VfB Stuttgart President Claus Vogt effectively delayed the looming challenge to his position by cancelling the club's annual general meeting.
The decision translates to the prolonged continuation of an internal battle with Sporting CEO Thomas Hitzlsperger.
|Photo: Rudolf Simon, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0|
In the Bundesliga, elections of a club's president are generally just formalities. The process is hardly democratic. One candidate usually runs unopposed for the position. Fans in the Bundesrepublik have thus keep close tabs on the administrative conflicts taking place at VfB Stuttgart in recent weeks.
VfB's current head-of-sport Thomas Hitzlsperger announced his intention to contest the position toward the end of 2020. The popular former national team player considers it his duty to stand for election after the scandal known in Germany as the "Datenaffäre" (data-affair) engulfed the club this past autumn.
The scandal itself concerns the club's handling of the private data of some of its members. Between 2016 and 2018, VfB officials are accused of having passed on (and possibly sold) the data to third parties for marketing purposes. Such a flagrantly commercial transactional arrangement remains anathema to the German footballing public.
An independent firm has been commissioned to investigate the leak of the data. In the meantime, both Hitzlsperger and Vogt have used the breach to trade accusations about responsibility. The divisive nature of the issue has reportedly split the VfB adminstrative apparatus into two warring factions.
Hopes that there may be an end to this murky set of cutthroat internal politics hinged on two forthcoming events. First, the investigative firm Esecon's final report on the matter should clarify in greater detail which club officials were responsible for the privacy violation. Next, Hitzlsperger and President Vogt were expected to broker some sort of detente in time for the general meeting on March 18th.
On Wednesday, Vogt suspended the general meeting amid all of the chaos. The decision effectively ensures that the power struggle will continue into the autumn of 2021. In explaining his decision, President Vogt declared a virtual gathering insufficient to address the current discord at the club. Vogt admitted that the delay was not popular among the board members. Those supporting Hitzlsperger surely view it as a cynical means of Vogt hanging onto power.
In a prepared statement, Vogt noted that the club finds itself in "the greatest internal crisis it has ever experienced in it's already discordant history" and asserted that he "had a responsibility as the president of the club" to place the interest of the organization above that of individuals who would do it irreparable damage. Vogt added that he knew his choice to be unpopular and that he made it expecting "massive criticism".
At present, the next general meeting of club stakeholders is tentatively scheduled to take place in September 2021. Both Vogt and Hitzlsperger have urged patience as Esecon concludes its investigation on the data breach. Both men have publicly claimed that the final report will absolve them of any wrongdoing and not so subtly suggested that the other will take some of the blame.