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MARCH 2023


Founded: Feb 1, 1907
Club Members: 9,078
Nickname: RWE

Coach: Christoph Dabrowski
Captain: Felix Bastians

German Champions / Bundesliga: 1
DFB-Pokal: 1
Regionalliga Nord: 2
Regionalliga West: 1
German Amateur Champions: 1
Western German Cup: 2
Landespokal Niederrhein Winner: 9


The Ruhrgebiet, famous for its strategic importance during the great wars of the 20th century, coal mining heritage and, of course, Fußball. Everybody knows Borussia Dortmund, FC Schalke 04, VfL Bochum, and even MSV Duisburg, but there’s a lot more to this bustling polycentric region if you are willing to look beyond the professional ranks of German football.

Rot Weiss Essen are a case in point. A pre-Bundesliga champion, 

One such example is Rot-Weiss Essen. A pre-Bundesliga national champion, RWE hasn’t had the best of times of late. Marred by financial struggles and hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, men’s football in Essen has struggled to recapture even a smidgen of its former glory in recent decades. That, however, could very well be about to change.

Into the quarterfinals of the DFB-Pokal after breezing past 2. Bundesliga side Düsseldorf and comfortably top of the Regionalliga West heading into the second half of the season, Essen look all set to return to the third division for the first time in 12 years. RWE will be hoping that, after an eternity of misery and mediocrity, the tables are finally beginning to turn.

To understand Essen’s current situation, you have to look back at the club’s past because their decline was anything but straightforward. Historically speaking, the Red and Whites used to be a force to be reckoned with in the context of the German game, particularly in the days prior to the foundation of the Bundesliga. After winning their first (and only) top-flight league title in 1955, Essen became the first German team to qualify for the newly-established European Cup – 1. FC Saarbrücken were also part of the tournament, but Saarland didn’t become a state of the Federal Republic until January 1, 1957. RWE also won the DFB-Pokal two years earlier, in 1953, beating Alemannia Aachen in the final – who could have predicted back then that the two would be toiling away in the fourth division together some six decades later? While the Black and Yellows of Aachen sued the DFB after not getting picked to be among the 16 teams that participated in the inaugural Bundesliga campaign in 1963, the Red and Whites of Essen were preoccupied with getting out of a rut that they slipped into at the end of the 50s. By the time the Bundesliga was ready to begin play, RWE’s luster had faded to the point that they were merely a mid-table team in the second tier. However, before long, they would fight for a spot among the elite again.

After overturning a 3-1 deficit against, you guessed it, Aachen, the Essener qualified for the 1965/66 promotion round to the Bundesliga. There, RWE had created enough of an early cushion by triumphing over Saarbrücken and Schweinfurt that a 1-0 loss to St. Pauli couldn’t stop them from reaching the promised land. Essen started their Bundesliga journey brightly, even looking like genuine title contenders up until the early winter months, but a massive drop-off in form saw them plummet down the table and straight back into the Regionalliga, which, at that time, was the second division.

What followed was a four-year rollercoaster ride of emotions. Essen endured the heartbreak of just missing out on promotion in 1968, but just a year later, they once again tasted the ecstasy of getting back to the Bundesliga. Back in the top-flight, the club managed to survive rather comfortably for the first time and even reached the summit for a little while the following season, only to end up as the principal victim of the infamous 1970/71 Bundesliga-Skandal, ultimately culminating in relegation.

Several clubs were involved in the match-fixing scandal, but the main protagonists were Rot-Weiß Oberhausen, Arminia Bielefeld, and Kickers Offenbach. At first, it seemed as though only Oberhausen and Bielefeld truly benefitted from the plot as they had managed to stay up at the expense of Offenbach and, crucially, Essen. As it turned out, though, their scheming was in vain; both were later found guilty of match-fixing and had their Bundesliga licenses revoked. An investigation revealed that as many as eight games were manipulated, and yet, despite the evidence proving that Essen were completely free from guilt, they were not reinstated.

The Red and Whites didn’t dwell on their unjust demotion for too long and went straight back into a promotion scrap, bringing Bundesliga football back to the Hafenstraße after just two seasons. This time, they were here to stay – or so it seemed. Three years into their Bundesliga tenure, Essen had finished eighth and indeed from there, it looked like they would only go from strength to strength in the years to come. But the following season, reality hit like a bomb and put a swift damper on any optimism; RWE played their final top-flight game in 1977. This time around, Essen were dropped into the North division of the 40-team 2. Bundesliga, a league still in its infancy after only being established three years earlier. Two unsuccessful attempts at promotion followed, and eventually, RWE fell back into a state of mid-table mediocrity reminiscent of the late 1950s. After seven steady but largely uninspiring seasons of just kind of floating around in the second tier, disaster struck – Essen were relegated to the third division for the first time in club history in 1984. 

