DSC ARMINIA BIELEFELD
Founded: May 3, 1905
Club Members: 15,043
Nickname: Die Arminen
Coach: Michél Kniat
Captain: Fabian Klos
Bundesliga.2 Champions: 4
3.Liga Champions: 1
Oberliga Westfalen: 1
Western German Cup: 2
Landespokal Westfalen Winner: 3
There's a long-running joke in Germany that the city of Bielefeld, tucked away in North Rhine-Westphalia, doesn't actually exist after college student Achim Held light-heartedly suggested as much on an early internet forum in 1994. Like other urban myths in the same vein (e.g. trains never stop in Wolfsburg), it was fuelled by the subsequent internet boom and soon gained traction to become part of German satire. The conspiracy theory was the subject of a film Die Bielefeld Verschwörung (The Bielefeld Conspiracy) made by the local university and a marketing group offered €1 million in 2019 to anyone who could prove the city's non-existence. Even the then German Chancellor Angela Merkel referenced it as she remembered a visit to Bielefeld, adding "so it does exist." Credit to the city though which has taken the joke in good spirit, and it seems that same sense of humour is needed to support its football team - Germany's most promoted and, by definition, most relegated club !
Deriving their name from General Arminius who led the Cherusci Germanic Tribe to victory over the Roman army at the Battle of Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD, DSC Arminia Bielefeld (Deutscher Sport-Club Arminia Bielefeld) were formed in 1905 as 1. Bielefelder FC Arminia and spent their early years going through mergers and name changes whilst achieving a degree of success in local championships - winning the Westphalian Championship in 1912 before lifting successive West German Championship titles in 1922 and 1923. Four consecutive Westphalian Championship titles followed between 1924-1927 and, after the club had taken its current name, the Westphalian Cup was lifted in 1932. As German football was restructured into 16 regional divisions following the Nazi rise to power, Arminia made a one-season cameo in the Gauliga Westfalen in 1933 before securing a return to the top-flight in 1938. The 1939-40 season marked the club's high-water mark in the Gauliga with a second-place finish; and a couple of years later, they were one of only two teams to win a match against the dominant side of the era - FC Schalke 04.
After being part of a combined wartime side called KSG Bielefeld following a short-lived merger with local rivals VfB 03 Bielefeld, Arminia reformed and emerged from the chaos of World War 2 to play in the third-tier for the first time in their history. Arminia however have long been a club associated with scandal, and after a dominating campaign in the 1947-48 Bezirklasse, they were given a 14 point penalty for fielding an ineligible player. After a number of years playing in local championships, Arminia secured a place in the second-tier Regionalliga West following the restructure of German football in 1963 which saw the creation of the Bundesliga and, after building momentum with a number of strong campaigns including a West German Cup final victory against Alemannia Aachen in 1966, achieved promotion to the top-flight for the first time with a play-off victory over Tennis Borussia Berlin in 1970.
Their stay in the Bundesliga was mired in controversy however as the club became embroiled in the Bundesligaskandal at the end of the 1970-71 season. Horst-Gregorio Canellas, club president of Kickers Offenbach, had begun to suspect that all wasn't what it seemed in Germany's top-flight as his club - despite enjoying a good run of results - had been unable to pull away from the drop zone on account of the impressive form also being shown by fellow relegation threatened clubs ... including Arminia. Far from it being a case of an over-active imagination or plain sour grapes, Canellas' suspicions in the end proved to be well-founded and a day after Offenbach's relegation had been confirmed he invited a whole list of celebrities, reporters and fußball luminaries, including the German national manager Helmut Schön, to his house and instead of serving up 'Kaffee und Kuchen ' played an audio tape to the stunned gathering.
Phone calls, voices, payments, bribes.
Famous names were at the heart of the deception with Nationalelf defender Bernd Patzke and Hertha Berlin team-mate Tasso Wild recorded discussing a DM 140,000 bribe from Canellas himself to throw a game against Arminia. Patzke admitted being offered DM 220,000 to throw the same game by someone else also claiming to represent Bielefeld. Canellas' revelations were just the tip of the iceberg and for weeks the only story in the Deutsche Zeitungen was about the scandal. The subsequent investigation by the DFB's chief prosecutor, Hans Kindermann, uncovered 18 matches that had directly affected the relegation battle in the 1970-71 season and over DM 1Million had exchanged hands in the process. It was a nationwide scandal with as many as 50 players, managers and officials from other clubs being implicated including Arminia players Waldemar Slomiany and Jürgen Neumann who were banned from football for life. Arminia also had their licence to play in the Bundesliga revoked and were demoted to the Regionalliga - although this didn't come into effect until the end of the following season due to the length of time it took Kindermann and the DFB to investigate the whole sorry affair.
