In an attempt to increase their sway over Schalke supervisory board chairman Dr. Jens Buchta, the previously anonymous group of 14 club members revealed themselves at a Wednesday press conference.
Former Schalke footballer Ingo Anderbrügge, local politician Ulrich Paetzel, and managing director of the German Civil Business Association Frank Haberzettel served as representatives, facing the cameras and explaining their movement.
The German footballing public got their first introduction to the group seeking to shake things up in Gelsenkirchen.
If there was an important lesson to be gleaned from an impromptu press conference on Wednesday, it's that a very concerned and committed group of Schalke club members wish to change the process by which their soon-to-be relegated club is run. A previously anonymous group of 14 influencers known to be behind the drive to bring Ralf Rangnick in as sporting director went public.
This move clearly aimed to demonstrate that, even should the organization fail to secure Rangnick's services, some members are not longer prepared to silently stand by whilst a smaller cohort of supervisory board members initiate endless administrative turnover cycles. The public outing of the group was as surprising as it was unprecedented. All told, it served as quite the PR tour-de-force.
The general objective of the group is perhaps best conveyed by the individual statements of the trio of representatives facing the press.
Ingo Anderbrügge, former Schalke midfielder
A famed member of Schalke's "Euro Fighter" squad, the former attacking midfielder was obviously chosen to serve as one of the group's representatives in order to demonstrate a link to the club's glorious past. Anderbrügge converted a crucial penalty in the final match of Schalke's 1996/97 UEFA Cup (the current UEFA Europa League) Winning campaign.
That version of the Königblauen represented Schalke at their zenith. To a certain extent, that team also epitomized the pinnacle of German club football. No Bundesliga side has ever won UEFA's annual second-tier inter-league club competition since. Anderbrügge's comments, predictably, harkened back to that era.
"I didn't shy away from taking that penalty and I'm not shying away now," the 57-year-old told reporters when asked why the group opted to go public.
Ulrich Paetzel, former mayor of the city of Herten
The 14-member-collective picked a figure experienced in politics to explain the nuance of the group's intentions. Paetzel emphasized that the proposal to actively recruit Rangnick conformed more to a general movement than a specific personnel matter.
"With the Rangnick idea, we've ruptured the lethargy of recent months," Paetzel explained to the press, "We don't wish to stand idly by and let the club go to the dogs."
Paetzel stressed the need for transparency in club personnel decisions and made it clear that the 160,000 due-paying members deserved to have "concepts discussed openly."
Paetzel took care to emphasize that the aim of the faction was not to subvert the will of the thousands of local members, but to ensure that they would no longer be shut out of the process.
He conceded that the Rangnick matter remained under the purview of board chairmen Dr. Jens Buchta and said he would accept the will of the Schalke fans if, collectively, they decided that his group was not advantageous to the club.
Speaking directly to the fans that will judge the initiative individually, Paetzel insisted that the group contained "no sheikhs, locusts, or financial investors". This allusion to the (often rich Arabic) financial backers of English football constituted a direct assurance to Gelsenkirchen fans that this was a local, grass-roots initiative not affiliated with the anathema the German public has for any sort of human rights violations.
Crucially, Paetzel clarified that disgraced former chairmen Clemens Tönnies was not on board.
Frank Haberzettel, Civil Society business executive
The choice of a measured voice from the German equivalent of Anglo societies such as the "Better Business Bureau" also constituted a strategic choice. Like Paetzel, Haberzettel appeared to have been chosen to reassure the public that the group had the club's best interests at heart. Haberzettel too spoke of a movement rather than a revolt.
"Our work is not solely related to this personnel matter," the executive explained when asked about Rangnick specifically, "It is much more far-reaching. We've come together as an initiative to address many issues in the future."
"We do not see ourselves as an opposition force," he continued, "we wish to work together with the acting figures for the betterment of the club."
Haberzettel also took care to emphasize that the group did not wish to become a splinter-faction or directly threaten anyone's job. He too stated that the group would abide by the current supervisory board's independent negotiations with Rangnick whatever result that may produce.
None of the three representatives specifically ruled out the possibility that this group would seek to break with the club's leadership in the future, or indeed make their own power play to wrest control of the club if they felt the club found itself in a poor position to bounce back quickly from the impending relegation.
In the final analysis, the press conference amounted to a friendly introduction to three faces. Given that it was revealed that the other 11 members include an ex-DFB general secretary, three former supervisory board members, and many other long term club devotees from a former team doctor to one of the Arena's old managers, matters may get less friendly soon.