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Nicole Kumpis is the only female president of a German professional soccer club.

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If an Eintracht Braunschweig fan or member wants something from their new president in the near future, they will know exactly where to find her at least every two weeks. Nicole Kumpis has had a season ticket in the fan corner, block 7 on the south stand, for years. She can’t even remember her first match at the Eintracht Stadium, she said. “My father pushed me in the buggy back then.”

On Wednesday night, at an extraordinary general assembly, Kumpis was elected the first female president in the nearly 122-year history of the relegated second division. “Eintracht made history tonight,” she said. The 48-year-old is currently the only woman to manage one of the 56 clubs in the top three professional leagues. And she is also the first woman in 30 years to do that in German professional football. In 1991/92, TSV 1860 Munich played in the 2nd Bundesliga for one year under the chairmanship of Liselotte Knecht.

At first glance, the choice of Kumpis continues a development that began no later than last year. Prominent women such as national goalkeeper Almuth Schult and former Bundesliga referee Bibiana Steinhaus-Webb founded the “Football Can Do More” initiative, which, among other things, calls for more female managers in football. In January, Donata Hopfen took over as CEO of the German Football League (DFL).

But with Kumpis, the signal effect is not just that there is now a woman at the helm of the 1967 German champions. With her, a graduate social worker and full-time director of the German Red Cross Braunschweig-Salzgitter was chosen for a a position in which economic competence and fearless leadership were considered ideals for decades.

Fans and members want more participation

“Democracy, diversity, communication and cohesion – that’s what my team and I stand for,” Kumpis said Wednesday night. “For our team, it doesn’t matter that she’s a woman.” For comparison: From a kind of government statement by the new DFL chief Hopfen after her interview in “Bild am Sonntag”, the main thing that remained was that professional football now only had to compensate once the loss of income from the corona crisis. A playoff model for the Bundesliga? Super Cup in Saudi Arabia? “Any measure that is supposed to bring us money in the future must be suitable for us. But I don’t think we can rule anything out in this regard at the moment,” she said.

Kumpis rather believes that the signs of the times are completely different: fans and members want more participation. Football must focus much more on its social power.

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“One must not forget: this being a fan, this feeling, I’m going to eat my sausage on Saturday, drink my beer, meet friends in the south stand beforehand and chat about what went wrong on the last day of the game and who is aligned today: This sentiment had less and less to do with what people associate with modern professional football even before the pandemic. And that has intensified the corona crisis again,” said Kumpis of the German Press Agency. “We have to ask the fans now: What do you need? What can we do? This is a task for all of us.”

Kumpis’ choice also had a lot to do with the special situation in Braunschweig. Eintracht is deeply divided after relegations to the second division in 2018 and 2021, which was also shown by the new president’s narrow victory over his opponent Axel Ditzinger (472:411 votes). The businessman wanted a complete reorganization of the club. Kumpis wants to bring the different sides back together. In the end, his approach won out. With former national hockey player Bettina Heinicke, a second woman is now part of their management team as Vice President. (dpa)

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