Have you heard about German Bundesliga club VfL Wolfsburg? Some of you might remember that they surprisingly won the 2009 Bundesliga title under then manager Felix Magath. But otherwise they are a rather unknown club even here in Germany. Last night they lost their opening match against champions Bayern Munich, but the club has ambitions to qualify for the Champions League or Europa League next season.
The city of Wolfsburg with a population of just over 120,000 happens to be the home town of Germany’s biggest auto mobile maker Volkswagen. And the bosses at VW have big ambitions with their VfL Wolfsburg. VW has invested Millions of Euros over the last few years to use VfL Wolfsburg as a promotion tool for their brand and car business. They build a brand new 30,000 all seater stadium, a new training complex and money for coaches to spend on player transfers.
The bosses at VW now want to ensure that VfL Wolfsburg establish themselves amongst the big boys of German football and had brought earlier in the year Dieter Hoeness as sports manager, while for the new season signed Englishman Steve McClaren as the clubs coach.
This summer VfL Wolfsburg has been the highest spending club in the Bundesliga investing 23,4 Million Euros. The club signed Danish defender Simon Kjær (US Palermo) for 12 Million Euros, Croatian striker Mario Mandzukic (Dynamo Zagreb) for 7 Million Euros, German international Arne Friedrich (Hertha BSC Berlin) for 2 Million Euros, Swiss youngster Nassim Ben Khalifa (Grasshoppers Zurich) for 1,6 Million Euros and on loan Brazilian Cícero (Tombense) for 800.000 €. A considerable investment for which the VW management will want to see positive results.
But VfL Wolfsburg and Volkswagen aren’t the only example of corporate involvement in football. The other known examples are PSV Eindhoven = Philips in the Netherlands, Bayer 04 Leverkusen = Bayer AG in Germany or Red Bull Salzburg = Red Bull in Austria, the energy drink company which also has clubs in New York (USA) and Leipzig (Germany) and academies in Ghana and Brazil. Even we in India have such clubs like Dempo, Salgaocar and JCT.
In the end I’d like to tell you a small little anecdote about VfL Wolfsburg, which shows you how the club has grown in the last couple of decades. In the summer of 1991 VfL Wolfsburg were fighting for promotion to the 2.Bundesliga. And they lost in the playoffs against my home town club FC Remscheid due to a Carsten Proepper goal. But FC Remscheid only stayed a couple of years in the 2.Bundesliga while VfL Wolfsburg gained promotion the next season and stayed in the league for five years before gaining promotion to the 1.Bundesliga. Since then they have been in the top tier, while my beloved FCR now plays 7th division football after being relegated last season. This shows how important it is to have a potent financial backer to achieve something in football.Published 22 Aug 2010, 10:08 IST