In 2011 Hasan Ismaik acquired a controlling share of Munich’s second team, 1860, in the hope of ushering in a long-awaited return to the Bundesliga. But after 10 sacked managers in 6 years and 58 signings, the club ended the 2016/17 season third bottom, before suffering a humiliating relegation in the playoff at the hands of minnows, Jahn Regensburg. By subsequently not paying the licence fee for the third division, 1860 will start the new season in the Bavarian regional league, the fourth tier of German football. This article charts the demise of the club and asks what could have been done to avoid what many saw as a self-inflicted fate.
Rarely do rich individuals choose to spend their money on German football clubs due to the 50+1 rule which in this case forced Ismaik to only have 49% voting rights in the team he owned 60% of. But examples the world over have indicated new ownership often leads to a change in expectations and within days of arriving, Ismaik had proclaimed that 1860 would be a top division side within 3 years. In the 2016/17 season, even with disaster looming, the Jordanian reiterated that desire with a promise of Champions League football. Both goals would ultimately go unfulfilled but the policies adopted by the board in pursuit of the unobtainable were a major contributor to the club’s decline. An extremely aggressive personnel policy led to constant managerial changes and meant no individual was given the chance to see their plans come to fruition. Not one single head coach appointed by Ismaik made it through a whole season, and the players they brought into the team often soon followed as the next manager looked to make his mark.
The pressure put on the club personnel from the owner and board created significant instability which inevitably came under public scrutiny and showed the chaos ensuing behind closed doors. During the season in which 1860 were relegated the club was being sued by former coaches, a sporting director as well as current players. A self-imposed media blackout due to what the owner saw as biased reporting on club affairs further took the focus away from the football. The fact that Stefan Aigner was first signed for a club record €3 Million, made captain before being publicly demoted by new coach Vitor Pereira, did not help matters either.
Aside from the owner’s undoubted influence on the club’s downfall, the inability to keep hold of, and replace talent, badly hurt any chance of progress. 1860 has a proud history of producing some fine talent which helped the club make a net transfer profit in four of the six seasons Ismaik has owned the club. However, there will be question marks as to why the money from talent such as German internationals Julian Weigl and Kevin Volland, as well as Japanese striker Yuya Osako, was not used more wisely following their departures. Too often that money was used to sign players with no experience of playing in Germany such as during Ricardo Moniz and Vitor Pereira’s ill-fated reigns in charge. During the last season a club record high €9.35 Million was spent on players, which ultimately could not help them avoid relegation. Even when former internationals Ivica Olic, Sebastian Boenisch and Karim Matmour, who all had plenty of experience in the league, were added to the squad, they failed to gel, showing the shortcomings of the sporting directors and their departments. While other clubs used their youth team products as the basis for their success, 1860 struggled to keep hold of theirs and were unable to recruit suitable replacements.
Failures on the Pitch
Despite the failings at board level, the playing staff certainly have a lot to answer for over the years Ismaik has been in charge, especially in the past year. 1860 started the 2016/17 season with the third most valuable squad behind former Bundesliga sides Stuttgart and Hannover who both ended up being re-promoted. The statistics are damning and show that the club’s eventual relegation was not undeserved. Only two players, of 34 used, started two-thirds of games or more, which shows the confusion involved in having three separate coaches in charge during a single season. No single player managed to get into double figures in goal scoring or assists with veteran midfielder Michael Liendl eventually leading both, although he had originally been frozen out of the squad after Pereira joined in the winter break. The club’s second and third most expensive signings, strikers Ribamar and Christian Gytkjaer contributed just two goals together. The lack of a settled defensive pairing contributed to the side conceding the joint fifth most goals in the league. Though only one of the sides to have conceded as many or more goals than them remained safe, so arguably their poor attacking record was more damaging.
The last 6 years of 1860’s history will be not be remembered fondly by the fans who have been forced to endure the continual decline of their club to a state that will be unrecognisable to all but the eldest fans. The majority of the responsibility for the downfall of the club will fall on Ismaik who failed to live up to his extortionate promises. But the staff around him who helped to add to the obvious confusion behind the scenes, and underperforming players also must take their share of the blame. Ultimately this episode will go down as a warning to all clubs who try to use money as a quick fix to bring success to their club. For the coming season 1860 will lose an incredible 29 members of their first team squad and will start rebuilding with a team mainly made up of youth team players and budget buys as Ismail clings on to power.