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Dirty Tackle

Union Berlin fans no longer selling blood, buying their own stadium

Ryan Bailey
Dirty Tackle

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Union Berlin stadium

Union Berlin stadium

FC Union Berlin have a long history of financial troubles, almost collapsing on a few occasions, save for the actions of the supporters. In 2004, fans actually sold their own blood to raise the €1.5m required to keep their professional status.

In 2008, the charmingly-named-but-decrepit Stadion An der Alten Försterei ("Stadium by the Old Forester's House") was in such a poor state that it was no longer eligible for use in the top three tiers of German football. So, 250 supporters volunteered their time to oversee a huge renovation, while those who couldn't make it to Berlin were able to 'buy hours' from the club website, donating the €15 hourly rate of a skilled worker.

The 18,400-capacity stadium is in a much better state these days, but with just over 3,000 seats and facilities that pale in comparison to their rivals, the 2. Bundesliga side need to act if they are to compete at a higher level. This week, awesomely-named president Dirk Zingler announced that the club is going to "sell its soul". By that, he doesn't mean it's going to do a deal with the devil at a crossroads like Lionel Messi obviously did in exchange for his talent, but that club members will be effectively be able to buy their own stadium by purchasing stock.

To help pay the €15m cost of a new stand, fans will be offered the chance to collectively own a 58% stake in the Alte Försterei. They can buy shares at €500 a pop, with a maximum of ten per fan. The club fully expects to sell them all, and thus can fully fund the redevelopments, without risking the financial insolvency that nearly killed them in the past.

It's a similar story to that of AFC Wimbledon, whose passionate fans bought their Kingstonian stadium through a share issue. (What's that you say? Dirty Tackle writer Ryan Bailey is one of those passionate fans who owns AFC shares? Wow, he sounds amazing...)

Image: theringleaders.ca

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