As you can probably tell by now, the German football system was a bit of a convoluted, ever-changing mess back then. The creation of the 2. Bundesliga entailed the death – or, rather, 20-year hiatus – of the Regionalliga. As a result, RWE dropped down to the Oberliga Nordrhein. Despite topping the table ahead of city rivals Schwarz-Weiß Essen, Rot-Weiss didn’t immediately return to the second tier, finishing behind Osnabrück and Tennis Borussia Berlin in the promotion round. They would ultimately bounce back the following season, though.

With Horst Hrubesch, who had scored a record 41 goals in 77/78 for the Red and Whites, now at the helm, RWE were keen to re-establish themselves as a force in German football. Once again, optimism soon gave way to despair. The club was unable to build on a solid first season back in the 2. Bundesliga and financial concerns soon arose, resulting in the DFB stripping them of their license in 1991, citing “mounting debts and concerns about the club’s liquidity”.

Despite bouncing straight back up, the mood at the Hafenstraße soon turned sour once more when their permit was revoked yet again in 1994 after the DFB uncovered some dodgy dealings by the club before the start of the season. Funnily enough, RWE still somehow managed to go on a deep run in the DFB-Pokal in spite of the circumstances, falling short at the final hurdle against Bremen.

At first, the yo-yo club moniker didn’t necessarily lend itself to Essen since they didn’t flip-flop between leagues for sporting reasons, but as time went on, it became abundantly clear that it is quite literally the perfect denomination. RWE again returned to the Zweite Liga in 1996, only to immediately plummet back into the re-established Regionalliga. And wouldn’t you know it, things got even worse. The club’s economic situation still hadn’t improved a great deal and performances on the pitch left a lot to be desired, ending in yet another relegation.

The mid-2000s saw an upturn in form, but further journeys up and down the ladder of German football left little time for consolidation. When Rot-Weiss missed out on qualification for the new 3. Liga (established in 08/09) on the final day of the season with a 1-0 loss to already-relegated Lübeck, the financial burden finally caught up with the club. The subsequent stagnation in the Regionalliga left the club hierarchy little choice but to file for insolvency. This came a mere decade after they had escaped bankruptcy by the skin of their teeth. A devastating blow for a club with big aspirations; a new 20,000-capacity stadium was already in the works. Subsequent relegation to the amateur fifth tier engendered plenty of personnel turnover and a restructuring of the club regime, but Essen still easily conquered the NRW-Liga and returned to the fourth tier, where they have been stuck ever since. In the summer of 2011, the club was cleared of its debt and stadium construction was well underway, but results were rarely convincing – last season was the first occasion on which they properly challenged for promotion since re-entering the Regionalliga.

You would be forgiven to think that the past eleven seasons have been a rare period of stability and respite – and indeed, this is their longest spell without relegation in decades. Unfortunately, controversy is never far away in Essen. In 2012, three players admitted to betting on their team to lose to Borussia Dortmund II – which, to no one’s surprise, they did. Two years later, a player was banned for five months after testing positive for the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Later that same season, the sporting director and manager were sacked after the former had given the latter a new contract without consulting his superiors first.

Unsurprisingly, coaching dismissals have been a common theme, too. Since their return to the fourth division, ten different coaches have tried – in vain – to lift Rot-Weiss out of the semi-professional mire. At long last, however, things are finally looking up. Like King Arthur extricating Excalibur from its stony prison, current head coach Christian Neidhart could well be the one to drag Essen out of the Regionalliga.

Taking over from former HSV coach Christian Titz before the start of the season, Neidhart has RWE playing exciting, high-octane football, throttling opponents with intense pressing and quick transitions, while, at times, also being aided by the superior quality of his players compared to the rest of the league. A perfect example of what Essen under Neidhart are all about came in November in a rescheduled match against SV Straelen. Having taken a two-goal advantage through a long-range laser from modern-day club legend Kevin Grund after a nice one-two, Neidhart’s men were straight at Straelen’s throat from the whistle, scoring again barely 16 seconds after kick-off.

