Lars Windhorst doesn’t get very far. When he starts to talk, whistles and boos ring out at him. “Windhorst out!” shout the Ultras from Hertha BSC, who have positioned themselves en bloc on the right flank – seen from the podium. In the tenth row, two young men climb onto their chairs and hold up a banner with Windhorst’s likeness. His face is crossed out with a blue bar.
By now at the latest, it’s going to be like the fan curve in exhibition hall 20. Insults and curses fly through the hall. Some want to hear Windhorst and his statements, others want to silence him. And for a moment it looks like the Hertha BSC investor is actually not getting a word in. He starts three times, three times the displeasure swells so much that Windhorst stops immediately. Dirk Lentfer, the leader of the meeting, gives the Ultras a call to order. “You guys, over there on the right,” says Windhorst, “you noticed from the applause that you were in the minority.
The general meeting of Hertha BSC has already been running for six hours when Windhorst, wearing a white shirt with an open collar and the Hertha flag on his lapel, steps up to the lectern for agenda item 11 (debate). Now at the latest it will also be clear to the last: Hertha, having just successfully escaped the relegation battle in the Bundesliga, is still – or more than ever – a club in turmoil. It growls loudly.
When Thorsten Manske, the association’s vice-president, opened the event in the morning and accidentally wished it a “disrespectful course”, that shows quite well what the expectations are. There is scolding and bitching, whistling and booing. Chairman of the meeting Lentfer even had to explicitly ask the 2810 members “that we maintain a form that leaves us all face”.
The meeting is a reflection of the mood in the state of Hertha. Even if the relegation was prevented at the last minute and Werner Gegenbauer, President and stimulus figure, preempted his deselection by resigning: there is still enough fuel. The entire executive committee is up for grabs this Sunday – and with it the club’s ability to act. If all six members of the Executive Committee are voted out, it would be “equivalent to a meltdown,” says Vice President Manske, who is temporarily running the business after Gegenbauer’s resignation. In case of doubt, the district court of Charlottenburg would have to appoint an emergency board.
It doesn’t come to that. In the end, only Manske got it himself. 64.2 percent of the members present voted for his deselection. Although that is below the prescribed quorum of 75 percent, Manske cannot avoid drawing conclusions from this vote. “Ugh!” comes the voice from the hall when the result is announced. “Get out!” Manske wants to say something, is shouted down and finally declares his immediate resignation. “For me, a long journey ends here,” he says. Manske, Vice President since 2012, says goodbye to the other representatives on the podium, packs up his things and descends to the level.
At an extraordinary general meeting on June 26th, the successors of Gegenbauer and Manske will be elected. The other members of the Presidium remain in office, some more, others less badly damaged. Between 17.7 percent (Anne Jiingermann) and 49.7 percent (Norbert Sauer) vote for deselection. The previous Supervisory Board, on the other hand, will be confirmed in office. Renate Döhmer, who was a member of the Executive Committee for many years, is replacing Bernd Schiphorst, who is no longer a candidate.
Who will be at the top in the future, that will be the exciting question in the coming days and weeks. So far, only former Ultra lead singer Kay Bernstein has declared his candidacy. Similar to Manske until his election disaster on Sunday, the head of the supervisory board, Torsten-Jörn Klein, has also been said to have a possible interest in the presidency. His activity report on Sunday can certainly be understood as an application speech. Klein is later actually asked whether he would rather be president. The 58-year-old replies that he has no intention of running for this position.
Klein understood very cleverly how to differentiate himself from Gegenbauer. He says that since March 11, since the dispute between the President and Lars Windhorst, there has been no contact with Gegenbauer because he has not responded to his calls. “Disgusting!” someone shouts from the auditorium. With a view to the disputes between the club management and the investor, Klein demands that “this war in public has to stop at all costs”.
Windhorst, who acquired 64.7 percent of the shares in Hertha BSC KGaA for 374 million euros, defended his public criticism of Gegenbauer in his 20-minute speech. “I really bit my tongue for two years, and held back extremely for two years,” he says. If he hadn’t commented, “there would have been no motions to vote out.” And so from his point of view not the chance for a new beginning.
Windhorst also defends his investment in Hertha – against all criticism from outside: “I saw it as a historic opportunity to be there,” he explains. And he wants to stay with us for a long time, ten, twenty, thirty years, and could even imagine making more capital available. “Windhorst out! Unfortunately, that doesn’t actually work,” he says, looking at a huge banner hanging on the fence outside at the parking lot of the exhibition center. “You can’t vote me out, my shares are not for sale.” He wants “Hertha BSC to be extremely successful. That is my goal,” explains Windhorst.
Whistles and applause mix. As Windhorst walks off the stage, he raises his arms above his head, clasps his hands and waves to the crowd like someone who has just achieved a triumphant result in an important election. Finally, he raises his fist in the air. In the plenum, many members stood up and applauded. The fight goes on.