Embattled Toennies resigns as chairman of cash-strapped Schalke

Berlin (AFP) - The future of cash-strapped Bundesliga club Schalke 04 is uncertain after their billionaire backer and chairman Clemens Toennies resigned on Tuesday following fan protests over his management of the club.

"As chairman of the supervisory board, Clemens Toennies has played a decisive role in establishing FC Schalke 04 as one of the heavyweights in the Bundesliga over the past 26 years," said the club in a statement.

"We know how difficult this decision was for him."

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Toennies has been on Schalke's board since 1994 and club chairman since 2001.

With Toennies in charge, Schalke finished league runners-up five times and spent 10 seasons in the Champions League, but struggled to 12th this season in the Bundesliga.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic hit the club's finances, Schalke had debts of around 200 million euros ($224 million).

Each of their four home games behind closed doors at their huge Veltins-Arena stadium in Gelsenkirchen costs the club two million euros.

According to Munich-based Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Schalke is the first Bundesliga club to introduce a salary cap of 2.5 million euros for next season.

The club has also reportedly secured 40 million euros from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia to get a loan vital for the club's survival.

Fans annoyed by Toennies running of the club during the coronavirus protested on Saturday in Gelsenkirchen.

Now a week after the club's head of finances Peter Peters walked away, Toennies has followed suit.

The billionaire meat-manufacturer was already underfire away from football after an outbreak of COVID-19 at his factory has led to 1,500 cases of the virus.

The 64-year-old had an embattled start to the season and voluntarily stepped back for three months as Schalke chairman over allegedly racist comments he made last August.

Under head coach David Wagner, Schalke, who were third in December, suffered a dreadful end to the season and Saturday's 4-0 thumping at Freiburg was their 16th league game without a win.

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