Essen will go into the Rückrunde (second half of the season) as the team to beat; they currently sit pretty in first, six points ahead of Dortmund’s reserves. Incredibly, though, their biggest triumphs thus far have actually come in the DFB-Pokal. After knocking out Bundesliga side Arminia Bielefeld, Essen also claimed the scalp of second-tier outfit Fortuna Düsseldorf before the winter break. While far from the most illustrious of opponents, it still serves as ostensible proof that Essen are playing well above their current level; a case only augmented by the fact that they are the last side from below the 2. Bundesliga still left in the competition.

Besides prestige and a reintroduction into the mainstream football zeitgeist, Essen’s progress into the latter stages of the Pokal also provides some indispensable economic alleviation. As already alluded to in my last piece about the Stuttgarter Kickers, COVID-19 has left its mark on German lower league football, and it is no different as far as RWE are concerned.

Sportschau has been following Essen every step of the way since the first few months of the outbreak as the club tries to overcome this unique challenge. Sportschau’s No Sports?! series lays bare just how much uncertainty clubs have to deal with; one week a couple of thousand spectators are allowed into the stadium, the next week only a few hundred, or perhaps it’s even another Geisterspiel (game behind closed doors). 

Back in March, RWE hosted a ‘virtual match’, complete with virtual tickets, virtual Bratwurst, and live updates of a game that never was – they were essentially role-playing (Essen came out on top in this game of pretend, of course). The spectacle in itself was an enormous hit with supporters and neutrals alike, but the €100,000 that flowed into Essen’s coffers was still some €50,000 short of what the club usually earns on a matchday. Even head coach Christian Titz had to have his contract terminated as a cost-cutting measure when the 19/20 Regionalliga season was canceled.

In the end, the club actually came away relatively unscathed. Last season’s predicted revenue loss of €2 million ultimately only amounted to €700,000, thanks in no small part to the 94 percent of season-ticket holders who declined the chance for a refund. In early November, North Rhine-Westphalia’s government announced that it would make €15m available for Regionalliga West clubs, but it was also revealed that another lockdown could bring the league to a standstill, as only professional football was exempt from the latest suspension. However, after much deliberation, the semi-professional Regionalliga was allowed to continue because some clubs, like Essen, operate as professional entities.Even though the Red and Whites are currently playing their best season in ages, it’s just not the same without supporters. The Stadion Essen, which is also the home of Frauen-Bundesliga side SGS Essen, hasn’t hosted a full house in almost a year. Nowadays, it resembles more of a bland, desolate concrete block than the marvelous new 20,000-capacity stadium it was supposed to be. Weirdly enough, some fans have reached the conclusion that the team is actually benefitting from the lack of spectators as it allows them to play without pressure.

It sounds bizarre and yet, there is conceivably some truth in that statement. Essen are a club of massive stature. Even if the pizzazz of better times has long since faded, the Essener still attract more media attention than some 2. Bundesliga sides. The burden of dwelling outside of German football’s professional leagues has weighed heavy on the shoulders of the players and the club at large for over a decade. But times are changing.

There is still a long way to go of course, the season is far from over, but as of right now, Rot-Weiss Essen are in the best shape they’ve been in since dropping down to this level. Perhaps this time around, they will finally reach the promised land.



Ground Name: Stadion an der Hafenstraße
Architect: Plan Forward GmbH
Built: 2011 - 2012

Year Opened: 2012

Capacity: 19,962 (9,040 standing)

Executive Boxes: 11
Executive Box Seats: 274
Business Seats: 1,061
Media Seats: 138
Wheelchair Spaces: 46
Construction Costs: €64m

Undersoil Heating: Yes

Running Track: No
LED Video Screen: 42m²

Playing Surface: Natural Grass



Stadion Phönixstraße (1923 - 1937)

Stadion Rot-Weiß (1937 - 1939) *
Stadion an der Hafenstraße (1939 - 1964) *
Georg Melches Stadion (1964 - 2012) *
Stadion an der Hafenstraße (2012 - )

* Stadium Renamed


Opened in 2012, with nearby Frankfurt being a global economic centre, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the new stadium was named after a bank in a lucrative sponsorship deal worth €5 million over 10 years. Costing €25 million, the Sparda-Bank-Hessen-Stadion was built on the site of the aging Stadion am Bieberer Berg which had been home to the club since 1921, and like many new-build grounds it's fair to say that it's nothing out of the ordinary - another one of the single-tier, fully covered box-shaped variety with a bank of obligatory VIP boxes dominating the main stand.

