It was the end of an era. With an overwhelming majority, the members of Borussia Dortmund elected Dr. Reinhard Rauball as honorary president – and said goodbye to what is perhaps the most important official in the club’s recent history from the presidency. Rauball made a decisive contribution three times to saving the club in difficult phases. His conclusion after a total of 23 years at the top of the club was correspondingly emotional.

“We looked into the abyss, no longer had our fate in our own hands. But we didn’t leave BVB alone, we came back – by returning to our values,” said Rauball. The 75-year-old lawyer recalled the beginning of his last term in office: in November 2004, the association was over-indebted and threatened with insolvency. At that time, Rauball and Hans-Joachim Watzke, whom he had made CEO of the partnership limited by shares (KGaA), succeeded in obtaining a comprehensive creditor waiver. The restructuring could begin.

“You were a shining example for me. As a person and as a Borussia you are a really, really big one,” Watzke called out to the outgoing President, who received a standing ovation from the 1,000 or so members in the Westfalenhalle.

On the other hand, there was rather restrained applause, which was also mixed with occasional whistles, for the current Bundesliga team BVB, which also attended the meeting. The weak performance of coach Edin Terzic’s team, especially in the past few weeks, had left its mark – even with Watzke. “The last two games, especially the 2:4 in Mönchengladbach, were not what we at Borussia Dortmund expect from you,” said Watzke to the pros. BVB has already lost six times in 15 Bundesliga games and has to spend the winter in sixth place in the table. Measured against your own requirements, this is more than poor.

At the same time, however, Watzke asked for understanding. After the personnel change last summer, friction losses were to be expected. There was the departure of top scorer Erling Haaland and the cancer of his successor Sebastién Haller. “We changed the squad and made a conscious decision to appoint Sebastian Kehl as sporting director, who now also feels what a responsibility that is,” said the managing director.

But for Kehl, who succeeded long-time sports director Michael Zorc, the same applies as for Terzic, who succeeded Marco Rose as head coach in the summer. “That’s the BVB way: Both are excellent specialists, but above all both work with passion for the club,” said Watzke. Kehl and Terzic have committed themselves “heart and soul” to BVB. There is therefore neither a trainer nor a manager discussion. “Forget it,” says Watzke.

At the same time, however, Watzke also increased the pressure on the team. Kehl and Terzic will continue to analyze the unsatisfactory situation in the coming days, when the team will go on a PR trip to Southeast Asia. “I am convinced that we will qualify for the Champions League again,” explained Watzke: “If we don’t succeed, everyone has the right to criticize us for it.”

Economically, BVB is in excellent health – even if the club has suffered significantly from three years of Corona, which is reflected in a total loss of 151 million euros. “We were in complete crisis mode for three years with ghost games and a collapsed transfer market,” explained Watzke. According to Watzke, the uncertainty of how things would continue was stressful. Nevertheless, the Dortmunders are still debt-free.

Despite the sporting dent in the Bundesliga, BVB is on the right track for the new honorary president. In contrast to the beginning of his third term as president 18 years ago, he can “sleep peacefully because the club is no longer associated with economic emergencies,” said Rauball.