SV WALDHOF MANNHEIM
NEW GUIDE - SEPTEMBER 2023
Founded: Apr 11, 1907
Club Members: 2,537
Nickname: Waldhof Buwe
Coach: Rüdiger Rehm
Captain: Marcel Seegert
Bundesliga.2 Champions: 1
Regionalliga Südwest Champions: 2
Landespokal Baden Winner: 5
Situated at the confluence of the Rhine and Neckar Rivers roughly halfway between Frankfurt and Stuttgart, the industrial city of Mannheim has played a pivotal role in transport history. Local aristocrat Baron Karl von Drais (who also invented the typewriter) went for the world's first bike ride here in 1817, long before other local sons such as Gottlieb Daimler, Carl Benz and Wilhelm Maybach invented the internal combustion engine and the car. It's the birthplace of the tractor, electronic ignition and where Julius Hatry built the world's first rocket-engine aircraft in 1929.
It's also home to SV Waldhof Mannheim whose roots date back to 1905 when a group of young men from the working class district of 'Waldhof' a few miles north of the city formed a club called 'Fußballgeselschaft Ramelia'. They were soon joined by players from local side MFC Phönix 02 Mannheim, but the merger was short lived and on 11th April 1907, Phönix members were among those who gathered at the Zum Tannenbaum restaurant in Mannheim to discuss forming yet another club. SV Waldhof 07 were officially registered with the DFB (German FA) on the 12th March 1908 and it didn't take long for the newcomers to find their feet - winning a number of regional championships in the inter-war period with four successive Berzirksliga Rhein Saar titles coming between 1930-33.
Following the Nazi rise to power in 1933, German football was reorganised into 16 top-flight regional divisions called Gauligen and with a team built around the axis of Otto Siffling (one of the most prolific forwards of the 1930s) and Sepp Herberger (the coach who guided West Germany to their 1954 'Miracle of Bern' World Cup triumph), SVW helped themselves to five Gauliga Baden titles in a battle for Baden Württemburg supremacy with city rivals VfR Mannheim. Transferring their Gauliga success to the national stage however proved something more of a challenge and a 1-3 reverse in the 1940 German Championship semi-final against FC Schalke 04 - the dominant team of the era - was the best they managed under the Third Reich.
As Germany began rebuilding itself after the chaos of conflict, SVW returned to action in 1945 but, like many other clubs, found restoring past glories and a team ripped apart by war a struggle. After several seasons bobbing about in the Oberliga Süd, relegation in 1954 signalled the beginning of a slide into obscurity and it came as no surprise that the DFB (German FA) didn't consider them for the inaugural Bundesliga season in 1963. Having missed the cut, Waldhof found themselves added to the second-tier Regionalliga Süd roster instead and by 1970 had given the DFB some justification for their decision by crashing into the Amateurliga Nordbaden after a despondent season that saw them concede 99 goals and finish rock-bottom of the table. They bounced back in 1972 by outpacing FC Weinheim to the Nordbaden title before outfoxing FC Singen in a promotion play-off, but by now dark clouds were gathering over the Stadion am Alsenweg as growing financial pressures brought Waldhof to the brink of bankruptcy.
Salvation arrived in the form of German crisp manufacturer 'Chio Chips' who, keen to get 'eyeballs on the brand', offered a DM 190,000 investment in return for renaming the club 'Chio Waldhof 07'. With the snack company on board and the club's finances evened out (for the time being at least), big money was spent on the squad in an unsuccessful push to secure Bundesliga football. However, after another name change in 1975 when the prefix 'SV' was added to its appellation, with the club still mired in the mud of mid-table mediocrity, the company called time on their foray into football and the club was renamed 'SV Waldhof Mannheim 07' on 15th September 1978. It was a decision Chio Chips would soon regret however because just two years later came the appointment of a coach who would define a seemingly unrepeatable era of success for the Baden Württemburg club.
Klaus Schlappner grew up barely eight miles north of Mannheim and over the next seven years he propelled Waldhof from a middling second division club to one capable of challenging for European places in the Bundesliga. In an era when coaches tended to quietly watch from the sidelines, Schlappner, wearing his trademark Shephard's plaid hat, foreshadowed today's highly strung, emotional managers by barking instructions and getting into arguments with match officials. He'd pull the halfway flag out of the ground to get the ref's attention; and during a game against Bayer 04 Leverkusen, he offered the linesman a pair of glasses. Schlappi was more than just a showman though; putting an emphasis on developing young local talent and instilling total discipline into his players that helped turn draws into wins and, first and foremost, defeats into draws. When Waldhof unexpectedly gatecrashed the Bundesliga in 1983, they did it with half the squad having been promoted from the club's youth ranks and the rest coming from the local area including prolific striker Fritz Walter (no relation to the 1.FC Kaiserslautern legend) who learnt the game in Weinheim, just ten miles to the east of Mannheim.
