Suddenly the City Cube was like the east curve of the Olympic Stadium. It was 1.31 p.m. and meeting leader Dirk Lentfer had announced the result of the first and most important election of the extraordinary general meeting of Hertha BSC seconds earlier: Kay Bernstein is the new president and successor to Werner Gegenbauer, who resigned at the end of May. As a result, many members jumped up, especially in the front rows, where the active fan scene had positioned themselves, and chanted “HaHoHe, Hertha BSC” very loudly.
3016 valid votes had been cast. Of these, 1,620 went to Bernstein, a former Ultra and now the owner of a communications agency. The entrepreneur and former CDU member of the Bundestag Frank Steffel received 1280 votes, 26 went to Marvin Brumme. This result can confidently be seen as a very big, and not necessarily expected, victory for the fan base, as a kind of revolution for the Bundesliga soccer club. And it is a first in German professional football: there has never been a president with an ultra past.
Bernstein was the first to announce his candidacy at the beginning of May and started with a committed team and many ideas. However, when Klaus Brüggemann, Chairman of the Supervisory Board, initially spoke out in favor of Steffel and then Ingmar Pering announced that he would not run for the presidency but wanted to become vice president and support Steffel, Bernstein’s chances seemed to have diminished significantly.
However, on Sunday there was again criticism of the officials’ approach in several requests to speak. Fabian Drescher (1966 of 2216 votes cast) became the new vice-president; Pering had withdrawn his candidacy. The day clearly showed that the ideas of the leaders in the association were by no means those of the majority of the members.
“Our old lady is in intensive care. We can now heal them from the inside and make them healthy holistically. Everyone can and must help so that we can win back our blue and white soul,” said Bernstein in a first brief reaction after the cheers of his supporters had died down.
As at the general meeting four weeks ago, the election was preceded by highly emotional hours, but this time not as many as at the end of May. Brüggemann had advocated a “factual, emotion-free” course. But that didn’t exist. Again and again it went up.
Wearing a Hertha-branded jacket, Bernstein, 41, spoke first because of the alphabet. And had to wait first because there was a very long applause. Bernstein, who called himself “Kind of the Curve” again, was at Hertha for the first time in 1994. He has been a member since 2005. Before that, he co-founded the ultra group “Harlekins Berlin” and was the lead singer of the Curve for several years. He is very committed for social projects.
In his six-minute speech, Bernstein fully relied on emotion and his decades-long association with the club. He said that everyone – including himself – had helped make the situation at Hertha “the way it is”. Pretty bad. Both sporty and off the field. In the recent past, the club has repeatedly managed to produce negative headlines at breathtaking speed. To change that, Hertha needs to be “detoxified,” as Bernstein called it.
“We need a real restart,” he said, calling for a “civil peace.” He is willing to work with everyone. Bernstein presented a ten-point plan for the first 100 days. Among other things, the players should grill for the employees of the club to create a new sense of togetherness. And: “A new stadium is very important for Hertha.” Apart from that, there wasn’t much that was concrete, he didn’t want to anticipate anything from the presidency.” There were hardly any critical questions.
It was different with Steffel. Among other things, the 56-year-old referred in detail to the successes of the foxes handball players during his 17-year presidency. He laid this down on the day of Hertha’s general meeting. “My outstretched hand stands. Let’s just see that it’s less against each other. It’s about getting things moving together,” said Steffel. But his remarks repeatedly provoked expressions of dissatisfaction. One member spoke of being “passive-aggressive”. Steffel also said the following: “There can be no winners and losers, but only Herthan from tomorrow.”
At around 1.30 p.m. it was clear that there was indeed a big winner – his name was Kay Bernstein and he had already announced before his election how he imagined Hertha’s near future in the sporting field: only in the DFB Cup “go to Braunschweig and win ‘, then in the derby on the first day of the Bundesliga match ‘drive to Köpenick and knock everything out’ and then ‘in the sold-out Olympic Stadium’ show Eintracht Frankfurt ‘where the frog has the curls’. He will now experience these and all other games as the new President of Hertha BSC.