Now referred to once again as Stadion am Bieberer Berg, it's an English-style ground with a current capacity of 20,500 and the red of club colours is boldly represented around the stadium. It has four covered stands of identical height with red seating contrasting with the cold concrete supports running through them. The stand ends are covered with glass sheeting which acts as a wind break but also allows light into the ground.

The Haupttribüne (main stand) has a row of executive boxes running along the back and together with the Glaabsbräu-Tribune (east stand) is an all-seater affair. Unlike most German grounds, Offenbach's 'home end' isn't behind one of the goals and the most vocal support gather opposite the main stand on the fully terraced 8,400 capacity Waldemar-Klein-Tribüne (Blocks 1-3) running the full length of the pitch. Away fans are welcomed into the part-terraced Westtribüne (Blocks 16-17).

To keep the corners of the ground clear for potential stadium expansion in the future, 108 floodlights have been integrated into the roof design as well as being mounted on distinctive masts on the Haupttribüne and Waldemar-Klein-Tribüne. A large video screen on the Westtribüne completes the look of the stadium.

In addition to being Offenbach's home, the stadium also regularly plays host to the German Rugby Union team.


Ticket Office:

Telephone: +49 (0) 180 5019070


Average Attendance:
2021-2022: 9,400 (Regionalliga West) *
2020-2021: N/A *

2019-2020: 10,938 (Regionalliga West) *
2018-2019: 7,259 (Regionalliga West)
2017-2018: 6,868 (Regionalliga West)
 Season affected by COVID pandemic

Expected Ticket Availability

Despite having Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke 04 on the doorstep; and a host of other Ruhr clubs to compete with in the battle for local hearts and minds, as a lower league club Essen's support is first division quality. That's not to say however that getting hold of a ticket should involve a mad scramble and although promotion to 3.Liga will bring a few more fans through the turnstiles, you should be ok keeping things traditional and buying on a matchday.

If, however, you'd prefer to get your ducks in a row beforehand, then you can buy tickets in advance via the online ticket shop RWE run with 'LMS Sport'. There's no English version unfortunately but to save you having to learn German, Google Chrome’s translation feature makes booking tickets a straightforward enough process. Tickets are delivered in either the 'Print@Home' format or, if you don't mind waiting a few days, they can be sent overseas by Deutsche Post for an additional €6.90.

Tickets can also be bought at the fan shops:


  • Fan Shop an der Hafenstraße
    (Hafenstraße 97a, 45356 Essen; open 2-6pm Tue-Fri; 90 minutes before kick-off and for 45 minutes after full-time on home matchdays; tel: +49 (0) 201 99998302; email:


  • Fan Shop im Limbecker Platz
    (Limbecker Platz 1a, 45127 Essen; open10am-8pm Mon-Sat; tel: +49 (0) 231 90203283; email:

There are also a number of Vorverkaufsstellen (advance ticket offices) in the Essen area and the club provide a list of them here.

There's no overly-complicated approach to ticketing; and admission prices will depend on where you want to watch the action from. Broadly speaking, tickets bought in advance will cost full-paying adults €20-30 for seats and just €12 to stand on the terraces. Seniors, students, disabled people and children (aged 7-14 years) can get in for just €9; and family tickets (Block E4, row 1–6, seats 19–64) are priced at €13 per person for any combination between 1 adult /1 child and 2 adults / 3 children.

Fancy meeting some footballers after the match with a bit of food and drink
thrown in? Information about available VIP packages can be found here.

If you're thinking of buying on the day, there's a surcharge of €2-3 and tickets are available 90 minutes before kick-off from the respective box office for each stand. For example, if you want to sit in the Rahn Tribüne, then buy your ticket from the box offices behind this stand. Tickets for the Stadtwerke Essen Tribüne are available from the box offices behind here ... und so weiter, und so weiter  (and so on, and so on). The only change to this rule applies to the Sparkassen Tribüne, in which case you need to head to the ticket counter inside the fan shop.

Information about visiting Stadion an der Hafenstraße for fans with disabilities can be found at: 

PLEASE NOTE: All information in this section is subject to change due to COVID regulations. Please refer to the club website for the latest ticket information.


Stadium Address:

Hafenstraße 97a 
45356 Essen


Heading along the A40 from either Duisburg or Dortmund, come off the Essen-Zentrum exit (Junction 23) and follow signs for Dorsten before joining Friedrichstraße (B224). After a mile-and-a-half, you'll come to the junction with Bottroper Straße near the University of Essen. Carry straight over onto Grillostraße and at the next set of traffic lights, turn left onto Gladbecker Straße. After a couple of miles, turn left into Daniel Eckhardt Straße and follow the road a mile before turning left onto Hafenstraße and the stadium will be on your right after a mile. Alternatively, you can turn left at the Bottroper Straße / Universität Essen junction (use the two left-hand lanes) onto Bottroper Straße and turn turn right onto Sulterkamp after two miles. After half-a-mile, turn right onto Hafenstraße and the stadium is a short drive on your right.

