FC Schalke 04 – The Failures that sent the club down

23 March 2021 7 minutes

It was just 3 seasons ago that Schalke earned themselves Champions League football as they ended the campaign in 2nd place and 8 point above 3rd and their close rival Borussia Dortmund. So how did such success only 3 years ago leading to their relegation from the German top division.


In April 2020 DW.com reported that Schalke where facing a financial crisis which resulted in all first-team players receiving a 15% wage cut to try and balance the books. Schalke have a reputation among German clubs for paying above the market-value on wages and as a result the board decided enough was enough. In June 2020 it was rumoured that a further wage cap is being introduced so that no player will be paid more than €2.5million (It is unlikely this was to effect current contracts).

The issue with the new wage cap for the club means that signing new players will be difficult but also retaining current talent will be a tough task. For example young talent Suat Serdar was subject to speculation around several €40m but with the wage cap introduction and only a year left on his contract Schalke hold little to know bargaining power and will be unable to demand any where near the same fee.

Some other examples of Schalke’s poor financial decisions include signing Ozan Kabak for €15m despite only signing for VfB Stuttgart 6 months prior for €6.5m. Not only this but they then sent him on loan only 18 months into his spell with them after Liverpool came calling in January. The loan fee was also believed to only be worth approximately £900,000.

In December 2020 a new article from DW.com suggested the Schalke had amounted €250m of debt despite the measures taken earlier in the year.


In June 2017 Domenico Tedesco was appointed Schalke boss, and handed a 2 year contract. Despite not having much experience he managed to guide Schalke to 2nd place in the Bundesliga, something they hadn’t achieved since the 09/10 season.

The ‘honeymoon period’ appeared to run out in his second season and he was subsequently sacked after 7 games without a win and a 7-0 thrashing against Manchester City in the Champions League round of 16. Huub Stevens was appointed interim manager for the rest of the season but he was only able to get 10 points out of a possible 30 in the remaining 10 games.

David Wagner was appointed manager on the 1st July 2019 following his contract termination with Huddersfield in January 2019. However, his tenure at Schalke didn’t go as planned. Despite starting the season with only 3 losses in the first 18 games their fortunes soon turned sour as they finished the season, with a club record, 16 games without a win.

Regardless of the poor run at the end of the season the S04 board stuck with their man but after an 8-0 hiding to Bayern Munich on the opening day of the 20/21 season it was obvious they were in for a long season. After only the second game of the season the board decided that 18 games in a row was enough and sacked Wagner.

The rest of the 20/21 season has seen 4 different managers (Manuel Baum, Huub Stevens, Christian Gross & Dimitrios Grammozis) take control of games. Between them they have managed to accumulate just 13 points all season (2 wins & 7 draws). Never has a team recorded less wins and only twice has a team recorded 2 wins, Tasmania Berlin in 1965–66 & Wuppertaler SV in 1974–75.

The Chairman

In June 2020 Schalke fans held a protest against the clubs long serving chairman Clemens Tönnies. Tönnies had been at the club for 26 years, in 1994 he joined as member of the supervisory and in 2001 he was appointed Chairman. While the club had varying levels of success during his reign it has always been his off the pitch antics that has caused some level of concern amongst the Royal Blue’s fans.

To give some back story Tönnies is a German Entrepreneur who is the co-owner of Tönnies Holding group. The group, founded in 1971, is Germanys largest slaughterhouses for pigs.

2007 – Tönnies poor working conditions and low-wage empolyees raised concerns to local politicians and they recieved nation-wide critiscim

2012 – Clemens was investigated for tax evasion

2013 – Clemens was fined a total of €190,000 euros for ‘secret corporate participation’.

2016 – The German Federal Cartel Office was unable to collect €128m in fines as Tönnies had liquidated the companies that owed money making it impossible for  the Federal Cartel Office to collect the monies owed.

2019 – He was obliged to step down as chairman for 3 months following racial comments made at a local farm festival.

Its fair to say that he has had a fair few controversies in his time and this unstable ownership has led to numerous failings at Schalke.

Despite all the doom and gloom there is optimism around the Royal Blue fan base. The failing chairman is no longer at the club, they are working towards a sustainable financial future and their famous academy is still producing talents. In the past the SO4 academy has produced the likes of Manuel Neuer, Leroy Sane & Julian Draxler