As German football cleaned up the mess and set about repairing its damaged reputation, Arminia made a quick return to the Bundesliga in 1978 - but only after their fans had seen them throw away a 4-0 lead to lose a promotion play-off against TSV 1860 München the previous year. Life back in the Bundesliga was brief and despite a memorable 4-0 mauling of Bavarian giants FC Bayern München, they were back in the second tier after just one season. Another promotion immediately followed with a tour-de-force season in which they helped themselves to 120 goals, a 28-match unbeaten run and a Bundesliga.2 record win of 11-0 over SV Arminia Hannover as they won 30 of the 38 league matches. The transition from second division juggernauts to top-tier underdogs was handled better this time and Arminia managed to enjoy an unbroken five year spell in the Bundesliga which included successive eighth place finishes in 1983 and 1984. Unfortunately, they were back in Bundesliga.2 a year later as things began to unravel off the pitch too with overextension and mismanagement bringing Arminia to the brink of financial ruin with debts standing at DM 4.5 million.
The club dropped into the third-tier amateur Oberliga Westfalen before regaining their football composure and returned to professional football by winning the newly formed Regionallia West / Südwest in 1995. The "Elevator Club" then spent much of the late 1990s and early 2000's bouncing between the top two divisions before another five year spell in the Bundesliga which also included DFB-Pokal semi-final appearances in 2005 and 2006.
From the end of the decade however, things began to go wrong again. Arminia not only crashed into Bundesliga.2, but carried on into the third tier as financial pressures continued to build after banking on long-term Bundesliga survival to pay for expensive stadium renovations in 2008. After scrambling back into the second tier in 2014, a final-day victory over SG Dynamo Dresden saved them from making an immediate return to the 3.Liga via the automatic relegation spots. They did however then have to negotiate the relegation play-off match but buoyed by that win over Dresden, Arminia travelled to SV Darmstadt 98 for the first leg and came away with a comfortable 3-1 win. Although the second leg went into extra time, with just 10 minutes to play Arminia were leading 5-4 on aggregate and their place in Bundesliga.2 seemed secure for at least another season as Darmstadt, having run out of ideas, resorted to firing pot-shots at the Bielefeld goal. Then, with Arminia being Arminia, in the 121st minute one of those Darmstadt pot-shots took a deflection and ended up in the Bielefeld net to send Die Blauen (The Blues) back down to the 3.Liga. It was a nadir that still weighs heavily on Arminia's supporters, but having managed to keep the core of the team together during those dark times including captain Fabian Klos who personified the club's grit, Arminia were back in Bundesliga.2 after recovering from a late season implosion to claim the 3.Liga title in 2015.
Arminia's problems weren't behind them though as debts of €30 million were threatening to swallow them up and the club were facing the prospect of their playing licence being revoked by the German FA (DFB). A financial restructuring plan was put in place to walk the club back from the cliff edge, which included the sale of the debt-ridden Schüco Arena to a local business consortium (Bundnis Ostwestfalen) and by the end of 2018, 95% of the club's debts had been wiped out. In return, Arminia must now pay a reported €800,000 a year to rent the stadium they've owned since 1926 but crucially, the deal includes a buy-back option after 15 years.
Securing the club's financial future also seemed to liberate them on the pitch as well and at the beginning of the 2018-19 campaign there was optimism that the club could make a push for promotion back to the Bundesliga. A disappointing start to the season however saw Jeff Saibene replaced by ex-Union Berlin and Dynamo Dresden coach Uwe Neuhaus who transformed the team - guiding them to a fourth place finish that year playing an attractive, attacking 4-3-3 formation. He then ended Arminia's 11 year absence from the top-flight, clinching the Bundesliga.2 title in 2020 with a slender victory over none other than SV Darmstadt 98 before the dictionary definition of a yo-yo club endured back-to-back relegations in 2022 and 2023 to round-off a rollercoaster decade for a club that, according to some, doesn't even exist !