If you're travelling along the A42, come off at the Essen-Nord exit (junction 13) and join Gladbecker Straße (B224) in the direction of Essen-Zentrum. Turn right at the second set of traffic lights onto Vogelheimer Straße. After half-a-mile, turn left onto Hafenstraße and you'll see RWE's home a couple of hundred metres away on your right.

From the A52, take the Essen-Rüttenscheid exit (junction 28) and follow Alfredstraße (B224) right, towards Dorsten. Stay on the B224 as it becomes Bismarckstraße for a couple of miles until you reach the junction with Friedrichstraße. Turn left here and follow the road another couple of miles to the Bottroper Straße / Universität Essen junction. Carry straight over onto Grillostraße and at the next set of traffic lights, turn left onto Gladbecker Straße. After a couple of miles, turn left into Daniel Eckhardt Straße and follow the road a mile before turning left onto Hafenstraße and the stadium will be on your right after a mile.

Expect the usual matchday traffic chaos around the ground and note that Hafenstraße is closed to all traffic 90 minutes before kick-off between Bottroper Straße and Vogelheimerstraße/Sulterkamp. And even if you battle through the traffic and manage to arrive before the road closures, access to the official car parks around the stadium is restricted to permit holders only !


Match ticket holders can travel to and from the stadium throughout the day until 3am the following morning in the Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Ruhr (VRR) region.

From Gelsenkirchen or Oberhausen, you can take either the RB32 or RB35 regional trains to Essen Bergeborbeck, from where it's a good 10-minute walk to the ground. If you've arrived at Essen Hauptbahnhof, Tram 106 (Direction: Germaniaplatz) takes 15 minutes to reach Essen Bergeborbeck. Alternatively, Buses SB16, 166 and 196 head from here and the city centre to the Hafenstraße stop just around the corner from the stadium. On matchdays, a 
shuttle service also runs before and after the game between Essen Hauptbahnhof and the Hafenstraße bus stop.

The ground is about three miles north-west of central Essen and according to Google Maps it will take you over an hour to cover the distance on foot. Use the time to explore more of the UNESCO listed Zollverein coal mine instead before heading to the match on public transport.



Fan Shop an der Hafenstraße 
(Hafenstraße 97a, 45356 Essen; open 2-6pm Tue-Fri; 90 minutes before kick-off and for 45 minutes after full-time on home matchdays; tel: +49 (0) 201 99998302; email:

Fan Shop im Limbecker Platz 

(Limbecker Platz 1a, 45127 Essen; open10am-8pm Mon-Sat; tel: +49 (0) 231 90203283; email:

A mobile fan shop also sets up behind the WAZ-Westkurve 90 minutes before kick-off and for 45 minutes after full-time on home matchdays.

While in theory you can go behind the scenes at the Stadion an der Hafenstraße with a range of 60-120 minute guided tours, for reasons only known to themselves RWE limit these to
 four 'one-off' events spread out over the course of the year rather than as part of a regular schedule. With so few dates available, demand unsurprisingly exceeds supply and at the time of writing, the only one that hasn't sold-out is the 'Zeche Hafenstraße' on the 5th October 2023.

If it's still available by the time you come to book, then further information about what to expect on the tour can be found here.



Generally speaking, the centre of Frankfurt is probably your best bet when it comes to pub grub and beer. However, the Zum Bieberer Berg (Aschaffenburger Str. 120, 63073 Offenbach am Main) on the corner of Wiener Weg and Aschaffenburger Straße - just a corner kick from the ground - is a popular pre-match drinking den and a good place to meet members of the Kickers' support. On a matchday, the usual kiosk vendors offering typical German football fayre (bratwurst, frikadellen, chips, oversized pretzels etc) are happy to take cash in return for your bratwurst and beer - so no need to worry about sorting out a stadium card!


BUNDESLIGA: 1.FC Köln, Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Borussia Dortmund, FC Schalke 04, VfL Bochum
DSC Arminia Bielefeld, Fortuna Düsseldorf, SC Paderborn

3.LIGA: Borussia Dortmund II, FC Viktoria Köln, MSV Duisburg, SC Verl