A distinguished crowd watches on. Charlemagne, Frederick Barbarossa and Francis II are all among those in attendance. Poised motionlessly in their positions, they observe benevolently as another chapter of history is written. It’s 13.27 on Friday, 21st March 2014 in the Frankfurt town hall. Lord Mayor Peter Feldmann, Mayor Olaf Cunitz, the then DFB president Wolfgang Niersbach and DFB general secretary Helmut Sandrock are all gathered together for an important cause.
Sometimes it takes small action to set great movements in motion. This day was one of those times. Four important men, four signatures inked onto a document that set in stone the course for the future of German football. And in a setting befitting of such an occasion - the Kaisersaal of the Römer city hall, inside the only gallery containing all of the emperors and empresses of the Holy Roman Empire of the Kingdom of Germany – from Charlemagne and Friedrick Barbarossa, right through to Francis II. A grand total of 52 crowned royals surrounding our four protagonists.
Under the watching eyes of these former rulers, a new project is formalised and the DFB accepts the offer from the City of Frankfurt to acquire the Niederrad racecourse in Erbpacht. A statement of intent that holds much value among reliable partners, but there’s a lot more substance to the agreement than that. The acquisition of the land in and around the racecourse is part of the major restructuring within the DFB that was decided just a few hours before the monumental signing at the city hall only a few kilometres away at the DFB headquarters. The DFB presidium had gathered together and unanimously made a far-reaching decision: the DFB wants its new HQ and academy to be based in Frankfurt.
"The area is perfect in every aspect"
The area is perfect in every aspect. Both in terms of the space on offer, as well as its location and connectivity, the former racecourse meets all the requirements to be the future home of the DFB. The agreement with the DFB is also an ideal solution for the city. "We consider ourselves as the home of German football and want that to remain," said Peter Feldmann. Wolfgang Niersbach classified the scope of the decision made on 21st March and defined the goals and future direction of the DFB. "With this foundation stone, we have made the DFB sustainable for the future," he told. "With this centennial project, new opportunities for the development of German football arise that we will make the most of with all our determination and conviction. In the DFB Academy, everything should be brought under one roof: from elite development right down to services for our regional and state associations. Here we want to build the DFB of the future. Football all over Germany will benefit from it."
With the decision to build the DFB Academy, a vision that has been dreamt of for decades, with varying intensity within the DFB, was finally to be realised. It was somewhat fitting that, in the depths of Frankfurt’s Römer city hall, it was a Kaiser whose idea inspired the entire project. After his time as head coach of the national team, it was Franz Beckenbauer who had the idea to bring together all the association’s sporting management under one roof. The then DFB president Hermann Neuberger was convinced by the idea and Hortst R. Schmidt was tasked as project manager. However, political developments in the 1980s, with the fall of the Berlin wall and German reunification, put the brakes on the project temporarily. The DFB’s priority now was organising the reunification of German football.
Following the then major project of hosting the 2006 World Cup in Germany, considerations about a centre of excellence returned to the forefront again. In 2009, national team coordinator Oliver Bierhoff took up the initiative and expressed his belief that the only way for the DFB to be sustainable in the future is if it brings all of its competencies together. His words in August 2009 resonate even more today: "Frankfurt would be the ideal location. I imagine it as a centre of excellence; a base for the players, the youth teams, the referees, scouts and coaches," said Bierhoff. "It must be our duty as the DFB to constantly develop and to demand and achieve the highest level of performance. The DFB Academy will make decisive contributions to doing this."
DFB Academy is growing and working
A lot has happened in the nine years since then. The DFB Academy is growing and it’s working. It works, because many of the DFB Academy’s projects and initiatives are promoted with great competence and enthusiasm by Oliver Bierhoff and Markus Weise, head of concept development at the DFB Academy, and their team. The first international match analysis congress and the DFB/DFL coaching forum are just two examples of pilot projects that have been successfully carried out under the banner of the DFB Academy. There are also the thriving co-operations with the likes of VfB Stuttgart, TSG Hoffenheim, STRIVR and STATS Analytics.
The DFB Academy is growing. And it’s growing bigger, because in December 2017 the DFB once again voted unanimously in favour of the establishment of its academy, as well as for the proposed budget. A maximum of 150 million Euros is estimated to be allocated for what will be the biggest investment in the DFB’s history. The DFB Academy is finally happening, because all the legal hurdles, both small and large, were overcome in 2017. The path is more or less free, and the timeline fixed. In March 2018, DFB president Reinhard Grindel and DFB general secretary Dr. Friedrich Curtius officially submitted their planning application. Construction should begin this year and the estimated completion date is 2021. Then the DFB and its new academy will move to Niederrad. And one day, people will say that it all began on Wednesday, 21st March 2014. At 13:27, in the Römer city hall, with four names signed in the presence of 52 crowned royals.