Ground Name: Schüco Arena
Year Opened: 1926
Renovations: 1949, 1954 - 1958, 1967, 1970, 1996 - 1999, 2006 - 2008
Capacity: 27,332 (7,940 standing)
Record Attendance: 34,882 (1978)
Executive Boxes: 20
Wheelchair Spaces: 59
Construction Costs: €31.8m
Undersoil Heating: Yes
Running Track: No
Playing Surface: Hybrid Grass
Pitch Size: 105m x 68m
Bielefelder Alm (1926 - 2004)
Schüco Arena (2004 - ) *
* Stadium Renamed
The Schüco Arena is a rare breed amongst current German stadia in so much that you'll find it right bang in the middle of a residential neighbourhood and, on a match day, locals will sell beer to fans from their gardens. It also gives it some decent connections to public transport unlike the new grounds built on industrial patches miles from the city they represent.
Leased from a farmer and referred to as an Alm (Alpine Grassland) on account that it didn't look suitable for playing football on, the ground opened in 1926 as the Bielefelder Alm - which is how Arminia fans still refer to their home. At the time it was just made up of earth banking before concrete stands added some comfort in 1954. Further expansion took place in 1970 as Bielefeld made one of their regular visits to the Bundesliga and capacity then hovered around the 35,000 mark for the next 15 years. However, as Bielefeld's on-field fortunes declined so did the 'Alm ' and it fell into such a state of disrepair that stands were closed and the capacity reduced to just 15,000. An overhaul was needed and work started in 1996 with new Main and North Stands opening in 1999. A new South Stand opened a couple of years later before 2008 saw the project completed with a new East Stand.
Today, it holds 27,332 and is designed along the lines of classic English grounds with a rectangular outline, no running track and four separate stands being close to the pitch. The Main Stand (Haupttribüne) has two-tiers with a row of executive boxes dividing them, and it stands apart from the rest of the ground although the corners are closed. The other single-tiered stands in the ground are all connected to each other with seating areas. In 2019, Arminia became the first club in German professional football to offer a special area in the stadium to allow people with autism an easier stadium experience, with two panoramic boxes that contain rest and soundproofed rooms.
The Bielefeld home end is the fully terraced South Stand and up to 2,100 away followers fly their flags in the opposite North Stand (Blocks A1 [standing] and A2 [seating]). The floodlights are kept out of the way and are mounted on the stadium roof.
2022-2023: 21,738 (Bundesliga.2)
2021-2022: 16,773 (Bundesliga) *
2020-2021: N/A *
2019-2020: 14,958 (Bundesliga.2) *
2018-2019: 19,127 (Bundesliga.2)
* Season affected by COVID pandemic
Expected Ticket Availability
The club website and online ticket shop are both in German only but fortunately for non-German speakers, Google Chrome’s translation feature makes booking E-Tickets (Print@Home and Mobile) a very straightforward process. For a €2 surcharge, tickets are also available from the box office which opens from 90 minutes before kick-off.
Bielefeld are known in Germany as a Fahrstuhlmannschaft (elevator team) - effectively a club perennially dancing between promotion and relegation - and even when they were punching above their weight in the Bundesliga, only matches against VfL Bochum to decide North Rhine-Westphalia supremacy or the Bundesliga's biggest hitters came close to selling out. Now that Arminia are in the 3.Liga, getting hold of a ticket for anywhere in the ground generally won't be an issue.
Adult ticket prices range from €20 - €35 for seats, and you can claim a spot on the terraces for €15 with discounts available for children (aged 7-14 years), seniors, students, people with disabilities etc. 'Lap Tickets' are also available from the box office on a matchday for fans aged 6 and under for €3. These don't entitle the child to a seat of their own however and, as the name suggests, they must sit on their parent's lap throughout the game.
GETTING THERE & AWAY
Melanchthon Straße 31a
If you're coming by car, there are no public car parks at the ground although you should be able to find somewhere to park up in the surrounding streets if you arrive early enough. Otherwise, the club suggest making your way to the car parks at Bielefeld University (Universitätsstraße 25, 33615 Bielefeld ) and catching tram 4 or 10 (Direction: Rathaus) to Rudolf-Oetker-Halle three stops along the line (free if you have a match ticket).