Having such a good eye for talent was born out of necessity though because the club have long lacked the financial might to support their ambition. In fact, they even lacked a ground to call their own during their time in the Bundesliga on account of their Stadion am Alsenweg (known as the Seppl Herberger Stadion since 1996) home falling well short of league standards. Waldhof were forced to cross the Rhine and play their 'home' matches in Ludwigshafen at the Südweststadion where they suffered some heavy defeats before Schlappner eventually steadied the ship by modifying the offensive approach that had secured promotion. With the team now much harder to break down and built almost exclusively around a core of eager homegrown talent like Jürgen Kohler, Christian Wörns and Maurizio Gaudino, the 'Waldhof Buwe ' (Waldhof Lads) came within a whisker of qualifying for the UEFA Cup in 1985 with a sixth-place finish, and made it as far as the DFB-Pokal semi-final the following year before eventual winners FC Bayern München were thrown in their path.
For Waldhof, the cup run was the final flourish of a golden period in their history and the eccentric Schlappner - a man so central to Waldhof's rise that he also co-wrote the club anthem - also triggered the demise that came when he left in 1987 to take over the reigns at SV Darmstadt 98. Kohler also followed him out of the door that summer when FC Köln came calling. Gaudino and Walter then defected to VfB Stuttgart and veteran Günter Sebert finally called time on his career one month after his 39th birthday. Weakened by the departures of key figures and without the appeal or funds to replace them, performances began to tail off and relegation was only avoided in 1988 after a penalty shoot-out victory in a play-off against none other than Schlappner's Darmstadt. Two years later though, the inevitable happened and SV Waldhof Mannheim dropped into the second tier after seven years of trading punches with German football's elite. With struggles off the field mirroring those on it, there was no guarantee that the club's fall from grace would end with relegation to the third-tier Regionalliga Süd which came in 1997 and Waldhof officials approached their counterparts at local rivals VfR Mannheim to discuss the possibility of a merger before disagreements over how it would all work saw the deal eventually fall through.
Waldhof returned to Bundesliga.2 in 1999 after beating Kickers Offenbach to the Regionalliga Süd title but their problems weren't behind them, and with debts threatening the swallow the club up again, they were demoted by the DFB to the fourth-tier Oberliga Baden-Württemberg in 2003 before another failed attempt at a merger with VfR. Things still hadn't quite hit rock bottom though and following a league restructure which saw them manage a couple of seasons in the Regionalliga, the club's perennial money problems proved that lightning does strike twice when their playing licence was refused again in 2010 and the once proud club found themselves unceremoniously sent down to the now fifth-tier Oberliga Baden-Württemberg.
Recent years has seen something of a return to form and since making an immediate return to the fourth-tier in 2011, Waldhof haven't really looked back - although that's not to say that there haven't been some setbacks along the way. They finished the 2015-16 season top of the Regionalliga Südwest and qualified for a play-off against Regionalliga West champions Sportfreunde Lotte with promotion to the 3. Liga on the line. Despite a decent 0-0 draw in Lotte however, Waldhof stayed in the fourth-tier after a ruinous 2-0 defeat in the return leg before history repeated itself the following season when SV Meppen beat them in the 3. Liga promotion play-off. After a disappointing start to the 2017-18 season, Michael Fink was replaced by ex-FSV Frankfurt and Schalke II coach Berhard Trares who guided the team to a second-place finish and yet another promotion play-off defeat - this time by KFC Uerdingen.
In 2019 however, after three consecutive years of heartbreak, the Waldhof Buwe finally ended a 16-year exile from professional football when Trares led them to the Regionalliga Südwest title with a tour-de-force campaign that saw them win 28 of the 34 matches and finish a full 21 points ahead of 1.FC Saarbrücken in second-place.
Ground Name: Carl Benz Stadion
Architect: Folker Fiebiger
Built: 1992 - 1994
Year Opened: 1994
Capacity: 24,302 (11,408 standing)
Record Attendance: 14,413 (2019)
Wheelchair Spaces: 15
Undersoil Heating: Yes
Running Track: No
LED Video Screen: Yes
Floodlights: 1,000 lux
Playing Surface: Natural Grass
Pitch Size: 105m x 68m
Altrheinstraße (1907 - 1911)
Sandacker (1911 - 1924)
Stadion am Alsenweg (1924 - 1983)
Südweststadion (1983 - 1989)
Stadion am Alsenweg (1989 - 1994)
Carl Benz Stadion (1994 - )
Standing on the site of the Mannheim Stadion and built to replace Waldhof's former Stadion am Alsenweg which had fallen into disrepair, the Carl Benz Stadion opened on 25th February 1994 with a Bundesliga.2 match between SV Waldhof Mannheim and Hertha BSC (2-2).
