Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke gave an interview to Ruhr Nachrichten, where he responded to criticism on BVB’s internationalisation policy, the handling of Jakub Blaszczykowski and Neven Subotic and the decrease of public training sessions among other topics. Here is a translation of the interview.
How do you perceive the mood around the club?
I think there mostly is a good mood around BVB. Our transfer policy and our general strategy is seen in a positive light by the majority of people. But there are also sets of fans that air their discontent. In my view that is connected to how we dealt with certain incidents of the past. Especially at the German cup final we didn’t cover ourselves in glory [e.d.: Dortmund fans lit flares]. The club was forced to act, we had to take appropriate steps [e.d.: BVB revoked away season tickets from the ultra groups]. That undoubtedly added to the critical undertone within the scene.
You were accused of having lost your tact…
I cannot even start to comprehend how one could think something like that. But I put up with it. Borussia Dortmund has 10 million fans, if a few hundred take a critical look at the way we operate then I have to live with that.
Does the criticism get under your skin?
When I make a bad decision, I admit that. Then everyone is allowed to rightfully criticise me. But when I read that we have lost our manners in our internationalisation-craze, then I cannot see the correlation. There is no alternative to internationalisation, which we conduct with respect for our own roots.
The alternative means that we’ll obtain the status of Rot-Weiß Essen in the long term. That is a club rich in history in a city that is as big as Dortmund. They stagnated at some point. Nobody wants that, not even those who criticise us.
The criticism points towards the treatment of Jakub Blaszczykowski and Neven Subotic.
Often we rather say too little than too much to protect the personal rights of the players.
What does that mean in Blaszczykowski’s case?
Everyone of us knows what he has achieved for the club. We hold “Kuba” in high esteem. But there is also a sporting competition at the club that every player has to face. We held many talks. And it’s out of the question: Had “Kuba” wanted to take on the competition he would be here now, since he had a contract here. Being aware of the competition at his positions, he requested a transfer. What nobody knew: As a gesture of our goodwill we declined offers from England that were worth a couple of millions more than his transfer to Wolfsburg – because that’s where he wanted to go. The transfer fee wasn’t ideal for us but we accepted that because of his achievements and his personality.
It wasn’t the transfer but rather the lack of a farewell ceremony that resulted in dissonance
We had planned to see “Kuba” off at the DFL Supercup in front of an audience of millions. We already put in a request with the league. But we received the answer from his camp that the timing wouldn’t work out, which we didn’t mention in public. I’m very thankful for the way our fans saw him off in Wolfsburg. That was grand and tasteful.
If there were issues with the scheduling, why couldn’t that have been openly communicated? That possibly would have saved a lot of discontent.
We didn’t want it to lead to any misinterpretations. It is unnerving that after all those years of service for the club of Michael Zorc and myself, people insinuate that we would just shunt players off. I think we have earned a benefit of the doubt.
Consider the fact that players like to return to our club, as the examples of Nuri Sahin, Shinji Kagawa and Mario Götze show. That wouldn’t be the case if we mistreated our players. It is a strong suit of this club that players feel comfortable in serene surroundings. That is also mentioned by every player that leaves us.
The disregarding of Neven Subotic at the team presentation also evoked some criticism.
We decided to not put him in the lime-light as he wanted to sign with Middlesbrough at that point in time. We proceeded on the assumption that the deal would go through within the next few days. It was a judgement call. If we had presented him in the stadium only to sell him two days later, we would have been called out for hypocrisy.
It’s okay to criticise us for that, but I want to emphasise that he was regarded a Borussia Dortmund player the second a transfer fell through.
But we have to be aware of the fact that transfers of iconic players are part of professional football. Almost everyone who is honoured as a club legend today – Siggi Held, Lothar Emmerich, Aki Schmidt, even Adi Preißler – left Dortmund at some point only to return to the BVB family at a later stage. Both “Kuba” and Neven will be part of that family in the next 30 years, I’m sure of that.
Both experienced the formative times of their careers with us. I don’t think that either of them thinks ill of Borussia Dortmund or the persons in charge – and that’s crucial.
Another point of criticism is the low amount of public training sessions. Why do the gates stay close so often? A trend that already started during Jürgen Klopp’s tenure. FC Schalke purposely distance themselves from you by inviting fans to public training several times a week.
(Laughs) We usually also distance ourselves from Schalke – in the table. I think everyone would agree with me when I say that the biggest difference between the clubs in recent years has been the necessary serenity and calmness. That might have to do with public training sessions to a small extent.
You’ll have to explain that.
Today’s public training sessions are not comparable with the ones 10 years ago. Everyone has a smartphone that can record videos or take photos. The coach hardly has a chance to work on tactical adjustments for the next opponents in the limited time he has, or to criticise his players in a harsher tone without it making the rounds on the internet minutes later.
The opponent is always watching. Public training sessions are show events where you cannot work in earnest, which is why they predominantly only exist in Germany in Europe’s bigger leagues.
For the local fans it’s important to meet their stars.
Yes, which is why we try to offer public training sessions twice a month as a service to our fans. I can see how the scarcity can be vexing. But the world has changed. The possibility to work in a calm and trusting environment is a valuable commodity to us in the little units we still have. I hope people can understand that – I can understand their side of the argument as well.
Recently a dispute between Thomas Tuchel and chief scout Sven Mislintat grabbed negative headlines. (Read more on that here)
The discussion in the media is nonsense. Sven Mislintat works excellently for his direct superior Michael Zorc. There are hardly points of contact between Mislintat and Tuchel. There is no conflict that would put a strain on the work – only the fact that people sometimes get along well in life and sometimes not. Scouting matters are discussed between Zorc and Tuchel on regular basis. Our summer transfers show that there isn’t a real issue.
Mislintat will be acquainted with a new task regardless of the dispute. Which one will that be?
I often read about restrictions [e.d.: preventing Mislintat to leave for a sporting director position at another club] and promotions [e.d.: head of professional football] – that’s complete hogwash. I’ll gladly say why: We want to increase our staff that’s in charge for the sporting department. We want to move the majority of that staff from our headquarters to our training facilities in 2017 so they are closer to the core of our footballing operations. The restructuring process in which we see ourselves more fit for the future just started. In that regard it makes sense that some threads come together at Sven Mislintat – we are yet to define his exact role. One can sometimes read about other clubs wanting to sign him. They can all forget about that. He will stay with us.