wolfsburg were once a force to be reckoned with in the Bundesliga. From challenging for the league title in 2015, to desperately trying to avoid the drop in the relegation play-offs. What’s happened to the 2009 winners?

After a dramatic Bundesliga relegation/promotion play off, which saw Wolfsburg come out 2-0 winners on aggregate, questions are being asked to how this has been allowed to happen to Die Wolfe.

We got the job done today. It’s a success that we’ve stayed in the league but it was the absolute minimum for the club….. We did that tonight. I’m happy with the result, but I won’t be celebrating. I’ve just done my job, that’s no reason to celebrate. But I’m sure the fans and the players will enjoy it.”

Andries Jonker – Wolfsburg Head Coach.

Of course the fans and players will rejoice, it’s a natural reaction to staying in the top flight. But these celebrations are hollow. Frustrated fans have witnessed their club descend down the league. Three managers just this season and financially restricted owners have ensured a relegation dogfight from a team that should be breaking Bayern’s monopoly.

Wolfsburg’s owners, Volkswagen, who play a large role in employment in the town, were recently involved in an emissions scandal. The fallout of this included the cut back of revenue for sports activities and sponsorships, along with a drastic change in the spending policy regarding Wolfsburg.

Signings in Kevin De Bruyne and Ivan Perisic who played key roles in their runners up position in 2014/15, were sold for £80million. Of which only half was put back into the club to finance other signings. Similarly this season, both Draxler and Schurrle have been sold for a combined £60million, the majority of which, again, has been held back.

From a lucrative spending policy in 2013/14 which included signing coveted European talents in De Bruyne, luis Gustavo and Schurrle, to having to offload major assets in order to contribute money to their owners. Wolfsburg have been majorly drained of any discernible of financially worthwhile talent.

De Bruyne and Perisic before their big money moves away.
Source: Twitter

Undoubtedly the money saved from Wolfsburg’s abstinence from their spending of times before, is only a drop in the ocean of Volkswagen’s finances. But it is an easy way of saving money in the wake of a global crisis.

“You imagine they will now be looking to strip away cost and inevitably sport will fall in the spotlight. If the kinds of figures talked about (what Volkswagen has already set aside) are accurate, this has to have ramifications for financial performances and the management of the business.”

Simon Chadwick – Professor for Sport Business Strategy and Marketing at Coventry University,

Indeed it has; despite Volkswagen being deeply embedded in German culture and having an emotional attachment to the club. Wolfsburg have gone from competing in the Champions League, to a play-off away from playing in the second division of German football.

A once motoring club that has stalled; pointing to the reliance of domestic clubs on owners as even more polarising. The calls on FA’s to regulate and monitor owners is starting to hold even more potency.