The Mannheim Stadion itself opened in 1927 and over the next 30 years it changed little from its original design - an oval concrete bowl with no grandstands and a cinder running track around the pitch. It was primarily used for track and field events with football becoming almost an afterthought, and it wasn't until 1929 that a match was hosted here with a friendly between Germany and Switzerland (7-1). A grandstand was added in 1959 to finally give spectators some comfort before it was renamed the 'Rhein Neckar Stadion' four years later. By this time however, the stadium was beginning to show its age and the radius of its running track failed new regulations and meant race records couldn't officially be recognised.
The council announced plans to build a new stadium - also called the Rhein Neckar Stadion - adjacent to the old one and when it opened in 1971, it became to home to city rivals VfR Mannheim.
With Waldhof's own Stadion am Alsenweg also facing issues regarding compliance with stadium regulations, plans to completely redevelop the original Rhein Neckar Stadion into a football-only venue were drawn up in 1979. However, having already stumped up for the new Rhein Neckar Stadion next door, the city council were reluctant to spend yet more money on football and made the project conditional on Waldhof and VfR joining forces in a merger. Local support for the development was also lukewarm at best with residents filing appeals and petitions over concerns about traffic congestion and noise. With plans for a new stadium up in the air and the Stadion am Alsenweg too small and too old for the top-flight, Waldhof were forced to relocate to Ludwigshafen and play their 'home' matches at the 40,000 capacity Sudweststadion when they became a Bundesliga club in 1983.
In July 1992, with Waldhof now back in the second division, work to demolish the old Rhein Neckar Stadion began at long last and the stadium that was supposed to host a Bundesliga club finally opened as the Carl Benz Stadion in early February 1994. Despite being municipally-owned, the council announced in 1993 that the stadium would be for the sole use of the city's highest-ranking club which, so far, has been SV Waldhof Mannheim leaving VfR Mannheim to look on enviously from the aging Rhein Neckar Stadion next door.
Local concerns about matchday traffic and noise remained however and in 2001, an agreement was reached restricting use of the Carl Benz Stadion to just 27 events a year. Not that it's going to be of benefit anytime soon, but the limit doesn't apply to European matches; and international matches aren't affected either with Die Mannschaft taking on Liechtenstein in 1996 and Luxemburg in 1998 at the Carl Benz Stadion before it was used during the Under-21 EURO 2004 tournament. In addition to Waldhof's home matches, the stadium also played host to TSG 1899 Hoffenheim for a few months before their new Rhein Neckar Arena ('Rhein Neckar' is a popular stadium name in this part of Germany !) opened in January 2009. To get the stadium ready for the Bundesliga, Hoffenheim also had to pay €1 million to have a large video screen installed above the West Tribüne in 2008.
When Waldhof finally brought their exile from professional football to an end in 2019, the stadium was given an extensive revamp which saw the floodlights upgraded and the pitch relaid after an undersoil heating system had been installed.
With a capacity of 24,302, the Carl Benz Stadion is a single-tier affair with all the stands being of the same height, covered and similar in appearance - save for the Walter Spagerer Tribüne (main stand) which is dominated by the obligatory number of executive boxes. Together, the Walter Spagerer Tribüne, Otto Siffling Tribüne and Walter Pradt Tribüne grandstands form a continuous 'U' shaped crescent while the small West Tribüne at the opposite end has open corners either side of it and is given over to away fans.
The Walter Spagerer Tribüne and Walter Pradt Tribüne offer seating only and if you prefer to watch the action sat down, then this is where you should go. There is seating in Blocks 8 and 9 of the Otto Siffling Tribüne but because this is also the Waldhof fan zone, everyone is going to be on their feet.
2022-2023: 9,663 (3.Liga)
2021-2022: 7,627 (3.Liga) *
2020-2021: N/A *
2019-2020: 7,647 (3.Liga)
2018-2019: 6,509 (Regionalliga Südwest)
* Season affected by COVID pandemic
Expected Ticket Availability
Waldhof have done their best to generate some interest amongst the region's ex-pat community and the online ticket office they run with ticketing partner 'Vivenu' is most definitely 'Ausländerfreundlich ' (Foreigner Friendly) with no fewer than 14 different language options - including something called 'Australian English' !? Once you've registered, the process is quite straightforward and tickets are sent as E-Tickets (Mobile and Print@Home). Tickets can also be bought from the fanshops and, on a matchday, from the ticket offices around the ground which open three hours before kick-off.
