Women’s Football in Dortmund – Has the Time Finally Come?

Borussia Dortmund, perhaps the biggest club in the world without a women’s football department, is seemingly in the process of developing a strategy to rectify their lack of involvement in the women’s game.

A survey made the rounds on Twitter yesterday, asking fans of the club to answer a few short questions ranging from the reader’s knowledge of women’s football, to whether Dortmund should fund a women’s side and even the manner in which the potential team should be established. Although set up by the club, the questionnaire wasn’t promoted on its website or social media accounts, making it almost impossible for the casual fan to take part. Here is a link to the survey (it’s in German).

Borussia Dortmund has been on the receiving end of plenty of criticism over its reluctance to create a women’s team. As part of the “ballspiel.vereint!” initiative, aimed to combat discrimination, the club’s fans unfurled a banner reading “Football is for everyone. Women’s team now!” last November during a Bundesliga game against Paderborn and national team players like Lina Magull and Almuth Schult, as well as Fritz Keller, president of the DFB, have reprimanded the Black and Yellow in the past. The club responded just days after the fan protest, announcing that they would look into the matter of finally forming a women’s team at the annual members’ meeting and that they would have more concrete information at subsequent assemblages.

More specific news regarding the project will be presented to the public later this year and the recent survey, which is open until July 9, would suggest that Borussia Dortmund could realistically field a women’s team as early as 2021, although 2022 or 2023 seem like more reasonable approximations, but it’s all just wild speculation at this point.

Dortmund’s biggest counterpoint to the fan appeals – besides the insipid argument that they have no previous history in women’s football and thus should be exempt from any obligation to get involved – has been the financial aspect of the undertaking. BVB president Reinhard Rauball has previously stated that supporting women’s football wouldn’t be feasible and perhaps even detrimental, citing the club’s prior experiences with their women’s handball team.

Dortmund’s handball side was on the verge of folding in 2009 after hemorrhaging money for years and only survived thanks to external sponsorships. Despite making the second-largest profit (€489.5m) in club history last season, Black and Yellow officials have gone on record to say that they could not financially back other professional sports ventures besides the men’s program.

I call bullshit. Admittedly, there is considerable uncertainty surrounding the transfer market at the moment, but the likes of Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland have still been linked with big-money moves abroad. Even as little as five percent of the transfer fees Dortmund would receive from selling one or even both would not only help them fund a women’s side, but they would be a global powerhouse. Of course, that’s oversimplifying it, but you cannot tell me that a club as big as Dortmund would not be able to support a new team, when the money involved is chump change. That’s ridiculous, disingenuous, and frankly offensive.

Another concern BVB higher-ups have expressed is that any potential women’s side – Dortmund or Schalke – in the Ruhr area would be a “big fish in a small pond” and could not only potentially oust a storied Frauen-Bundesliga team in Duisburg but also poach some of the local, young talent SGS Essen rely so heavily upon. Whilst that trepidation isn’t completely unwarranted, Dortmund, as one of the biggest clubs in Germany and as an organization that prides itself on promoting progressive ideas, has an obligation to get involved in women’s football in some capacity.

What exactly that involvement will look like was one of the points raised in the survey. The club gave the reader multiple choices to vote for, including buying the license of a team higher up in the pyramid and eventually rebranding, starting in the lower leagues and rising through the ranks, financially backing an existing team, or sponsoring multiple grassroots programs.

Trying to emulate Real Madrid and acquiring a license in the upper echelons of German woman’s football seems like a surefire way to achieve instant success. The obvious choice in terms of which club the Black and Yellow would buy is Regionalliga (third tier) side SV Berghofen, located right on the outskirts of Dortmund, a 20-minute drive down the road from the Signal Iduna Park.

Whether that’s the route they will take in the end remains to be seen, but it’s about damn time that Borussia Dortmund got involved in women’s football. If and when BVB finally get their act together, they can count on the support of national team captain and Wolfsburg legend Alexandra Popp. The 29-year-old is a lifelong fan and after the protests last November, she revealed on Instagram that she would cherish the chance to play for the club she loves.

The global influence on the sport and the pull that a Borussia Dortmund team would have would easily make up for any lost revenue. The potential is there, but a club cannot be run on fan engagement alone, there needs to be commitment right from the very top of the club’s hierarchy to ensure that they don’t become just another Liverpool or Mönchengladbach. Doing the bare minimum isn’t good enough.

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