Frankfurt / Main (dpa) – Christian Seifert certainly has his place in the Bundesliga history book.
As a shrewd Corona crisis manager, the 51-year-old gained national fame this spring, now at the zenith of his work with the German Football League (DFL) he announced his retirement for the summer of 2022. “These are demanding times that demand clarity and reliability,” said Seifert, explaining the decision, announced very early on, which fits in with his stringent actions in 17 years of DFL. In German football, an era will come to an end before the 2022 World Cup in Qatar that has long brought an economic boom to professional business.
When the corona pandemic put the kicking staff on a forced break, the DFL managing director had become the face of German football almost overnight. With great eloquence, clever strategy and a good pinch of humility towards politics, Seifert from then on presented at regular press conferences what the 36 professional clubs had previously discussed under his leadership.
It was initially completely unclear who would succeed Seifert. The DFL supervisory board announced that it would “approach the new appointment professionally without time pressure”. Seifert will continue to work as usual until summer 2022, the father left no doubt about that.
The extremely exposed position of the top manager in the turbulent days in March was seen by millions of TV viewers on Sunday evening in the sports show documentary “Weiter, immer weiter”, about the restart of the Bundesliga in Corona times. Just a few hours later, Seifert announced that he would no longer extend his contract, which was still valid for a year and a half. It will be a major turning point for professional football.
With his announcement that he wants to “open a new professional chapter” in two years’ time, the DFL boss will create a huge gap in the league association. While the crisis-ridden German Football Association (DFB) has employed five presidents and numerous other top officials since Seifert took office in 2005, the DFL has only been – Seifert for a long time.
When football bosses like Bayern’s Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Dortmund’s Hans-Joachim Watzke, who will be saying goodbye to Bundesliga business in the foreseeable future, thanked the DFL for billions in revenue from television contracts or the hygiene concept in Corona times, which was later often copied abroad always “Christian Seifert and his team”.
During his tenure, the revenue from TV revenues rose from 300 million euros to just under 1.5 billion euros per season. The DFL supervisory board also described the imminent change in personnel at the top as a “cut”. Watzke told the German Press Agency: “Christian Seifert’s departure in 2022 will be a major loss for the Bundesliga. I can only speak of his work with the utmost respect.”
For Seifert, who is practically non-stop in crisis mode even after the Corona break and a successful restart, it was a central concern to inform the association about his departure at an early stage. “This decision is already important now, so that the supervisory board is given the opportunity at an early stage to include this fact in considerations about the future organization of DFL GmbH,” he said.
The great media presence with which Seifert campaigned for understanding for football during the Corona break was not known from him before. When the new German champion was to be chosen at the annual Bundesliga award ceremony, Seifert dutifully handed over the bowl, but then quickly disappeared from the picture.
The manager did not make his biggest appearances in TV studios or on the big football stage, but rather at the announcement of the steadily growing numbers of the DFL financial report or at the New Year’s reception, where he repeatedly denounced with clear statements what is happening in German football is missing. The sometimes insanely high television money that Seifert’s team negotiated with the media outlets every four years made him unassailable at the clubs.
Born in Baden, he came from KarstadtQuelle New Media AG in 2005 and wanted to prove in the Bundesliga that he could understand the business even without his own footballing career. With his great economic competence and his antennae for moods, he quickly earned respect as DFL boss, later he also became DFB vice-president and, after Reinhard Rauball’s departure, took over the function of spokesman for the DFL presidium. The fact that he never got beyond the amateur field when playing football was no longer an issue.
But the crisis phase, which he once compared to a “science fiction film”, has left its mark on Seifert. The DFL boss knows that the bankruptcies of several professional clubs prevented by the quick restart are a real scenario in the years to come. And that Corona and its aftermath will still be an issue even in summer 2022, when the change at the top of the DFL is pending.
In a very personal interview in “Stern” recently, Seifert told how the difficult phase changed him himself. “I had a few nights with little sleep. The number of questions that came up was so great that I got up in the middle of the night and had to write everything down.” When the Bundesliga dared to restart in May, which received worldwide attention, he decided not to visit his family that day and preferred to mow the lawn at home. What does he take away from the crisis? “That I can trust my instincts. I work to a great extent with instinct and according to my feelings.” Probably also when deciding to reorient yourself professionally in 2022.