The Schüco Arena is well connected by public transport and your match ticket includes the cost of riding around on the buses, trains and trams of the TeutoOWL transport network for three hours either side of a match. If you're starting from the Hauptbahnhof, you can take a tram to the ground from the underground station directly opposite. If you've gone in search of pre-match food and drink, you can catch your Schüco Arena-bound tram at Jahnplatz in the city centre. Due to it's location in a residential area, the club recommends using the following trams and buses depending on which area of the ground you're heading for:
Block 1 - 4 (South Grandstand) & Block M - T (East Grandstand)
StadtBahn line 4 (Direction: Universität/Lohmannshof) to the Rudolf-Oetker-Halle stop.
Block B - J (West/North Grandstand)
StadtBahn line 4 (Direction: Universität/Lohmannshof) to the Graf-von-Stauffenberg-Straße stop.
You can also catch buses 25/26 (Direction: Dürerstraße) from Jahnplatz (not the Hauptbahnhof) in the city centre and jump off at Drögestraße.
Block A1 & A2 (Guests)
StadtBahn line 3 (Direction: Babenhausen Süd) to the Wittekindstraße or Nordpark stops.
The Schüco Arena is only a mile from the Hauptbahnhof in Bielefeld and takes 20 minutes or so to walk. Come out of the Hauptbahnhof and turn right onto Bahnhofstraße. After 250 metres you'll come to a junction. Turn turn right here onto Jöllenbecker Straße and head under the railway (look out for the sign that states '1,317m bis zur Schüco Arena') and a huge road bridge. Continue following Jöllenbecker Straße for about half a mile and then turn left onto Melanchthonstraße. Follow the road straight down for about quarter of a mile and you'll find the stadium on the right.
FAN SHOP, MUSEUM & STADIUM TOURS
The club shop can be found in front of the Westtribüne (open 9am-5pm, Mon-Tue, Wed & Fri; 9am-6pm, Thu; 90 mins before kick-off - one hour after full-time on matchdays). It's well-stocked and features a book section restricted not just to Arminia Bielefeld but with many other German clubs also represented in print. There's also another fan shop at Jahnplatz in the centre of town (Oberntorwall 24; open 10am-6pm, Mon-Fri).
There's a free museum called MAFA (Museum/Archive/Forum Arminina) dedicated to all things DSC in the West Stand (Westtribüne) (2pm-6pm, Thu; 90 mins before kick-off - one hour after full-time on matchdays)
70-minute guided tours (adults/children under 14, €9/€7) of the Schüco Arena are offered, and like many clubs in Germany who run tours, Arminia are also very keen that you see their press room ! Throughout the tour you'll hear 'interesting anecdotes' about the ground including something called the 'Anfield Road Ostwestfalens' which sounds like it may appeal to visitors from Merseyside. Further Information about the tour and making a booking can be found here.
FOOD & DRINK OPTIONS
Many fans combine the need for pre-match food and drink in the bars and restaurants around Siegfriedplatz a couple of minutes walk from the ground and recommended watering holes here include Der Koch and Heinrich sein Einkel. The city centre is only a 15-minute walk away as well.
At the ground itself, apart from the usual fast food kiosks selling all manner of sausage variants, you can also join the home support at the Krombacher Fan-Fest under the South Stand for a few post-match pints (€4.90) of the official stadium beer. Find out who won the sponsor's Man of the Match award and try to win yourself an Arminia goodie bag and signed home shirt. The Fan-Fest opens for 90 minutes after the full-time whistle has been blown.
From the start of the 2021-22 season however, Arminia have made the Schüco Arena an entirely cashless venue. Payment for your stadium sausage therefore will have to be made with your debit/credit card, via Google Pay, Apple Pay on your smartphone or by using the DSC stadium card which can be topped up with plastic money at several points around the stadium. More information about the card can be found here.
OTHER CLUBS IN THE AREA
BUNDESLIGA: 1.FC Köln, Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Borussia Dortmund, Borussia Mönchengladbach, VfL Bochum
BUNDESLIGA 2: FC Schalke 04, Fortuna Düsseldorf, SC Paderborn 07, VfL Osnabrück
3.LIGA: Borussia Dortmund II, FC Viktoria Köln, MSV Duisburg, Preußen Münster, Rot Weiss Essen, SC Verl