Although the Schlappner heyday has long gone, Waldhof have managed to maintain a small but devoted fanbase and the Carl Benz Stadion will still generally be about three-quarters full. There's no need for a mad scramble though and the only match that you might have an issue getting hold of a ticket for is a visit from arch- enemy 1.FC Kaiserslautern. Ticket purchases are strictly controlled for this one and given the mutual dislike between both sets of fans, it's probably best that 'tourists' stay away.
For the 2023-24 season, ticket prices will depend on where you want to watch the action from. The online shop is the best place to make sense of it but, broadly speaking, full-payers should expect tickets to cost €26 - €35 for seats in the Walter Spagerer Tribüne and Walter Pradt Tribüne; and €13 - €19 to join the 'Ultras Mannheim' on the Otto Siffling Tribüne terrace. Discounts are also available for children, students, military personnel, disabled, unemployed etc.
Information about visiting the Carl Benz Stadion for fans with disabilities can be found at:
GETTING THERE & AWAY
Heading along the A6 from either Frankfurt or Stuttgart, come off at the Mannheim exit (Exit 27) and follow the dual carriageway A656 in the direction of 'Mannheim Mitte / Zentrum' as it becomes Wilhelm Varnholt Allee (B37) before turning right onto Hermsheimer Straße. After quarter of a mile, you'll come to the junction with Harrlachweg. Turn left here and follow the road for 200 metres before turning left again onto Seckenheimer Landstraße and you'll see the Carl Benz Stadion on your right.
There's plenty of parking available near the ground with 6,000 free spaces available a 15-minute walk away at the 'Großparkplatz P20' car park on Wilhelm Varnholt Allee (B37). The Friedensplatz 2 and 3 car parks across the road from the Carl Benz Stadion are reserved for away followings.
The stadium has its own stop - conveniently named 'Carl Benz Stadion' for first-timers - and to get there, hop on Tram 6 (Direction: Neuostheim) at Mannheim Hauptbahnhof for the ten-minute journey.
Your match ticket allows you to ride around on buses, trams and trains in the Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Neckar (VRN) transport network on the day of the match until 3am the following morning.
The stadium is roughly two miles east of the city centre and it should take you 40 minutes or so to cover the distance on foot.
From the Hauptbahnhof, head onto Willy Brandt Platz before crossing Tattersallstraße onto Heinrich Lanz Straße. Follow this road for 400 metres until you reach the junction with Seckenheimer Straße. Turn right here and follow Seckenheimer Strasse for about quarter of a mile before turning left onto Mollstraße. Take the first right and you're now on Richard Wagner Straße. At the end of this road there's a small park. Bear left and follow the path through the park onto Carl Reiß Platz before turning right onto Augustaanlage. After 300 metres, you'll come to a major junction with Schubertstraße (B37). Take a left here onto Schubertstraße and follow as it becomes Theodor Heuss Anlage. You'll see the stadium on your left hand side.
FAN SHOP, MUSEUM & STADIUM TOURS
Fan Shop Carl Benz Stadion
(Theodor Heuss Anlage 25, 68165 Mannheim; 10am-4pm, Tue-Thu; 10am-2pm, Fri; 90 minutes before kick-off and for one hour after full-time on matchdays; tel: +49 (0) 621 4109055; email: email@example.com)
There's also a branch near the landmark Wasserturm (Water Tower) in the city centre:
(P7 17, 68161 Mannheim; 10am-8pm, Mon-Sat; tel: +49 (0) 621 4109050; email:
The free 'Waldhof Museum' is open on matchdays in the PRO Waldhof fan container right next to the G-Block at the Carl Benz Stadium and has a wide variety of exhibits including photos, film recordings, newspaper articles, autograph cards, team photos, jerseys and merchandise.
Further information can be found here or drop museum director Dirk Blencke an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
FOOD & DRINK OPTIONS
Many fans combine the need for pre match food and drink in the centre of Mannheim, or even the nearby university city of Heidelburg, before heading to the stadium.
On a matchday, a number of kiosk vendors set up at the stadium and you can watch the action with a few drinks and a burnt bratwurst from the griddle. There's no stadium card system in operation and everything can be paid for using cash or the usual contactless methods.
OTHER CLUBS IN THE AREA
BUNDESLIGA: 1.FSV Mainz 05, Eintracht Frankfurt, SV Darmstadt 98, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. VfB Stuttgart
BUNDESLIGA 2: 1.FC Kaiserslautern, Karlsruher SC, SV Elversberg, SV Wehen Wiesbaden
3.LIGA: 1. FC Saarbrücken, SV Sandhausen, SSV Ulm