Relegated Hertha casts envious eyes at Union

Relegated Hertha casts envious eyes at Union

Relegated Hertha casts envious eyes at Union

Hertha Berlin’s 10-season stay in the German Bundesliga ended on May 20 and as it slipped through the relegation trapdoor, it was left to cast envious glances at upwardly-mobile city rival Union.

Hertha only escaped relegation last season by winning a two-legged playoff against Hamburg. It had finished 10th or lower in the four previous seasons.

On May 20, Hertha’s luck ran out when a 1-1 draw with Bochum condemned it to the drop and the club’s future could be even bleaker if its falls foul of financial regulations.

Unlike other Bundesliga sides at the lower end of the table that have punched above their weight despite a lack of resources and support, the “Old Dame” has in recent seasons boasted enviable riches.

Rubbing salt into the wounds is the rise of Union Berlin, which is on the cusp of an unlikely maiden Champions League appearance after just four years in the top division.

As the most popular club in Germany’s largest city and playing at the 75,000-seat Olympic Stadium, Hertha has the ingredients to be a powerhouse.

However, other than two wins in the now defunct pre-season League Cup in 2002 and 2003, Hertha’s last piece of major silverware came in 1931, when the club won the second of its two German titles.

In 2019, German tech millionaire Lars Windhorst bought a 37.5 percent stake in the club.

Hertha adopted “Big City Club” as a slogan and brought in sporting director Fredi Bobic.

In January, after losing 2-0 at home to Union, the club fired Bobic.

Former ultra and now club president Kay Bernstein said Hertha would go back to its roots by embracing local juniors, while declaring “it’s a good day to bury the ‘Big City Club’ label.”

Bernstein declared manager Sandro Schwarz safe in January, but the coach was fired in April, Hertha bringing back club legend Pal Dardai with six games remaining.

Dardai, who joined Hertha as a player in 1997 before becoming manager, saved the club from relegation in 2020-21 but was unable to do so this season.

Before Hertha’s clash with Bochum, Dardai criticized the club for signing “players who are satisfied with their life, their car and their chic looks” rather than those with “imagination and development potential.”

In total, the club has spent an estimated 374 million euros ($412 million) under Windhorst.

In March, Windhorst sold his stake to American private investment company 777 Partners, which has begun to pay off some of the clubs’ debts.

But whether the company, which has stakes in several clubs, including Sevilla, Standard Liege and Genoa, will be Hertha’s savior remains to be seen.

More pressing is the matter of next season’s operating license, which is in doubt because of financial rules. Hertha has a high-interest loan of 40 million euros ($43 million).

The failure to obtain a license could see Hertha plunged to the third division or further down.