Former Frauen-Bundesliga champions Turbine Potsdam need plan to avoid sinking into relegation abyss

With additional TV money on offer for top-flight sides next season and Eastern regional teams snapping at their heels, there has never been a worse time for the Turbines to drop into the 2. Frauen-Bundesliga. Martin Whiteley examines what brought the former European champions to this point and what they can do to stop themselves from sinking without a trace.

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Turbine Potsdam once sat proudly at the top of the Frauen-Bundesliga pile — now one of Germany’s most successful teams are in danger of going into freefall.

The six-time champions are accustomed to battling for a place in the top four but find themselves rooted to the bottom of the table after suffering their eighth defeat of the season to Bayer 04 Leverkusen this afternoon. Goals from Kristin Kogel, Elisa Senss and Ivana Fuso piled on the misery for 10-woman Potsdam, who had midfielder Jennifer Cramer sent off in the 71st minute.

It’s hard to see how the East German side will turn around their disastrous form, having picked up just a solitary point so far this season. They’re staring relegation in the face as we rapidly approach the midway point of the campaign, but the cracks began to appear towards the end of last term.

Forwards Selina Cerci and Melissa Kossler scored a combined 23 league goals last season on the way to Turbine’s fourth-placed finish, but both departed the club for Koln and Hoffenheim respectively in the summer. When a number of board members and head coach Sebastian Middeke then left at the end of October to be replaced by interim manager Dirk Heinrichs, it was clear all was not well.

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But things weren’t always so negative for the two-time Champions League winners. East German champions on six occasions, Turbine were the only side from that part of the country able to transfer their success into the unified league. Alongside those league triumphs, they also secured three domestic cups as the former European queens consistently punched above their weight.

However, it’s been 10 years since the Turbines lifted silverware back in 2012, with their last Championship title glory. Although they made the cup final last season, a comfortable 4-0 win for Wolfsburg showed just how far off the pace they are now. How they must wish they had the resources and infrastructure that the She-Wolves and Bayern Munich have for their women’s teams.

In an effort to stay competitive and challenge the present-day heavyweights, Turbine teamed up with Hertha BSC in June 2020, when they signed a three-year partnership deal that would include “financial support” and branding collaborations. Although both sides said that it had “benefited” each other, nothing changed in the success stakes for Turbine.

It therefore came as no surprise when the clubs announced last month that they would not extend the deal beyond next year, with Hertha now planning on developing their own girls’ set-up and women’s team. And there’s more bad news for Turbine: the Berlin side are not the only Eastern regional club looking to establish their female team in the top division.

RB Leipzig remain top of the 2. Frauen-Bundesliga after they defeated ninth-placed Sand 2-0 today. While Viktoria Berlin are flying high in the Northeast Regional League as they look to continue their progression by elevating themselves into the second tier next campaign.

These increased options will now also make recruitment in the area much more competitive. Factor in the additional television revenue on offer to top-flight sides next season, and this is certainly not the best time for any club to be on a downward trajectory. If Turbine suffer relegation, the key is not to go into freefall, as has happened to other independent clubs.

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One positive for them is that the second tier in Germany includes several reserve teams. Any club’s priority is always on their first team, so if an injury crisis happens, it is the 2. Frauen-Bundesliga squad that gets raided. In theory, if you are playing against weaker opposition, your chances of success should be higher.

Signing younger players or veterans looking to drop down from the top flight would be a solid recruitment process. Loans from teams whose reserve sides are lower down the pyramid to give their promising players game time could also bolster squad numbers. Not every player can go to Wolfsburg or Bayern straight away, so there are still roles for sides like Turbine to play in nurturing young talent and serving as feeder clubs.

If they are relegated, their main objective will be to bounce straight back to the top flight. Potsdam must begin planning for every eventuality now and rediscover the old fighting spirit that brought the underdogs so much previous success, or they could be staring into the abyss.

Follow Martin on Twitter @673martin

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