GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany (AP) – The president of the German soccer club Schalke resigned Tuesday as a result of the scandal sparked by a huge outbreak of coronavirus in one of his company’s killers.
Schalke fans have been clamoring for the resignation of Clemens Tönnies since the 64-year-old billionaire made racist remarks about Africans during a public event in Paderborn in late August.
Tönnies resigned after 26 years on the board of the Bundesliga club and 19 as its president.
Some 1,500 Schalke fans formed a socially detached human chain near the club’s stadium on Saturday to protest the directive. The team lost 4-0 to Freiburg on the last date of the season. That result extended the club’s worst winless streak to 16 in the Bundesliga.
But the outbreak of 1,400 cases of COVID-19 in a slaughterhouse of the Tönnies Group meat company in his hometown of Rheda-Wiedenbrück was what most exacerbated the anger of the fans. The outbreak led to an increase in cases in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, causing quarantines in nearby districts where the majority of its employees from Eastern European countries reside. It also highlighted the harsh working and living conditions they have.
Fans on Saturday unfolded banners with messages such as: « Enough exploitation Schalke – Tönnies go now! » and « No to racists in Schalke! »
« We believe the club needs to start from scratch for Schalke 04 to become Schalke 04 again, » said Sven Schneider, president of an organization of fans against racism and discrimination.
In a statement, Schalke and some of its managers praised Tönnies for their passion for the club and their initiative to modernize the stadium and facilities for the youth divisions. He did not mention the reason for the resignation, nor did he criticize his former president.
Schalke postponed a press conference he had scheduled for Monday, leaving it for Wednesday. It would be to take stock of a season that started with good feelings under the direction of coach David Wagner and ended in fiasco.
Schalke’s losing streak began when he succumbed 5-0 to eventual champion Bayern Munich in January. He has not won since and finished 12th out of 18 teams.